Castle of Burgos

Engraving of the Castle of Burgos from the work "Civitates Orbis Terrarum" (by Braun & Hogenberg) of 1576, and also added this source for the book "El Castillo y Fortificaciones de Burgos" (by Fernando Sánchez and Moreno del Moral).
Back facade of the Castle of Burgos and the church of Santa María La Blanca before the French Napoleonic invasion.

The Castle of Burgos was a castle and alcázar, located in the city of Burgos,[1] in the hill of San Miguel to 75 m above the city and to 981 meters above the sea. This hill was the subject of archaeological surveys by General Centeno in the years 1925 and 1926 trying to find Napoleonic military files when the French in their retreat blew up the fortress. According to this general the origin of the castle attributes to the Visigoths, and its oldest parts, to the Romans.

As was increasing importance of the defensive emplacement, it gave way to a castle and more complex defensive elements.

During the French occupation, the June 15, 1813, the French army decided to leave the Castle of Burgos, and they destroyed it with explosives. The explosion resulted in the almost total destruction of all the castle grounds. At present remains its ruins.


Prehistoric archaeological site

In the mid-1980s it conducted a complex archaeological study in which it was established that the signs of oldest human populations both in the hills del Depósito, de San Miguel and del Castillo, form an ensembles of the first order. So have appeared traces of prehistoric human groups both Beaker culture, and the first Iron Age with attribution Soto de Medinilla. In the hill of the castle was located the oldest town on record in the city of Burgos dated around 2000 B.C..

Foundation and Medieval ages

In the early 860 AD the Muslim historian Ibn Idhari mentions that an expedition defeated to "Gundisalvo" Lord of Burdgia.

Oliver Copons believes that the great fortress was already built back in 865 when Muslims amounted to the Castilian plateau led by Al-Mondzir obliterating. Twenty years later the Asturian monarch Alfonso III gives order to Count Diego Rodríguez Porcelos to repopulate and re-fortifying Burgos because had credited his military virtues in the Battle of Briviesca and in defend Pancorbo.

The growing importance of the city requires a great fortress, whose perimeter is well documented. Medieval travelers unanimously tell the feeling of strength and security that offered. Probably during the reign of Alfonso VIII of Castile occurs the first great transformation, participating experts builders to the Mudéjar taste of the time. The Castilian king Henry IV makes the second reform, mainly for beautification, in order to transform it into palace: halls, chambers and chapel.

"The kings of Castile, having that fortress, has title to the kingdom, and can be with good confidence called kings of it, because it is head of Castile and chamber of the kings."[2]

Disputes with the city

Never were good friends the city and the castle, but it endured for centuries, until the June 13 of 1813 succumbed the fortress during the Napoleonic wars after a bitter resistance in the second assault by the Anglo-Portuguese troops of Duke of Wellington.

Ferdinand the Catholic it siege in the war against Joanna la Beltraneja. The siege is initiated in August 1474 and lasts until January 1476. During this period were fought some of the fiercest fighting in its history, being one of the goals off the water to the besieged, that the minelayers worked with the dual purpose of intercepting the well and blow the walls, as noted by Luciano Serrano.[3]

Famous prisoners

The Castle of Burgos was used as prison of State, being occupied by the kings García II of Galicia and Alfonso VI of León and Castile and by Tomás de Gournay, murderer of the king Edward II of England.

In 1277, as referred the Annals of the reign of Alfonso X, was executed in the castle of Burgos the infante Frederick of Castile, son of Ferdinand III of Castile, by order of his brother Alfonso X of Castile, who ordered to execute at one time to Simón Ruiz of Cameros, lord of Cameros and son in law of infante Frederick of Castile. The version provided by the Annals of the reign of Alfonso X, after of the Chronicle of Alfonso X of the execution of infante Fadrique, is as follows:[4]

"It was a thousand and three hundred and sixteen years, the Infante Don Sancho, son of King Alfonso and heir, prisonered to Don Ximón Ruiz of Cameros in Logroño by order of the king his father. Is in this year king Alfonso prisonered to Don Frederick, his brother, in Burgos, and sending him get into the castle and put in a chest that was filled with sharp irons and died there." (written in Medieval Spanish).

Later, after spending several years in an unworthy place, the remains of the infante Frederick of Castile were transferred in 1282, by order of his nephew Sancho IV of Castile to the missing Convento de la Santísima Trinidad in Burgos, which was demolished in the 19th century.

