Marquisate of Villena’s Castles: Belmonte, Garcimuñoz, Alarcon, Chinchilla de Monte-Aragón, Alcala del Jucar, Almansa and Villena. 2 or 3 days.

Route where tourists can see the renowned villages which were part of the Marquisate of Villena. A complete tour through the history of famous personalities like Infant Don Juan Manuel, Alfonso de Aragón (King of Navarra), Juan Pacheco and Diego López Pacheco.

Also, visitors will discover completely different concepts of how to renovate a castle, from the most classic style to the most innovative one.

Where does the route take place?

  • Belmonte 
  • Garcimuñoz 
  • Alarcón 
  • Alcalá del Júcar 
  • Chinchilla de Monte-Aragón
  • Almansa 
  • Villena 

This route links with

Following in the steps of El Cid Campeador (II): in Valencia and Alicante

By David Nogales Rincón, Professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid[...]

Know castles and palaces in this route

   

The Marquis of Villena, Don Juan Pacheco, ordered it built in Mudejar Gothic style in 1456. He was trusted man of King Henry IV of Castile, and the most powerful lord in the kingdom at the time.

The star-shaped layout of the castle is one-of-a-kind, and its palatial interior decorated with luxurious Mudejar roofs in the halls and galleries, as well as the "medieval bestiary" sculpted in stone, are nonpareil in Spain. All this undeniably makes for one of the most emblematic castles in our country.

The castle has been perfectly preserved thanks to the efforts of its owners over the centuries, completed with the latest restoration. On this occasion, the Ducal House of Peñaranda and Montijo, descendants of the Marquis of Villena and owners of the Castle, have been supported by public institutions. 

The Castle of Belmonte reopened its doors to the public in July 2010, offering the visitor a cultural tour throughout the history of this emblematic monument, all the way from the 15th century to the present. The cultural tour provides an audio guide in 4 languages (Spanish, English, French and Italian), an audio-visual room with a large-screen 12-minute projection as an introduction to the tour, and light and sound technology that make visitors travel to a different time.

Moreover, since August 2018, the largest historic-thematic park with real-scale siege machines in the world, Trebuchet Park, has been located at the foot of the fortress. 

Throughout the tour, visitors can observe 40 siege machines in four different thematic areas: the Christian world, the Muslim world, the Eastern world and the Renaissance. Regarding the timeline, the artefacts in the first three spaces are from the 5th and 14th centuries, and the Renaissance area set in the 15th–16th century.

All of the machines have been tested and they work just as they did at the time, reconstructed with the same period materials. Historically rigorous, they used available documentation (miniatures, engravings, period texts, iconographic depictions and archaeological remains)

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Castillo de Garcimuñoz is a small town in the province of Cuenca, which was declared a historic complex in 2002. Its main peculiarity is that it is made up of two different castles: one on top of the other. Namely, the castle that was inhabited  by Don Juan Manuel since 1312 and the other that was built by the Marquis of Villena Don Juan Pacheco in 1458.

The first references to the Castle of Arab origin date back to the year 1172 when the Emir Abu Yacub Yusuf, by way of Huete, destroys and enslaves its women and children. Restored by Garcí-Muñoz, it was inhabited by Don Juan Manuel who controlled  the manor of Villena from this settlement, and so continued the successive marquises until Don Juan Pacheco moved the control center to Belmonte. 

In the visit to this castle you can see the North-south wall that protected it, and various spaces  organized around an inner courtyard that acted as a distributor.

The castle of Don Juan Pacheco began to be built in 1458 on the remains of the previous one that had been demolished. The master who built it was Martín Sánchez Bonifacio, one of the members of the School of Toledo.

It's a transition castle to Fort Bastions, built in Elizabethan Gothic style as testified by its billiard of Çross and Orb and the decorative frame that surrounds the castle below the windows of the second floor, the diamond tips and Avila´s balls of its cover, etc
Its destruction and the recess of its canvases and towers occur from the year 1663 when a Castle's bay becomes the current Church of St. John the baptist, inaugurated in 1708. The Castle's walls served as a quarry for the works of the Church.

The castle has been recently restored (2010-2016) by Izaskun Chinchilla in postmodern Style. It is a controversial restoration, where the sculpture is mixed with the architecture, but it is worth the visit to assess the different styles of restoration of Castles. 

The rehabilitation carried out permits the visit to:

  • The homage tower with 16.5 meters in diameter whose original cistern has been recovered. 
  • The four Gothic windows on the second floor and the singular windows of the First. 
  • The inside of the Southwest tower that ends the visit to this castle and leads to the platform that gives access to the castle of Don Juan Manuel, in it we find 40 solar chimneys today which are only decorative.

With more than 13 centuries of history, the Parador de Alarcón will transport you back to the Middle Ages with its historic features, especially the castle keep and its elegant red and orange textiles. Perched high atop the craggy Pico de los Hidalgos in a meander of the Júcar River, almost as if it were an eagle's nest, the Parador overlooks one of Spain's loveliest villages. Small and charming, Alarcón has been declared an Area of Artistic-Historical Importance due to its beauty and harmony. Encircled by a wall, it is located next to the reservoir of the same name. You will love the wetlands, dotted with small sandy beaches along the banks, pine woods, coves and giant rocks. You can also go sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and rowing.

The waters of the Júcar River are ideal for fishing. The river slows as it passes Alarcón, flowing through many delightful spots, and encircling and protecting the town's former fortress. Santa María Church is a must-see and features one of the best preserved Renaissance altarpieces.  Castañeda Palace, the Alarcón Mural Painting Center for Contemporary Art, Don Juan Manuel Square and Santo Domingo de Silos Church are other sights you will want to visit.

