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Monday, August 17, 2015

Castles in Spain: Monzón de Campos

A couple of years ago, I found out about the peculiar history of a Spanish castle and fantasized about going there. Something I'm proud of about my last trip to Spain is that it wasn't just Honeymoon II for my husband and me—I also got to see places I thought I might only ever write about. So that counts as research.

Yes, I got to visit the castle at Monzón de Campos. I took all the pictures in this post myself.

In spite of what several websites say, this castle is no longer a hotel. It has been used recently for meetings and signage indicates it's some kind of cultural center, but overall I get that sense that Monzón de Campos isn't exploiting this resource to its maximum potential. I would be happy to take that burden from them. Hint, hint.

The town Monzón de Campos is part of the sweeping views from the castle. 
Monzón was the capital of the County of Monzón, a large, important region in the Kingdom of León. The first remarkable event on this site was what inspired me: in 1028, the three Vela brothers assassinated the Count of Castile, García Sánchez, in León on the day he met his wife-to-be. This was tantamount to regicide, and the brothers fled León and holed up in the castle at Monzón. I can imagine them keeping watch over the countryside from the castle perch—they knew someone would come for them. In the end, it was García's brother-in-law, King Sancho el Mayor of Navarre, who took revenge for the fallen count. It's said that Sancho burned the castle with the brothers inside.

The castle was rebuilt, but wasn't yet the version we have today for the next highly notable and inspiring event: here in 1109, Urraca, Queen of Castile and León, married Alfonso I el Batallador of Aragón. The ceremony was the beginning of a thrilling saga of wars and intrigue that I chronicle here. Before the couple's official divorce, the castle sheltered one of Urraca's favorites, Pedro González de Lara, who was forced out by jealous Castilian nobles and imprisoned for a time in a different castle.

In 1217, Berenguela, who was trying to claim the throne over her underaged brother Enrique I, had troops at Monzón and Enrique's soldiers attacked them. In another royal dispute in 1299, María de Molina took the castle for her son, Fernando IV, from the princes de la Cerda, who were attempting to usurp the throne. In 1304 Alfonso de la Cerda pledged homage to Fernando IV and in exchange for that loyalty, received the castle. The king took it back in 1312, when it was apparent that Alfonso de la Cerda wasn't keeping his promise.

Once it remained under royal possession, the castle's history became more peaceful, passing from hand to hand by donation and inheritance rather than siege and force. It took on its distinctive tower in the early 1400's and passed into the hands of the comuneros during 1520–1522, but was royal once again after that conflict.

It served as a prison and became a parador for a time. In 1978, Monzón de Campos received possibly its highest honor when the castle became the site of the constitution of the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León.

As you can see, my husband and I were there on a cloudy day. We were unable to go inside, which contributed to the vaguely deserted feeling. Or maybe I was being haunted by the strong spirits of the castle's past.

Thank you for joining me during this interlude. Back to Seven Noble Knights revisions now!