The Order of Calatrava was one of the strongest and most powerful in Spain. Its castles, very numerous and spectacular, are an example of the importance that this military and religious order, whose origin dates back to the 12th century, had in the Kingdom of Castile. Are you accompanying us to meet some of them?
Brief notes on the Order of Calatrava
The Order of Calatrava arose in the town of Calatrava, located near Ciudad Real, in 1158 at the wish of Abbot Raimundo de Fitero. Its initial objective was to provide protection to said town, given the strategic importance that the population had for the containment of Muslim troops.
It is one of the so-called Cistercian orders and it came to have a lot of power in the Kingdom of Castile, so we have received a multitude of castles and remains that this order was building or rebuilding in its domains.
Main castles of the Order of Calatrava
The Order of Calatrava built castles in what is now Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia and Aragon, although it had possessions in many more territories. Among them, we highlight the following on our route.
Castle of Calatrava la Vieja
It is an ancient fortress of Arab origin that the Order of Calatrava expanded and modified. This would be their headquarters until the Order abandoned it as an unsanitary place.
At present it is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country and can be visited at different times depending on the months of the year. To get there, you have to go to the town of Carrión de Calatrava, in Ciudad Real.
Castle of Calatrava la Nueva
An impressive fortress that, although it dates from the Visigothic period or perhaps before, will be with the arrival of the Calatravos when it really flourishes. Thus, the idyll between this beautiful castle and the Order of Calatrava begins in 1191.
In that year its owners, Don Rodrigo Gutiérrez Girón and his second wife, Doña Jimena, fearful for their souls, donated to the Order half of their income and inheritance that they had on this castle. The other half would be inherited by his sons, who shortly after sold their share to the Order.
Thus, all the property passed into the hands of the latter, who was in charge of keeping the Muslims who had become strong in the castle of Salvatierra at bay. It has several walled enclosures and at the top there is a fortress and a Cistercian-style church whose Gothic rose window dates from the time of the Catholic Monarchs.
It replaced the fortress of Calatrava la Vieja. At present it is a monument that can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday that has various rates.
Castle of Zorita de los Canes
Located in Guadalajara, again we find ourselves in front of a castle of Islamic origin reformed by the Order of Calatrava. Built with the stones of the Visigoth city of Recópolis, access to the castle of Zorita de los Canes – on the cover – is free every day of the year.
This castle is located in the Andalusian province of Córdoba and is free to enter every day of the year. It rises over the town of Belmez and was part of the complex defensive system in charge of the Order of Calatrava. It has an impressive pentagonal tower.
Its access is pedestrian and it is reached by the so-called Steep Street, today known as Rafael Canalejo Cantero Street. This has a sloping zigzag layout with several flights of stairs and rest areas to make the climb more comfortable.
Currently very deteriorated, its free entry every day of the year. It is a very important castle, as it was one of the first hospitals that were set up to serve the knights of the Order of Calatrava. Specifically, the hospital was in the Torre del Homenaje and was known as the Guadalferga hospital.
Other castles of the Order of Calatrava
Many more are the castles that the Order of Calatrava possessed, among them, the castle of Caracuel. Also of Islamic origin, it is located on a promontory called Mount Nogales from which it dominates the entire surrounding territory. It requires a permit to be visited, since the lands on which it is located are private, like the Anguix castle, which is located in the province of Guadalajara.
And the last of the castles to which we are going to refer is that of Miraflores in Piedrabuena (Ciudad Real). Little is preserved of it, but its visit is free and the magnificence of its defensive walls can still be seen.
Cover image: Flickr.com / Alcarria XXI.