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Castillo de Loarre

It’s an impressive sight, a colossal structure which seen from afar, appears to rise up from within the rocks themselves.

The spectacular eleventh century Castillo de Loarre, around 30 kms to the west of Huesca City, in the foothills of the Aragónese Pyrenees, is considered the best-preserved Romanesque castle in Spain, and, according to some, even in Europe.

De Samueloku - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

The castle is a star of the silver screen which has featured in a number of films. It was used as the backdrop for some of the scenes in the Ridley Scott film ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ and also starred in the Inés Paris film, ‘Miguel y William,’ a romantic comedy which invents a friendship between Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, and their love for the same woman.

Covering an area of more than 2,000 square metres, the original construction was built on the site of an old Roman fort between 1015 and 1023 by order of Sancho III el Mayor of Navarra. He set it at this strategic location to defend his lands against the Moors, and this is much of the structure which still stands today. Two of the main towers, the Torre del Homenaje and the Torre de la Reina, the latter a five-floor tower reaching up to a height of 22 metres with walls up to two metres thick, both date from that period.

Spain’s oldest fortress is one of a string of castles and fortresses which were built in the Hoya de Huesca as a line of defence. It fell into the hands of the occupiers in the latter half of the 10th century and, after around a decade in Moorish hands, was retaken by Sancho the Great’s grandson, Sancho Ramírez, King of Aragón and Navarra. He established an Augustine monastery there and built a royal chapel, the Church of San Pedro, a beautifully-detailed monument which is the most impressive building of that period of construction.

Much of the outer wall with its eight towers was built over the 13th and 14th centuries, by which time the fortress had lost its former defensive importance. The castle was a royal residence for around 100 years and has had a relatively peaceful history, accounting for its excellent state of preservation today.

It underwent a major renovation in 1913, seven years after the Castillo de Loarre was declared a National Monument. It’s also vying for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and was included on the Tentative List for Spain in 2007: the castle’s entry on the list describes the monument as a ‘unique creation,’ and ‘undoubtedly the best in all of Aragón.