Lorca’s Fortress of the Sun
Towering above the city of Lorca, in Murcia, is Lorca Castle (Castillo de Lorca), also known as Fortress of the Sun. This hilltop fortress was built between the 9th and 15th centuries and is one of the largest castles in Spain. It is unclear exactly when a fortress was built on the hilltop but it is believed that the Moors first began building the castle in the 9th century. The castle was a significant strategic point during the Reconquista, the period of fighting between Muslims and Christians in Spain. Under Moorish rule the castle was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall: the western area used to store grains and livestock during times of attack and the eastern area was home to a small neighbourhood. Lorca and its castle were conquered in 1244 by Don Alfonso, who later became King Alfonso X. The castle subsequently became a key watchpoint on the border between Christian Murcia and Muslim Granada for 250 years, until Grenada too was conquered. Under Alfonso’s rule, walls were reconstructed and new towers built. Today little remains of the original Moorish construction aside from foundations and the Espaldón Wall. In the 13th century a Jewish quarter was founded within the castle walls in a bid to separate the Jewish community from the Christian majority. The remains of several Synagogues and homes can still be seen today. Following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and the loss of its strategic significance the castle fell into disrepair. In the 19th century the castle was refurbished and in 1931 the site was named a National Historic Monument. The castle can be reached by car or by foot; there’s a small car park outside the castle walls. If, like us, you choose to walk up the hill you’ll be rewarded with views of old churches, quiet winding streets where children and dogs play and an appreciation of how difficult it would have been to lug rocks up the hill to build a castle! From the visitor centre at the castle entrance you can collect audio guides that will provide all the information you need on this fascinating castle. Also near the entrance there is a café serving hot food and drinks and a performance area. Here a theatre company stage mock battles that recreate scenes from history. When we visited the performance area was empty but for two pugil sticks and two tree trunks and so we made our own entertainment by recreating scenes from TV’s Gladiators! The audio guide leads you right through the history of the castle, covering the remains of the Moorish construction, the later Christian additions and the Jewish quarter. Be sure to take in the stunning views of modern Lorca, too. From the hilltop it’s possible to see miles of town, road, hills and farmland. There’s also an impressive modern sculpture, within the castle walls, of a sword which acts as a giant sundial. Lorca is approximately an hour and a half’s drive from Alicante Airport and Drivalia Car Rental. In addition to the parking outside the castle, down in the town there is on-street parking available as well as parking garages. On weekends and bank holidays the castle is open from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:30 to 18:30. From Tuesday to Friday the castle is open from 09:30 to 14:00 and 17:30 to 19:30. For more information on Lorca visit the official website.