Hiking through the Alarcón Gorge will take you to many beautiful locations. There are two wonderful options: a long-distance footpath following the route of the Júcar River, and a short-distance footpath that skirts Alarcón, offering lovely views.

180 km from Madrid and 170 km from Valencia, this is an ideal spot to spend a weekend and get away from it all. All you have to do is get out of the city and relax, Alarcón and our Parador will take care of the rest.

It is believed that Muslims started the construction of the castle in the 11th century (in the era of the Almohads) as a result of a boarder reinforcement in order to stop the advance of Christians and Alfonso VIII. When the area of the river Júcar was conquered in 1213 the castle was passed on to Christians.

There are scarse remains of the Islamic castle. Only things preserved of Muslim origin are the remains of the two entrance columns on the left. The rest belongs to the reforms made by Christians.

Although completely reformed and remade, it was built of masonry and the restored parts were rebuilt with ashlars.

It seems that its current look is due to the fortifications carried out in the middle of the 15th century, at the time of Don Juan Pacheco, Marquis of Villena.

The castle is constituted by three sections:

  • Main courtyard
  • Tower keep
  • Esplanade

The tower keep is a pentagonal fortified tower with two turrets with a circular floor, placed in the right angles of the castle. The interior of the tower consists of three floors, it is completely restored and its rooms are used for cultural events and as temporary exhibition halls.

The hall situated on the first floor is a diaphanous space and it has about 90m2. Its entrance is high up and to be able to get in an elevated step which forms a semicircular arch had been constructed.

The hall on the second floor of tower keep is also a 90m2 diaphanous room with a barrel vault ceiling made of brick.

The halls are connected by a spiral staircase made out of stone. The staircase consists of three sections, one that goes down to the dungeon, and two that lead to the second floor and the tower. The halls are illuminated with natural light coming through the large windows built in the stone walls.

The tower’s upper terrace (the turret) has a pentagonal form and consists of two round towers and three peaks which were used as lookouts to control the passage through Alcalá del Júcar.

The esplanade has about 4000m2. It was fortified except for one part which was formerly where the town used to be situated. Now, there’s only a foundation left in this area because in peacetime the people left to live in the lower part of the village.

The fortified castle of Chinchilla de Montearagon was built in the 15th century by Juan Pacheco, Marquis of Villena, on the site of an existing Arab fortification, the walls of which can still be seen.

Keeping watch from its elevated position, the castle’s majestic tower, the so called “Torre del Homenaje” (Tower of Tribute), is where Cesar Borgia was imprisoned in 1504.

Evidence of the construction by Juan Pacheco can be found in the coat of arms on the walls and in a topographical survey from 1576 which states: “This tower, fortifications and moat were made by the Marquis of Villena”.

Archaeological remains from all the civilizations that have existed in the Peninsula, such as Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, have been discovered in the vicinity of the castle.

The Muslims were very important for the development of Chinchilla and they named it Ghenghalet, a name that appears in the records of that time.

Chinchilla was re-conquered from the Muslims in 1242, led by the Commander of Ucles, Pelayo Pérez Correa, with an army formed by Christians from the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

In the 14th century Chinchilla became part of the Señorío de Villena under the mandate of Don Juan Manuel. It was a very prosperous century for the city and its territory, a century in which important buildings appear such as the convent of San Juan of the Dominican order, begun at the end of the 13th century, the Church of El Salvador and that of Santa María in the current Plaza de La Mancha.

The 15th century stands out for the appointment of Chinchilla as a city in 1422 by King Juan II, and for the beginning of the construction of the current castle in 1448 by Juan Pacheco, who turned the former Arab castle into the magnificent fortress that we can see today.

Centuries later, in 1812, the castle suffered undoubtedly some of its greatest damage when, during the Independence War, as the French troops were withdrawing from the country, they besieged the castle and demolished the great tower located inside the walls, also causing major damage to the interiors.

Shortly before 1900, the city council ceded the castle to penitentiary institutions, allowing the construction of a prison within the castle walls. This led to the ultimate destruction of the interior of the fortress built by Juan Pacheco, as all remaining structures were removed to build the prison.

In 1973, the town council regained ownership of the castle and demolished the prison, which had been abandoned since 1946 and was in poor condition, leaving the parts of the castle which are visible today.

Villena's Atalaya Castle was built by the Almohad Empire at the end of the 12th Century, to be used as a shelter for the Muslim population and a fortress against the attack of the peninsular Christian kingdoms. During this period, the inner rampart and the first two floors of the keep were built, with its imposing vaults, unique in the castles of Spain along with the fortress of Biar. King James I of Aragon conquered the castle in 1240 and, after the Treaty of Almizra, Villena Estate passed into the domain of the Manuel family, first feudal lords.

In the 14th century, the famous writer Don Juan Manuel, author of El Conde Lucanor, became Prince of Villena. In addition, his second wife, Princess Constanza of Aragon, lived in the castle, forcing him to carry out some important works, such us the building of the chapel, remains of which are still visible. In the 15th century, the castle was ruled by the powerful Pacheco family, Marquises of Villena, who added two new floors to the keep and built the second rampart.

In 1476, the Catholic Monarchs took the castle away from the Pacheco after a harsh siege throwing stone projectiles, with some of them still remaining in the courtyard. During the following centuries, the castle was used in the Germanías War, the war of the Spanish succession and the Peninsular War, with formidable canonball hits and graffiti made by prisoners still visible on the castle's walls.

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