Castles in Cadiz
Gigonza Castle – The Fortress of “Saguntia”
The Gigonza Castle is located in the village of Baños de Gigonza, in the municipality of San José del Valle, province of Cádiz. It can be accessed by the road from Medina Sidonia to Arcos de la Frontera, 12 kilometers from Paterna de Rivera.
It is the best preserved medieval fortress in the area and was declared BIC (Bien de Interés Cultural) in 1985. At the moment it is a private property dedicated to agricultural and livestock exploitation, with a private house.
Twelve kilometres from Paterna de Rivera is Baños de Gigonza, an ancient Turdetani settlemen, named Saguntia, which was later occupied and fortified by the Romans althouhg the height of its splendour was during the domination of the Visigoths. Within its walls the Arabs built the medieval Gigonza Castle, almos square in plan with two parts. It has an enclosed bailey with access through a gate crowned with the arms of the Casa de los Arcos, a noble family that was a rival tot he Casa de Medina Sidonia, in the kingdom of Seville during the latter part of the Middle ages, and who carried out successive reconstructions and improvements in the fortress.
Amongst the architectonic elements that stand out are; the entrance with a dintel suported by ashlars (cut stone), a window with a lancet or pointed arch in the walls, a window with a horseshoe arch above the door, the pendentive vault and the large window on the upper floor. The remains of public baths (Sulphur water baths) near the castle are also important, these were very popular at the end of the nineteenth century, giving ther name to the place.
Under the BIC protection programme, this castle is amongst the historic building of Andalusia, with the category of monument. One of the curiosities of this castle is the line of ombú trees (Phytolacca dioica) near its walls, this is a tropical tree native to South America.
It is the most interesting architectural element. Square, with two floors and a crenellated walkway on the deck, it is built, like the rest of the castle, with thick masonry walls with irregular edges and ashlars, reinforced by ashlars in the corners and in the flared holes. The upper floor is covered by ashlars in the corners and in the flared holes. The upper floor is covered by a vaulted surface with a clad circular plan. The entrance of the tower is through stairs that lead to a narrow Access, the entrance is through a narrow and low door, with a lintel with two strong imposts, sheltered by a horseshoe arch window. The uppor floor is vaulted and has a large windows.
Chapel (19th century)
According to an existing gravestone, this chapel was constructed in 1848 by order of Don Francisco Ponce de Leon and Fernández de Villavicencio. It is situated in the castles main courtyard and has an adjoining crypt. Inside the chapel, an altarpiece, a pulpit, a sacristy, and oratory, and a bell tower are all still preserved.
The Gigonza Chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On Her feast day, the 16th July, the Marquis of the Valle de Sidueña –the owner of Gigonza- used to organise many fun, festive and religious activities for everyone to enjoy.
Visigothic Hermitage (6th Century)
Only the façade remains here, also referred to as the “bell wall”; and inside the building, the altar and alcoves still stand out. During the visigothic rule, Saguntia bécame part of the Asidonense´s bishopric. From 555ad, it was ruled by the Byzantines, until 603ad when the Visigoth King Witteric expelled them indefinitely from the city. It was then that Saguntia gained great importance and was honoured to be the episcopal representative of the Third Council of Toledo. Saguntia was the previous name for Gigonza.
Phitolacca Dioica , A.K.A Ombú Tree
Ombú tres are centenary tres and are native to the Pampas *in South America. They were brought to Spain a little after the discovery of the Americas.
The ombú stands out due to its slenderness and its enormous roots at the foot of the trunks, where the stems sprout, allowing the tree to grow quickly and to a vey big size, in girth and in height. The ancient tres are similar in size, and the tretops spread out to forma n umbrella-like canopy, creating a shce of over 75 m2.
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