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Castles in Huelva

Cortegana Castle

Castles in Huelva

Cortegana Castle – Medieval Fortress

The Cortegana Castle is situated on top of a hill, near the Nuestra Señora de la Piedad Chapel (Shrine of Our Lady of Merci). From this elevated position there are beautiful views of the Cortegana town and also of the Natural Park.

The Cortegana Castle is the best preserved medieval fortress in the region. We have no data o establish with certainty its origin. Possibly his foundation was from the andalusí period, although its present appearance should be put in relation with the military sponsored bt the Council of Seville in the late thirteenth century to defend the northwest corner of its territory.

Se trata de la fortaleza medieval mejor conservada de la comarca. Carecemos de datos que permitan establecer con certeza su origen. Posiblemente su fundación será de época andalusí, aunque su actual aspecto habría que ponerlo en relación con el programa militar patrocinado por el Consejo de Sevilla a finales del siglo XIII para defender el extremo Noroeste de su territorio.

The fortress consists in two sectors La Cerca y El Alcázar (the Fence and the Quarterdeck).

The Fence is the first line of defense on the enclosure. This consists of a powerful masonry wall, adapted to the contour lines at regular intervals protected by towers square and rectangular. In its southwest extreme, on the road to the town, its entrance door was placed protected by a tower. Constituted the first line of defense of the castle but, in turn, served as a venue where safeguard assets and livestock of the villagers when the Portuguese raids occurred.

The Alcazar, located in the center of the enclusure, consists of a small building, aimed at rectangular plant, whose perimeter is articulated with cubes and cylinders of its towers.

Cortegana Castle - Medieval Fortress

Cortegana Castle - Medieval Fortress

Historical facts

The starting date of the construction of the Fortress-Castle must be placed in the second half of the 13th century (specifically around the year 1293), as a result of the Christian conquest of the area and the urgent need to defend an access to the troops Portuguese, who disputed with the Castilians, the control of the Sierra de Huelva. The entire mountain range passed into Christian hands without any kind of war activity. The conquest of the Kingdom of Seville by Fernando III El Santo and the subsequent capitulation of Niebla by Alfonso X El Sabio left this region without access to the Guadalquivir Valley. At the same time, the Portuguese King Sancho II began the conquest of the Algarve and Alentejo, even reaching the seashore and occupying fortresses that would later become Castilian. All this causes a pocket of Islamic population to be produced in the area that has to surrender to one or the other to maintain their traditional ways of life.

In these historical coordinates it is necessary to place the construction of the Castle of Cortegana, which should serve as support for the castles of Aroche and Encinasola, following a defense scheme of concentric lines, staggered in depth, much more effective than the Roman linear system used until now. then. The so-called “Galician Band” is formed, whose main mission is to defend the border with Portugal. The castle is located on the second line, together with the castles of Torres and Cumbres Mayores.

Before the erection of the castle there was a small Arab population on the nearby summit of Cerro del Castillejito (called Ggna), which together with the population of Christian colonization, mainly of Leonese origin, gave rise to a village of agricultural exploitation, similar to other of the Sierra de Huelva. The town, then, has a late medieval origin in a Leonese repopulation village, in which it seems that the surrounding Islamic population was initially admitted.

As happened with the other towns in the mountains, this town had to be protected from Portuguese attacks by building fortresses that served as shelter for the civilian population. This company was carried out by King Sancho IV, who defined the castles built by him as alcazabas with a wide fence to safeguard cattle, crops and people. The castles of Cumbres Mayores, Fregenal, Cumbres de San Bartolomé, Encinasola, Cala, Aracena and Cortegana respond to this model.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the castle was used for rest and distribution of troops and supplies due to conflicts with neighboring Portugal. Later, after its maintenance was abandoned due to its lack of immediate utility, it lost a tower in the 16th century. In the XVII, it will be repaired again for the clashes that finally led to the independence of Portugal. In 1681, the castle suffers further damage due to the earthquake that occurred. The reforms carried out do not modify its structure, but the external barrier that surrounds it where the firearms would be located is reinforced.

Once peace was achieved by the Spanish-Portuguese Treaty of 1668, the military structures fell into complete abandonment, until the beginning of the 18th century with the War of Succession to the Spanish crown. After this conflict, the castle falls into disuse again. For this reason, a Refortification Plan is configured for all military constructions in the South and West, although the repairs are not very effective according to the inspection carried out in 1739, by order of the Duke of Montemar. With the War of Independence, the castles fulfilled their last military functions. In the Civil War, the castle returned to have military utility. In the final years of the 20th century, an important restoration of the castle was carried out by the architect Alfonso Jiménez.

Cortegana Castle - Medieval Fortress

Cortegana Castle - Medieval Fortress

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