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The history of the castle of Calahorra, in Granada

Calahorra Castle is one of those places that stands out at first glance in the middle of the landscape in which it sits. Located in the region of Guadix, in Granada, this fortress is located in a unique place, at the top of a hill that dominates the territory.

Thanks to this, the view of Calahorra Castle from afar arouses the interest of locals and strangers. We can find it dominating the plain of the Marquesado del Cenetenext to La Calahorra, a Granada town of just over 1000 inhabitants.

We are talking about a castle whose construction meant a revolution in the architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. And it is that it is the first work of Renaissance style settled in this place. Do you want to know more about its history?

Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar y Mendoza, Marquis of Zenete

We owe the construction of the Calahorra Castle to this historical figure. Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar y Mendoza was an elite figure of the Spanish Renaissance who was the grandson of the Marquis of Santillana and natural son of Pedro González de Mendoza, Cardinal Primate of Toledo and guardian of Isabel I of Castile.

Pedro González de Mendoza received the lands of Zenete or Cenete, with its 8 towns, from the hands of the Catholic Monarchs. All this as a thank you for collaborating in the taking of Granada in 1492. And in said lands it would constitute a mayorazgo for his son, who was named marquis and who, despite his bastard origin, was able to erect this castle because of the good relationship that existed, above all, with Isabella the Catholic.

The construction of the Calahorra Castle

As we explained, it was Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, first Marquis of Zenete and son of Cardinal Mendoza, who issued the order to build the castle near the town of La Calahorra. He was a humanist closely linked to Italy who, thereby, he became the forerunner of the Renaissance style in civil architecture throughout Spain.

The project for the construction of this castle comes from two brilliant minds: Lorenzo Vázquez and Michele Carlone. The latter was a Genoese architect who radically changed Vázquez’s initial project and created a singular example of 16th-century architecture, with an architectural beauty that is reflected in the Italian patterns that he recreates.

We can say that The construction of the Calahorra Castle was conceived during the trip that Don Rodrigo made to Italyapproximately between 1506 and 1508. During these years, the Marquis ordered the design and plans that would serve to decorate the fortress to be drawn up and work began.

However, the construction did not start from scratch, as the fortress began to be built on the remains of an old fortress of Arab origin. Documents have been found that show that Cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza is the one who started the works in the summer of 1491.

This cardinal donated this territory to his son Rodrigo in 1492, and he was the one who continued with the works on the castle. Italian and Spanish artists and craftsmen were involved in the construction.

Structure of the Calahorra Castle

At first glance, Calahorra Castle seems to us to be a rectangular-shaped fortress with towers at its 4 corners, a central patio and 2 stories high. Nevertheless, this castle goes beyond its contemporariessince its bastions are circular, corresponding to the Renaissance style.

It has some towers provided with a body of machicolations supported by corbels and topped by cavalry towers, which allows the existence of a walkway to reinforce the defences.

The castle has a single access door, which is located on the northeast face and still retains its original materials. This door stands out for being a semicircular arch with voussoirs, of small dimensions.

Above the access door is the coat of arms of the Fonseca, —second wife of don Rodrigo— and the arms of the Mendoza family. In addition, on the cover we find the inscription in Latin that says “This fortress was built to guard the knights whom the kings wanted to offend.”

Once through the door, you enter a small open hallway that allows access to the guard room, with a small staircase that leads to the cortile. The cortile it is the open courtyard with porticoes that has a double gallery of arches. The beautiful Carrara marble balustrades and the exquisite staircase that leads to the different upper rooms stand out at first glance.

In short, La Calahorra is a castle that stands out for its interior beauty and exterior sobriety, and that awaits you in Granada to surprise you.

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