Alcázar of Segovia

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Alcázar of Segovia
Segovia, Castile and León
Segovia - Alcázar de Segovia 22 2017-10-24.jpg
Alcázar of Segovia is located in Spain
Alcázar of Segovia
Alcázar of Segovia
Coordinates40°57′09″N 4°07′57″W / 40.9524757°N 4.1325089°W / 40.9524757; -4.1325089Coordinates: 40°57′09″N 4°07′57″W / 40.9524757°N 4.1325089°W / 40.9524757; -4.1325089

The Alcázar of Segovia (literally, "Segovia Fortress") is a medieval castle located in the city of Segovia (Castile and León, Spain), a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of two rivers near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship. The alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then. It is currently used as a museum and a military archives building.


Tower of John II of Castile
Painting of the Alcázar of Segovia, circa 1838 by David Roberts

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain, started off as a Roman fort, but apart from the foundations, little of the original structure remains. A Muslim era fort, which was itself largely replaced by the present structure, was built by the Berber Almoravid dynasty. The first reference to this castle was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands (during the time when King Alfonso VI reconquered lands to the south of the Duero river down to Toledo and beyond).

The shape and form of the Alcázar was not known until the reign of King Alfonso VIII (1155–1214), however early documentation mentioned a wooden stockade fence. It can be concluded that prior to Alfonso VIII's reign, the Muslim era structure was no more than a wooden fort built over the old Roman foundations. Alfonso VIII and his wife, Eleanor of England, made this alcázar their principal residence and much work was carried out to erect the beginnings of the stone fortification we see today.

Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Alcázar of Segovia
CriteriaCultural: i, iii, iv
Inscription1985 (9th session)
Area134.28 ha
Buffer zone401.44 ha

The Alcázar of Segovia was one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of Castile in the Middle Ages, and a key fortress in the defence of the kingdom. It was during this period that most of the current building was constructed by the Trastámara dynasty.

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X after a cave-in and the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament soon after. However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II who built the "New Tower" (John II tower as it is known today).

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I. On 12 December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of the Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia's council. She was enthroned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

The next major renovation at the Alcázar was conducted by King Philip II after his marriage to Anna of Austria. He added the sharp slate spires to reflect the castles of central Europe. In 1587, architect Francisco de Morar completed the main garden and the School of Honor areas of the castle.

During his visit to Spain known as the "Spanish match", Prince Charles of England visited the Alcázar in 1623, after dining at Valsain.[1] He was entertained by Luis Jerónimo de Cabrera, 4th Count of Chinchón, who was then keeper of the Alcázar. Prince Charles was shown the Galley Room or "second great hall" with the heraldry of Catherine of Lancaster. In the evening there was a torchlit masque involving 32 mouunted knights. Prince Charles gave the Count of Chinchón a jewel and rewarded the poet Don Juan de Torres for his verses. He left early in the morning for Santa María la Real de Nieva.[2]

The royal court eventually moved to Madrid and the Alcázar then served as a state prison for almost two centuries before King Charles III founded the Royal Artillery School in 1762. It served this function for almost a hundred years until March 6, 1862 where a fire badly damaged most of the roofs.

It was only in 1882 that the damaged roofs of the building were slowly restored to their original state, thanks to the existence of engravings made by José María Avrial in 1839.[3] In 1896, King Alfonso XIII ordered the Alcázar to be handed over to the Ministry of War as a military college.

The Belt Room


The exterior of the castle has a Herrerian courtyard, moat, drawbridge and the keep. The interior rooms include a chapel and several noble rooms (room del Trono, de la Galera, de las Piñas, de los Reyes and others) that can be visited today.

Its plan is very irregular and adapts to the hill on which it rises. Highlights are the very beautiful keep, the square with four towers, the hall covered with pointed barrel and twin windows. It was raised by the king John II of Castile and at first served as a Weapons room.

In the interior, the halls and rooms were decorated with great luxury and beauty by Mudéjar painters and artists. Currently, it houses an Armory Museum and the General Military Archive of Segovia, the oldest historical archive of the Spanish Armed Forces.

Tower of John II of Castile[edit]

Hall of the Old Palace.
Fireplace Hall.
View of the Throne Room, with the motto of the Catholic Monarchs on the front of the dossal.
Hall of the Galley, with the mural of the coronation of Isabella I of Castile in the background.
Royal Chamber.
Hall of the Kings.
Armory room.

The tower of John II of Castile culminates in a large panoramic terrace. From it you can appreciate a great view of the city. Especially the neighborhood of las Canonjías, the cathedral and the Jewish quarter.

The two staircases that go to the top have 156 steps, most of them on a rather narrow and inclined spiral staircase.

When crossing the gate that gives access to the first staircase, notice the considerable thickness of the walls. When the first section ends, you will reach the guard room. Attached to the front wall is the bed where the watchman of the tower probably slept.

Above there are four floors. Its most usual use was as a prison. It was almost impossible to escape from here. Their tenants used to be characters of high estate, which is why they enjoyed certain comforts in their cells such as tapestries, carpets and furniture. The last State prisoner was the Cuban General Dámaso Berenguer in the thirties of the last century.

