The Castle of Burgos

This fall, Archaeological Tours is traveling deep into the autonomous region of Castile and León in Spain to explore exquisite cave art as well as to visit historic castles. Numerous sites and historical monuments are scattered throughout the region but, perhaps, the most stirring of these is the Castle of Burgos in Burgos, Spain.

The Castle of Burgos is a fortress on Saint Miguel hill in Burgos and, while what remains at present day may not resemble a formidable fortification, the history behind these ruins is certainly worth exploring. This castle, which was the seat of the kings of Castile for centuries, was, in fact, built during the founding of the city of Burgos during the reign of Alfonso III. The growing importance of the city required a great fortress with an imposing perimeter, and various Medieval travelers wrote of the aura of strength that the great fortress had and the sense of security that it evoked. They also remarked on the inherent power of the ruling monarchs:

"The kings of Castile, having that fortress, have title to the kingdom, and can be with good confidence called kings of it, because it is head of Castile and chamber of the kings."

Hernando del Pulgar, Crónica de los Reyes Católicos , 1481-1490

It was during the reign of Alfonso VIII of Castile that the first great transformation occurred, as experts builders altered and more heavily fortified the castle. Further, Castilian king Henry IV made the second, more aesthetic augmentation, turning the castle into a palace with halls, chambers, and a chapel. The Castle of Burgos stood strong against external threats for centuries, but the castle soon met its violent end during the Peninsular War in 1813 when invading French troops, led by Napoleon, overtook the castle and, subsequently, obliterated it with explosives.

It is interesting to note that this site is often referred to as the “Alcazar of Burgos” as the word ‘alcazar’ (‘castle’ or ‘palace’ in Arabic) refers to Moorish and Islamic fortifications built during the Moorish rule. As the castle was constructed by Count Diego Rodríguez Porcelos in 884, it coincided with the dawning of the Moorish conquest and rule which lasted from the 8th century to the 15th century. Even more intriguing is the fact that this castle was built on both Visigoth and Roman structures that date back thousands of years. This illustrates the overlapping cultural history of Iberian archaeology and architecture as, quite often, these sites are marked and have been recreated with both tangible and intangible cultural traits from multiple empires and civilizations.

What remains of this once strong fortification is an archaeological park that displays not only the literal structure of the castle but also the foregrounds that saw much construction and destruction over the centuries. Visitors are drawn in from all over the world to visit Burgos and to see its mysterious castle on a hill; are you going to be one of them?

Click here to learn more about our tour to Burgos

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The Castle of Burgos was published on July 2 2019