Costa del Azahar, Spain

Peñiscola Castle, Costa del Azahar, Spain

The Castle dominates the fortified town of Peñiscola on Spain's Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast). The Castle was constructed by the wandering Knights Templar whilst they were trying to find a new home having been evicted from Northern Europe in the 12th Century. Eventually they settled on Malta. It is believed a Moorish fortress stood on the spot beforehand.

The Castle was then bought by the Montesiano family who rebuilt and extended it during the 14th Century. Although much of the Castle dates from this period, the main entrance way bears the coat of arms of the first Commander of the Knights Templar and so dates to the first building.

After the Montesianos left Peñiscola Castle became a Papal property. Benedict XIII was the first Pope to live here and he had a room at the very highest point of the Castle constructed with a window facing towards Rome. This became more appropriate than ever when Pope Luna came to live in exile at the Castle whilst the Borgia's controlled Rome. During this period the town of Peñiscola was also fortified. "Papa Luna" is a local hero in the town.

After the Papal return to Rome, Peñiscola changed to a sleepy fishing town which it largely remains today. The Castle and City Walls began to decay naturally until Hollywood arrived to film "El Cid" (1961). They picked Peñiscola as the place to film and heavily rennovated the Castle, Walls and town. Today it is hard to say which parts of the pristine fortifications are original and which are Hollywood reconstructions, and to a large extent it doesn't matter.

Today Peñiscola is a beautiful, unspoilt place to visit and the Castle, with its superb views and surprisingly large buildings, is its crowning glory.

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