Alcázar of Segovia

Alcázar de Segovia

( Alcázar of Segovia )

The Alcázar of Segovia ("Segovia Castle") is a medieval castle located in the city of Segovia, in Castile and León, Spain. Rising out on a rocky crag at the western end of the old town, above the confluence of rivers Eresma and Clamores at the bottom of Sierra de Guadarrama, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape– like the bow of a ship. The alcázar was originally built around the eleventh century by the Almoravid dynasty to serve as a fortress and has subsequently served as a royal palace for twenty-two monarchs, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. The Old Town of Segovia, including the alcázar, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Today, it is used as a museum and a military archives building since its declaration as a National Archive by a Royal Decree in 1998.

Tower of John II of Castile
Painting of the Alcázar of Segovia, circa 1838 by David Roberts

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain, started off as a Roman castrum, [1] but apart from the foundations, little of the original structure remains.[2] The alcázar was built by the Berber Almoravid dynasty. Almoravid art and architecture is scarcely talked about in scholarship in part because so little of the physical work has survived in Spain. [3] Furthermore, the Almoravid dynasty was short-lived and therefore much of the art and architecture of that period was subsequently destroyed or converted by their successors.

The first reference to this castle was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia was conquered by the Christians (during the Reconquista when King Alfonso VI reconquered lands to the south of the Duero river, down to Toledo and beyond).[4]In 1258, during the reign of King Alfonso X of Castile (r. 1252–1284), an intense thunderstorm caused a fire that destroyed several rooms, leading to centuries-long reconstruction during the reigns of various kings.[4]

The shape and form of the Alcázar was not known until the reign of King Alfonso VIII (1155–1214), however early documentation mentioned a wooden stockade fence.[citation needed] It can be concluded[by whom?] that prior to Alfonso VIII's reign, the Muslim era structure was no more than a wooden fort built over the old Roman foundations. Alfonso VIII and his wife, Eleanor of England (sister of Richard the Lionheart), made this alcázar their principal residence and much work was carried out to erect the beginnings of the stone fortification we see today.[citation needed]

The Alcázar of Segovia was one of the royal's favorite residences starting in the 13th century that in turn, led to secular patronage to the city of Segovia.[5] It was during this period that most of the current building was constructed by the Trastámara dynasty.[4]

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X after a cave-in and the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament soon after.[citation needed] However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II of Castile who built the "New Tower" (John II tower as it is known today).[citation needed]

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I. On 12 December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of the Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia's council.[citation needed] She was enthroned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

The next major renovation at the Alcázar was conducted by King Philip II after his marriage to Anna of Austria.[citation needed] He added the sharp slate spires to reflect the castles of central Europe.[citation needed] In 1587, architect Francisco de Morar completed the main garden and the School of Honor areas of the castle.[citation needed]

During his visit to Spain known as the "Spanish match", Prince Charles of England visited the Alcázar in 1623, after dining at Valsain.[6] He was entertained by Luis Jerónimo de Cabrera, 4th Count of Chinchón, who was then keeper of the Alcázar. Prince Charles was shown the Galley Room or "second great hall" with the heraldry of Catherine of Lancaster. In the evening there was a torchlit masque involving 32 mounted knights. Prince Charles gave the Count of Chinchón a jewel and rewarded the poet Don Juan de Torres for his verses. He left early in the morning for Santa María la Real de Nieva.[7]

The restoration of the Royal College of Artillery is among the many reforms conducted under the reign of King Charles III of Spain (r. 1759–1788). He appointed Count Félix Gazzola as the director of the artillery corps, who made the executive decision to install the academy in the Segovian fortress in the Alcazar. At its opening in 1764, the military college stood as a symbol of the city’s new age of progress in political and military education.[4]

On 6 March 1862, another fire occurred at the castle, destroying the sumptuous ceilings of the private rooms that were reserved exclusively for the nobility. As demonstrated in the engravings by José María Avrial and Flores in 1839, the structures were restored to their previous appearances.[8][9][10]

Etching of the Alcazar of Segovia ( c. 1842) by José María Avrial y Flores

It was only in 1882 that the damaged roofs of the building were slowly restored to their original state, thanks to the existence of engravings made by José María Avrial in 1839.[8] In 1896, King Alfonso XIII ordered the Alcázar to be handed over to the Ministry of War as a military college.[citation needed]

The Board of Trustees of the Alcázar of Segovia was created by the Decree of the Presidency of the Government, on 18 January 1951. The purpose of this was to ensure cultural, artistic, and historical preservation of the Alcázar’s triple function as a royal castle, military precinct, and military academy.[4]

The Belt Room
^ Archivo General Militar de Segovia (in Spanish): El Alcázar fue erigido como fortaleza hispano-árabe sobre las ruinas de un castro romano de los varios que defendían la ciudad. ^ ^ Rosser-Owen, Mariam (2010). Islamic arts from Spain. London: V & A Pub. ISBN 978-1-85177-598-9. OCLC 430838832. Archived from the original on 23 May 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022. ^ a b c d e Cite error: The named reference :13 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Fernández-Armesto, Felipe; Brindle, Stephen (2003), "Segovia", Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.t077398, retrieved 17 April 2022 ^ Henry Ettinghausen, 'Greatest News Story', in Alexander Samson, The Spanish Match: Prince Charles's Journey to Madrid, 1623 (Ashgate, 2006), p. 86. ^ John Nichols, Progresses of James the First, vol. 4 (London, 1828), pp. 915-18, quoting The Joyfull Returne of Charles, Prince of Great Brittaine (London, 1623). ^ a b Manuel Ossorio y Bernard: Biographical gallery of 19th century Spanish artists Archived 30 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Ramón Moreno press, Madrid, 1868. ^ Chao Castro, David (2005). "Iconografía regia en la Castilla de los Trástamara". Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2022. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) ^ Rincón, David Nogales (2006). "Las series iconográficas de la realeza castellano-leonesa (siglos XII-XV)". En la España Medieval (in Spanish): 81–112. ISSN 1988-2971. Archived from the original on 4 May 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
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