Interior rooms[edit]

According to The Illustrated Magazine of Art (1853)[4]

The interior of the Castle of Segovia is in perfect accordance with the magnificence of its exterior. Many apartments are decorated with delicate traceries and pendant ornaments, in the style of the Alhambra, and, like those of the Alcazar of Seville, were executed by Arabian workmen during the Christian dominion of the fourteenth century, for in many places the crowns of the kings of Castille may be seen, surrounded by Latin mottoes [sic] and extracts from the Koran.

Hall of the Old Palace[edit]

Its construction corresponds to the reign of Alfonso VIII of Castile. In it the twinned windows that gave light to the palace are conserved, since the wall in which they were was the exterior wall of the old palace. The Mudéjar-style socles located between the windows come from a 13th-century house in the nearby Las Canonjías district. The decoration was completed with a set of German-style armor from the 15th century.

Hall of the Fireplace[edit]

Corresponds to the ordination of the fortress in the time of Philip II of Spain. The furniture is from the 16th century. On the walls you can see a portrait of Philip II and another of Philip III, a 16th century Flemish tapestry with the subject of Our Lady's betrothal and a curious representation where you can contemplate the appearance of the Alcázar before the reform of the roofs and where you can also see the Former Cathedral of Segovia that was located in the current square of the Alcázar.

Throne Room or that of del Solio[edit]

The portal that communicates with the Hall of the Fireplace conserves intact its original Mudéjar decoration. It covers an armored armor, similar to the one destroyed by the fire, which was carved in 1456. Underneath is a wide plaster frieze that maintains its original decoration despite the ravages of the fire.

The thrones under dossal with the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs and its motto "Tanto monta" are works of the beginning of the century. On the walls are the portraits of the kings themselves, who are part of the iconography of kings commissioned by the queen Isabella II of Spain. The portrait of Isabella I of Castile is signed by Madrazo and that of Ferdinand II of Aragon by Montañés.

Hall of the Galley[edit]

It receives its name from the old coffered ceiling that had the shape of an inverted ship hull. The room was built by the queen Catherine of Lancaster in 1412, during the minority of her son John II of Castile. The frieze is of Mudéjar plaster with a double inscription: the upper one with a Eucharistic prayer and the lower one with information about the work of the hall.

In the windows are two stained glass windows that represent one Henry III of Castile and his family and the other Henry II of Castile with scenes of the death of Peter I and John II. One of the walls is decorated with a painting depicting the coronation of the queen Isabella I of Castile as queen of Castile and of León in the church of San Miguel of Segovia , work of the mentioned Muñoz de Pablos.

Hall of las Piñas[edit]

Its name is due to the decorative motifs of the coffered ceiling. In the frieze can be seen angels carrying the coat of arms of Castile and León. The stained glass window represents Alfonso VII with his daughter Berenguela.

Royal Chamber[edit]

In its walls you can see scenes of the family life of the Catholic Monarchs. The bed has a brocade cover woven in gold.

Hall of the Kings[edit]

Philip II of Spain commissioned Hernando de Ávila the design of the statues corresponding to the kings of Asturias, León and Castile; except only that of Joanna the Mad after moving to Royal Palace of Madrid, Spain. One of the paintings in the room is a portrait of Philip II himself and the other two are portraits of two of his wives, Elisabeth of Valois and Anna of Austria.

Room of the Belt[edit]

Its name is because it is surrounded by walls, a long golden lace.


There is a chapel in the Room of the Belt from which the king or queen saw the mass.

Weapons or Armory Room[edit]

The Alcázar has housed the armory of the House of Trastámara since old times, and was the precedent of the collections of weapons that finally met in the Royal Armoury of Madrid.[5]

Museum of the Royal College of Artillery[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The castle also served as the French home of Sir Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard, in the 1967 musical film Camelot.

Sylvain Castle, a dungeon in the 1995 action RPG Terranigma, is based on it.


  1. ^ Henry Ettinghausen, 'Greatest News Story', in Alexander Samson, The Spanish Match: Prince Charles's Journey to Madrid, 1623 (Ashgate, 2006), p. 86.
  2. ^ John Nichols, Progresses of James the First, vol. 4 (London, 1828), pp. 915-18, quoting The Joyfull Returne of Charles, Prince of Great Brittaine (London, 1623).
  3. ^ Manuel Ossorio y Bernard: Biographical gallery of 19th century Spanish artists, Ramón Moreno press, Madrid, 1868.
  4. ^ "The Castle of Segovia", The Illustrated Magazine of Art, 1 (2): 96–98, 1853, JSTOR 20537904
  5. ^ María Dolores Herrero Fernández-Quesada (2005). Isabel la Católica: Homenaje en el V centenario de su muerte. Madrid: Dykinson. p. 68. ISBN 84-9772-667-7.

Further reading[edit]

  • Haliczer, Stephen (December 1976), "Political Opposition and Collective Violence in Segovia, 1475–1520", The Journal of Modern History, 48 (4): 1–35, doi:10.1086/241530, JSTOR 1877303

External links[edit]