Guzmán El Bueno Castle
Guzmán El Bueno Castle, Tarifa
Named after the epic by Alonso Pérez de Guzmán El Bueno, is one of the most beautiful and famous sights of the town.
Tarifa is a bridge between Europe and Africa and divides de Mediterranean from the Atlantic. The city occupies a strategic place in a legendary zone, “The Pillars of Hercules”, once thought to be the end of the world by sailors of antiquity. That´s the reason why it was inhabited from prehistoric times to this day, by Phoenicians, Romans, Muslims and Christians, upon this rocky peninsula, the southern most point in Europe.
Arab writers speak about and early incursion in the year 710 A.D., lead by a Berber called Tarif. This should be the origin of the name of the city. But it could also be a derivation of tarf “point” or “extreme”, in Arabic). The castle was built in 960 A.D, by the Omeyyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, giving rise to the defensive enclosure that we see today, one of the best preserved in Spain.
The importan of Tarifa increased over the time because it was one of the most important ports through the Strait of Gibraltar under the Empires of the Maghreb (Almoravid, Almohad and Marinid Dynasties), which marked the politics of al-Andalus from the end of the XI century onwards.
Just a couple of years after the Christian conquest in 1292 by King Sancho IV the Brave, an event took place that gave the castle of Tarifa is name and fame: the defence by the castle´s governor, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno (the Good, in the sense of righteous) who chose the sacrifice his own son, instead of surrendering the stronghold that the king hadentrusted to him.
Each and ever one of the above mentioned historical stages have left their mark on the town and on its Castle, which today show what has resulted from the addition of defensive structures (gates, towers, barriers), as well as from its palatial constructions, accumulated since the XVth century up to the times of I Marquis of Tarifa in the XVI century.
The castle preserved its military funtion for a millennium. In 1989 it was placed in civil hands, beginning with the restauration and archaeological work that has made it known to us.
Guzmán el Bueno Tower
Tradition places in this tower where the Knight Guzmán the Righteous, in answer to the muslim Benimerine, who threated to kill his son, whom they held captive, if he did not surrender the village, darted his own knife down for killing him. The moors, allied with the Infante Juan de Castilla, beheaded the child in full view of his father. But not even this was enough to break the will of him, and besiegers finally desisted. It was the year 1294.
It is a flanking tower, joining the main enclosure of the castle by a 50m long wall. Its plan is octagonal and probably it was higher. The base lays directly on the rock.
The Sea Gate
This is a curious gate. The arch ray-form stones are Gothic, but the rectangular hood mould (“alfiz”) or the tiles, almost lost, are Mudéjar (Islamic style). It was built in the XIV century. Only a few years ago it was the entrance to the city from the harbour, climbing a slope.
The other gate today used to enter to castle –in the opposite wall- has the same name, Sea Gate