Moorish Castle

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This article is about the Moorish castle in Gibraltar. For the Moorish castle in Sintra, Portugal, see Castle of the Moors (Sintra)

The Moorish Castle
Part of Fortifications of Gibraltar
Extends from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve to Grand Casemates Square in Gibraltar
The Moorish Castle's Tower of Homage in Gibraltar flying the Union flag.
The Moorish Castle's Tower of Homage in Gibraltar flying the Union flag.
Map of the Moorish Castle.
The Moorish Castle is located in Gibraltar
The Moorish Castle
The Moorish Castle
Coordinates 36°08′38″N 5°20′59″W / 36.143882°N 5.349857°W / 36.143882; -5.349857
Type Castle
Site information
Owner Government of Gibraltar
Controlled by Moors: 711-1309
Castilians: 1309-1333
Moors: 1333-1462
Castilians: 1462-1704
Habsburgs: 1704-1713
British: 1713-present
Open to
the public
Condition Partially ruined
Site history
Built c. 711
In use c.711-1945
Height Approx. 100 m

The Moorish Castle is the name given to a Medieval fortification in Gibraltar, made up of various buildings, gates, fortified walls and its most dominant features, the Tower of Homage and the Gate House. Part of the castle itself also housed HM Prison of Gibraltar until it was relocated in 2010.[1] The former is clearly visible to all visitors to Gibraltar, not only because of its striking construction but also because of its dominant and strategic position. Although sometimes compared to nearby alcazars in Spain, the Moorish Castle in Gibraltar was constructed by the Marinid dynasty, making it unique in the Iberian Peninsula.[2]


View of the Moorish Castle's northern defences as seen from the Grand Battery in 1879
Queen Charlotte's Battery at the Moorish Castle.

Gibraltar has always been of special significance to the numerous peoples and civilizations that have visited or occupied it over the ages, from the Neanderthal period, through the Classical and on to the Moorish, Spanish and the present British rule.

The Moorish occupation is by far the longest in Gibraltar's recorded history, having lasted from 711 to 1309 and then again from 1350 to 1462—a total of 710 years.[3]

The importance of Gibraltar to both Muslims and Christians lies in the fact that the Moorish invasion and occupation of Europe started from Gibraltar in 711 and, through to its final recapture by Spain in 1462, Moorish rule was gradually undermined until, with the fall of Granada in 1492, the Moorish conquest of Europe came to an end after 781 years.

The Moorish conquest of Spain was led by Tarik ibn Ziyad and Musa ibn Nusayr. Gibraltar thus became the stepping-stone to the conquest of Spain and part of France. This spectacular feat of arms took a mere twenty-two years, no mean task considering the distances involved, the state of the terrain at the time and the fact that mechanical power had not yet been invented.[4] The strategic importance of Gibraltar rose in the last years of the Moorish rule, since it became, after the successful conquest by the Christians of all the Guadalquivir valley, one of the key elements in the communication between the Kingdom of Granada and the Moorish domains in the North of Africa.

The construction of the Moorish Castle was commenced in the 8th century AD (possibly AD 711),[dubious ] but there is no record of when it was completed. Its walls enclosed a considerable area reaching down from the upper part of the Rock of Gibraltar down to the sea. The most conspicuous parts of the Castle now remaining are the upper tower, or Tower of Homage, together with various terraces and battlements below it, and the massive Gate House, with its cupola roof.[5]

The Tower of Homage[edit]

The Tower of Homage is the highest tower of the Islamic period in the Iberian Peninsula, and the Castle's Qasbah is the largest in the area. The Castle itself played a prominent part in the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, which overran a large portion of it in two years - an invasion which led to Arab domination over part of Europe for over seven centuries. It is therefore of great heritage significance not only to Gibraltar and Iberia but also to Europe.

The present Tower of Homage, and most of what is visible today of the Castle, was rebuilt during the second Moorish period of occupation in the early 14th century, after its near destruction during a reconquest of Gibraltar by the Moors following a brief reoccupation by Spain (from 1309 to 1333).[5]

Present day[edit]

Today the Moorish Castle is one of the major tourist attractions of Gibraltar and it features on the reverse of the 1995 design (still in circulation) for the £5 Gibraltar banknotes.[6]

The term Moorish Castle or "El Castillo" in Spanish, is also used locally when referring to the residential area surrounding the Castle, which houses the Moorish Castle Estate.

Part of the castle itself also housed HM Prison of Gibraltar until it was relocated in 2010.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mascarenhas, Alice (2010-09-01). "GATES CLOSE, ‘WINDY’ PRISON OPENS FOR BUSINESS". The Gibraltar Chronicle. The Gibraltar Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  2. ^ "The Heritage of Gibralter: A Reply". CAM Bulletins. Commonwealth Association of Museums. May 1998. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  3. ^ "Moorish Castle". Guide to the Castles of Europe. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  4. ^ "Information on the Moorish Castle Complex". Government of Gibraltar. Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  5. ^ a b "Gibraltar Heritage Trust History of The Moorish Castle". Retrieved 2007-02-13. 
  6. ^ "World Paper Money - Image of the reverse of a 1995 £5 Gibraltar banknote" (JPEG). Will's Online World Paper Money Gallery. Retrieved 2012-09-13.