In the sun-baked foothills of La Pedriza National park looms a magnificent castle that has not lost its pomp or grandeur despite the ravages of time.
This 500-year-old castle was built in the years that followed the end of the bloody wars of the Reconquista, when the armies of Spain’s Christian monarchs defeated and expelled the Islamic caliphate empire of al Andalus from the Iberian Penninsula in the Middle Ages.
However, the end of the wars did not secure a cessation of violence, and factions of Christian knights began to turn on each other in brutal Machiavellian struggles for power and land rights in the newly reclaimed territories. Alliances were fragile and constantly shifting; trust was illusory and violence was often guaranteed.
It was in this climate in 1475 that Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, an admiral of Castille and one of the most powerful men in Spain of the time, began to build the castle on the hills above the Manzanares river. Defense in the event of attack certainly figured among his motivations, but it was undoubtedly also built in order to display the power and wealth of the Mendoza family. Yet the admiral was never to see the completion of his castle during his lifetime. The Manzanares el Real Castle (Castillo de Manzanares el Real), also called Mendoza’s Castle (Castillo de los Mendoza), was finally completed long after his death by his eldest son, Inigo Lopez de Mendoza.
The original intention behind the castle as a lasting monument to the power of the Mendoza family was also fated to fail. In 1566 following the death of Inigo, the Mendoza family suffered a series of misfortunes caused by economic problems and disputes over inheritance that led to the castle being abandoned.
In the 20th century, after many years of abandonment, the castle was finally made into a small museum. Today visitors can wander its halls and grounds and discover the history within its walls or admire the views from the castle towers.
Know Before You Go
To get to the castle from Madrid, take an autobus (Direction: line 724) from Plaza Castillo. It will take approximately 45 minutes to reach the town of Manzanares el Real. Remember to check and double check the timetable for buses going and returning from the town. It is recommended to pay special attention to any seasonal changes that might affect times and routes.