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Alcazaba de Almeria - History

The Alcazaba of Almeria © Michelle Chaplow
The Alcazba of Almeria © Michelle Chaplow

History of Alcazaba de Almeria

by Arturo del Pino Ruiz, translated by Anna Michelson

Archaeological excavations in recent years have verified the Roman Empire’s presence both inside and outside of the Alcazaba’s walls, and yet its current silhouette can be traced back to its founder, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Rahman III (who also built Medina Azahara). According to an inscription found on marble which is now housed in the (Archeological) Museum of Almería, he ordered it to be built in the latter half of the 10th century. Archaeologists found even further evidence specifically an old fortification dating back to the 9th and 10th century which was located in the second and third enclosures and provided a place for the population to find refuge in the case of an attack. Al-Mariyya, as it is known in certain historical references, was originally an anchorage for Bayyana, the important city which we know today as Pechina. Over time, Almería would become one of the most prosperous main commercial ports in the West, displacing the old city of Sierra Alhamilla. 

It’s important to note that during the Taifa period (the 11th century) the citadel and the city of Almería were at the height of their splendor. Magnificent palaces were built within the walls of the fortress and they would continue to evolve for centuries to come. Then, in 1147, the city and its fortress were conquered by Alfonso VII along with help from the Genoese and the Pisans. It would remain under Christian rule for ten years, at which then the city collapsed economically. Even though it’s said that the crusade was against the non-believers, it was actually intended to dismantle Al-Mariyya as a prosperous gateway port to the East which brought in a variety of goods such as highly demanded spices, precious metals, and a booming slave market. 

The Almohads (who also built the Giralda and Torre del Oro in Seville) recovered the city in 1157, ruling until 1228.  Afterwards came the Nasrids, who built the Alhambra, ruling Almeria from Granada. 

During the Nasrid Period, in the 13th century, the fortress underwent important modifications. New entrance ways were opened such as the Torre de la Guardia (Guard Tower), palaces were re-modeled, and new towers were built such as one of the more well-known, the Torre de los Espejos (Mirrors Tower) - one that you might enjoy investigating more about its legends. 

Finally, in 1489 the city and Alcazaba surrendered by capitulation to the Catholic King and Queen in a non-violent event. At this moment, the Alcazaba stopped being a fortified citadel and became a militarized space, an outpost and the new frontier with the Islamic world of North Africa, separated by the moving axis of cultures and civilizations which is the Mediterranean.