Castle of Calahorra: First Renaissance Castle Outside Italy

Located in Granada, Spain, the Castle of Calahorra is one of the most unique castles in Europe. It is unique because it is the first Renaissance castle built outside Italy. The castle is in a fairly remote location, in the Sierra Nevada foothills which is also the highest point of Spain. The construction of the Castle of Calahorra began in 1509 and ended in 1512. The events leading to its construction, however, are full of betrayal, excitement and some would even say scandal.

Castle of Calahorra during winter

Before the Castle of La Calahorra was built, in its place, there stood a Moorish castle. During the Spanish Reconquest, the Spanish took control of the castle. The castle was then given to Grand Cardinal Pedro Gonzales who settled there with his family. When he died, the castle’s ownership went to his son Don Rodrigo. To say the least, Rodrigo was an interesting person, and a bit controversial. When his wife died, he immediately went to Italy and according to some sources, had an affair with the daughter of the Pope of the time. Moreover, during his travel to Italy, he fell in love with Renaissance architecture as well.

Castle of Calahorra and the village

The Castle of Calahorra was a fortified castle first and foremost. It towered over the settlement and was the symbol of the family’s authority. The castle’s rectangular shape, four towers, two stories, and courtyard are some of its Renaissance architectural features.

Castle of Calahorra exterior

After returning to Spain, Rodrigo wanted to marry Maria de Fonseca but the Queen did not allow it. Upon learning that he married Maria anyway, the Queen imprisoned Rodrigo who only got out after she died and received a pardon from the new king. Rodrigo relocated to his family castle with his new family. However, in 1509, he hired an Italian architect to renovate the castle. Rodrigo wanted to turn the castle into one of the Renaissance pieces he saw in Italy. As a result, the castle became the first Italian Renaissance castle in the Iberian peninsula. Still to this day, the castle is one of the most impressive castles in Spain.

Castle of Calahorra towers
the complex and the green pastures
Castle of Calahorra from above
the towers from above
Castle of Calahorra