El Alcazar, Toledo, Spain

Category: Toledo

Are you planning a trip in the near future to the beautiful and quite historic region of Toledo, Spain, the capital city of the Autonomous Community of Castile La Mancha?  Have you set to the task yet of planning out an itinerary for your trip; making a list of the various sites and attractions you’d like to visit during your stay?  The city of Toledo, which is located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, is a very popular destination for travelers and tourists, largely due to its abundance of historical structures, commemorative monuments, and a number of churches, mosques and synagogues that tell together tell the story of the city’s history and its reputation as a place of great religious diversity and tolerance.  One of the oldest structures you’ll find in the city is El Alcazar, which was originally built during Roman times when Toledo was an important Celtiberian city.  To help you become a bit more familiar with this famous structure, below we have provided a brief profile, including some interesting information regarding its history, construction and the role it played during the Spanish Civil War.
El Alcazar:  Overview

The Alcazar of Toledo is a stone fortress, situated, intentionally, in the highest part of Toledo—a strategy often used in the construction these types of fortifications for defense purposes.  The structure was originally built during Roman times, and functioned as a Roman Palace in the 3rd century AD.  Having been subjected to many a siege throughout various periods of history it has been rebuilt and restored many times.  During the reigns of King Alfonso VI and King Alfonso X (Alfonso the Wise)—Kings of Castile and Leon who ruled the region during the early 11th century 13th century, respectively—it  was rebuilt and became the first square fortress of its kind, with tall towers located on each of its four corners.

El Alcazar was once again restored by Charles I and Philip II of Spain in the mid 16th century, using the design of architect Alonso de Covarrubias.  In 1521, Hernan Cortes was received by Charles I at the Alcazar, following Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs.

The facades of El Alcazar are built in the Renaissance style, and although the towers and crenellated defenses were originally designed by Covarrubias, they were ultimately completed by Spanish architect Juan de Herrera. After the last construction, it became the site of the Army offices and museum, a function it continues to serve today.  It also houses one of Toledo’s regional libraries.

El Alcazar and the Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War of the mid to late 1930s, the Colonel of the Nationalist forces, Jose Moscardo Ituarte, held the Alcazar against overwhelming Spanish Republican forces in the Siege of the Alcazar.  The incident proved to be a central event of pride and lore for the Spanish people, particularly the tale of Moscardo’s son, Luis.  As the story goes, Republican forces kidnapped the young 16-year old just prior to the Siege.  They demanded his father relinquish the Alcazar in exchange for his son’s safe return.  According to the retelling, Luis screamed to his father, “Surrender or they will shoot me,” to which his father replied, “Then commend your soul to God, shout ‘Visto Cristo Rey’ and die like a hero.”

Moscardo refused to surrender.  Reports at the time indicated that the Republican forces had indeed subsequently murdered Moscardo’s son Luis for this refusal, although other historians believe he was killed sometime later as a reprisal for an air raid.

Nevertheless, the Siege of the Alcazar and its defense transformed the structure into a symbol for Spanish Nationalism.  A far-right newspaper even adopted the name El Alcazar, using the publication as a mouthpiece for a group known as Bunker, a faction of loyal Francoists who opposed reform following Francisco Franco’s death.