THE CASTLE AND ITS HISTORY
“On the summit of Santa Catalina Hill was erected already in the IXth century an old fortress…”
Santa Catalina Castle stands in one of the most spectacular places in the province of Jaen, Santa Catalina Hill, from which you can see almost the entire territory of the province: towards the nort and west the countryside and Sierra Morena, a fertile territory crossed by the valley of the Guadalquivir river, a place full of olive groves; to the south lies Sierra Sur of Jaen and the two peri-urban parks, Santa Catalina and Monte la Sierra; and towards the east Sierra Magina, a territory linked for centuries to the border of the Kingdom of Granada.
The hill Santa Catalina is dominted by the castle which has an incredible walled enclosure defended by six towers. Through your visit you can learn about the history of the city of Jaen, from its origins to the present day and its connection with the territory.
First constructions and the Muslim period
The first settlers of Santa Catalina hill were the Iberians (back in the 4th century b.c.) who built an oppidum (walled town) of which archaelogical remains are still preserved at the foot of the castle. Romans and later Arabs, they reused part of these ancient structures to build their fortifications.
The first fortification proper to be built on the hill after the Iberian period would be carried out by the Muslim during 8th and 9th centuries, a period in which a citadel was built in the middle of the hillside. This citadel with administrative and defensive functions was replaced with the construction of a large defensive fortress on top of the hill from Xth onwards.
After the conquest of the city by the Christians, the Islamic walls would be repaired by Ferdinand III, who began the construction of a new fortress on the highest part of the old Muslim fortress. This smaller but defensively more powerful fortress would be known by the Christians as the New Alcazar (New fortress). The works of this new fortification would begin in the middle of the XIII century, continuing its construction during the reign of Alfonso X and Fernando IV. Thus, during the entire medieval Christian period, three fortifications would coexist on the top of the hill:
The New Alcazar (New Fortress), the one known as Alcazar Viejo (Old Fortress) (with the remains of the old Islamic fortification) and a fortified area also from the Muslim period known as Abrehui Castle. During the 15th century, the New Alcazar or Santa Catalina Castle, for brief periods of time, became the official residence of the Constable of Castile Miguel Lucas de Iranzo and his family.
The War of the Indepence
During this stage, the most profound changes that the fortress has undergone throughout its history took place. These, specifically, took place in the period between January 1810 and September 1812 when the Napoleonic army transformed the fortress of Jaen into the largest and most important base of the French army in the High Guadalquivir. For this, a multitude of refurbishment works were undertaken with new buildings, and in many cases altering the previous structures. When the French troops withdrew from Jaen, they blew up a large part of the buildings, damaging seriously some parts of the fortress.
After the French withdrawal, there were several attempsts at the beginning of the 20th century to recover part of its former splendor. At the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, the construction of a tourist hotel began on the area occupied by the remains of the Old Islamic Fortress. At the end of the 20th century, and up to day, restoration and archaeological study works as well as readjustment have been carried out for tourist and cultural purposes of Santa Catalina Castle.