Gunpowder factory

During the Early Modern Age and because both the evolution of military techniques, as the remoteness of the war zones, loses its former defensive function. In its enclosure was settled the first training school for gunners that have been in Spain, reaching produce twenty quintals of gunpowder daily in 1542. This was about secondary activities.

Royal Alcázar

The known as palace of Alfonso X was inhabited by John II of Castile and also by his father Henry III of Castile.


A fire in 1739 resulted in the destruction of the interior, some ceilings and coffered. During the War of Independence the city regained its strategic position and the French proceeded to an ephemeral conditioning which was a very significant transformation of the enclosure.

With the Napoleonic invasion the French soldiers set out in it their imperial battery. Between September and October 1812 the castle was the star center of the Siege of Burgos led by the Duke of Wellington, which had its base of operations in a palace located in Villatoro. With the withdrawal of the French in 1813, the castle is witnessing of the last preparations that the contingent made before their final departure. There works to disappear any war or documentary material that could be useful to the enemy; the chosen procedure is explote the fortress. They make it blow up without allowing time for the evacuation of the last soldiers. More than two hundred French soldiers died in the blast, that shakes the entire population.

With the explosion, the Church of Santa María La Blanca was destroyed, it lost much of the windows of the cathedral and occurred damage on the chest of the crossing tower and in the church of San Esteban while that in the chopera del Carmen are located many bodies of French soldiers.

Semaphore line

Semaphore tower on the ruins of the Castle of Burgos in 1870. Photography of J. Laurent.

The Castle of Burgos played a key role in the communication system with the semaphore line devised in Spain in the 19th century. In the province of Burgos still are preserved remains, in various states of preservation, of the many towers that were built to communicate the center of the peninsula with the north. The Castle of Burgos was the position 27 of the Line of Castile that connected Madrid with Irun.[5]

Recent times

It was used sporadically during the Carlist Wars and also used along the Civil War of 1936, settling there the antiaircraft defense of the city.

Between the years 1955 and 1958 were tried to reconstruct the blocks but regardless of the real planes.

In the last archaeological campaign (1985) was discovered the deep well and its spiral stairs. A A team of speleologists topographed the interior of the well (also known as Cueva del Moro). They descended to 61 meters noting the great constructive ashlar and its various ramifications. A great piece of engineering. Subsequently appeared a cistern under the main courtyard.

A digital reconstruction has been made on the basis of one of the engravings of the work "Civitatis Orbi Terrarum" of 1576.

Current status

Ruins of the Castle of Burgos in 2008.

Today is a playground with streets dedicated to poets. The remains of the fortress, in state of ruins, has allowed its qualification as a museum, opened in 2003, or interpretation center, and it can also visit the well and the underground tunnels, known as Cueva del Moro.


Ruins of the Burgos Castle. South gate.

Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of the South Gate. This is a broken wall, open to a vain flanked by two towers of semicircular plant. The front gate is open in the northwestern front, it has a vaulted passageway.


As part of the underground complex, the well has galleries of more than 300 m in length. Data from the 12th and 13th centuries, although the first reports date from 1475, during the siege of the troops of Isabella I of Castile, episode of the war of the Castilian Succession to the throne, being defended by supporters of Joanna la Beltraneja. Factory work of ashlar in limestone, consisting of a vertical hollow cylinder reaches a depth of 61.50 m. To access are constructed 6 spindles or vertical cylinder of 1.40 m internal diameter .

"For that this Castle was safer and it not could take by thirst, made its founder near its entrance, on the inside, a so deep well, which for down to the birth of water has around a snail shaped stone staircase and three hundred and thirty five steps with its skylights in places that give light, although low, and is so artfully done that looks like work of enchantment.[6]

Other elements

Bailey, remains of the Tower of Homage, anthropomorphic tombs, several rooms and floors.

See also


  1. Very detailed aerial view: . Wikimapia
  2. Hernando del Pulgar, Crónica de los Reyes Católicos , 1481-1490
  3. in his work Los Reyes Católicos y la ciudad de Burgos desde 1541 hasta 1492 (Spanish National Research Council - 1943
  4. Manuel González Jiménez (October 2004). "XI". Alfonso X el Sabio (1st ed.). Barcelona: Editorial Ariel S. A. p. 317. ISBN 84-344-6758-5.
  5. La torre de Burgos in Telegrafía Óptica.
  6. José Barrio Villamor, Historia de Burgos manuscript 1638


Coordinates: 42°20′34″N 3°42′26″W / 42.3428°N 3.7072°W / 42.3428; -3.7072

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