Qantara Qantara

Gormaz castle

  • Name : Gormaz castle
  • Place : Soria province
  • Construction date/period :

    10th century  

  • Construction materials : Dressed stone, stone, mortar
  • Dimensions : Dimensions: 10 000 m2; Outer walls: Height:10 m, Thickness: 3 to 4 m

Situated close to the town of Gormaz, at the top of a cliff, this castle overlooks an immense plain spreading out to the north of the river Duero. Its irregular layout was entirely dictated by topographical features. The only historical documents mentioning this fortification are those of al-Maqqari, which mention the date 354 A.H./965 A.D. the year in which the generals Ghalib ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman and Yahya ibn Muhammad al-Tuyibi ordered its reconstruction after its demolition by the Christians. This operation, which took place under the reign of al-Hakam II, may also have been mentioned in an incomplete document in Kufic script, which came from a neighbouring San Miguel hermitage and is now kept in the Burgo de Osma cathedral.

This castle, situated on a natural frontier formed by the river Duero, was built to defend the area against the Christian kingdoms in the north and, thanks to its elevated position controlled a vast area of the surrounding countryside. The castle is surrounded by a defensive wall, which is reinforced on the cliff side by ten quadrangular blocks of stone, which are placed at regular intervals and slightly inclined to better ward off attacks. This construction method is typical of the Umayyads. The polygonal keep is equipped with two massive stone blocks, which have the same function. 

The dressed stones used to build the castle and its walls have been cut and placed using two different techniques. The stones for the north wall were roughly quarried, as is the case with the east-facing wall. The construction is extremely robust with massive corner stones and medium sized stones in the wall itself. The west-facing wall is made up of carefully cut header and stretcher stones in a similar way to the Great Mosque in Cordoba and in Madinat al-Zahra. Here however, this method was not used for aesthetic reasons but rather for defensive purposes.

There are two points of access to the castle. The first is a postern gate in the north wall, which leads through a horseshoe arcade into a vaulted corridor, which has remained intact; the second is a monumental gate onto a rocky outcrop to the south-west. Its horseshoe archway is constructed on undecorated square pillars and the stones forming the archway are carefully cut with off-centre extrados. This archway is set in a magnificent double framework (alfiz). Only a few fragments of decoration remain to attest to its former grandeur. According to Torres Balbas, Gormaz castle, due to its strength and simplicity, is the most important surviving fortress of the Cordoba caliphate era.

During the final years of the Umayyad caliphate in Spain (1011), the Castle was given to Sancho Garcia, the count of Castille in exchange for military support. From 1059 it passed definitively into Christian hands. In 1087, Alphonse VI gave it to El Cid. In the second half of the 14th century the castle took on great strategic importance during the war between Pedro I of Castile and Pedro IV of Aragon and was the object of several alterations. After this war it was abandoned and gradually fell into ruin. The east wall was uncovered in 1922 and temporary conservation work was carried out in 1935 and the site was cleaned. Recently several archaeological dig have taken place, led by, amongst others, Juan Zozaya.


The Poema del Mio Cid, describes Gormaz castle as “well protected” (muy guerte).


Gaya Nuňo, J.A., « Gormaz, castillo califal », in Al-Andalus, 8, Madrid, 1943, p. 431- 450.

Sentenach, N., « Gormaz: estudio histórico-arqueológico », in Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 80, Madrid, 1922, p. 53-68.

Gómze-Moreno, M., « Arte árabe español hasta los almohades. Arte mozárabe », in Ars Hispaniae, vol. III, Madrid, 1951, p. 179

Llull Martínez, P. ; et al., « Un itinerario musulmán de ataque a la frontera castellana en el siglo X: fortalezas, castillos y atalayas entre Medinaceli y San Esteban de Gormaz », in Castillos de España, 93, 1987, p. 3-14.

Torres Balbás, L., « Arte hispanomusulmán hasta la caída del califato de Córdoba », in Historia de España, t. V, Madrid : Espasa Calpe, 1957, p. 652-654, fig. 450-463.

Valdés Fernández, F., « Arqueología de al-Andalus. De la conquista árabe a la extinción de las primeras taifas », in Historia general de España y América, t. III, Madrid : Rialp, 1988, p. 591-592.

Zozaya, J., « Gormaz, portento de fortalezas », in El Esplendor de los Omeyas Cordobeses, Granada : Fundación El Legado Andalusí, 2001, p. 112-117.

Zozaya, J., « Las fortificaciones de al-Andalus », in Al-Andalus. Las Artes Islámicas en España, exh. cat.., Madrid, Alhambra, 1992, Granada : Fundación El Legado Andalusí, 1992, p. 63-73.

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