Vélez-Blanco Castle, the fortified palace whose courtyard ended in New York.

Are you planning to emigrate and are you looking for an authentic piece of Spain? JM Real Estate Consulting Spain will be happy to explain more about the Castle of Vélez-Blanco.

 

In the province of Almería, on the border with the province of Murcia, one of the saddest cases of Spanish Renaissance heritage awaits. It is the castle of Vélez-Blanco. From the outside it looks like a mighty defensive fortress, but inside it was for a long time a magnificent palace. The castle looks spectacular with its straight lines and the height of the keep. However, like many castles, it was plundered and much of the interior fell into American and French hands.

 

A boast by Pedro Fajardo y Chacón

The castle of Vélez Blanco was founded in the 16th century and experienced its best times. The first owner was Adelantado de Murcia, in charge of royal affairs in the region. He held a high position that he inherited from his father and would pass on to his descendants.

Ambitious and capable as he was, he was plunged into disputes that even led to real punishments. However, he always came out of it unscathed, at most having to pay fines to the state and the church. One particular incident was his participation in the kidnapping of the Bishop of Cartagena, who was a great rival of the Bishop of Orihuela.

Imagine what a challenge it must have been to build this castle. Not only physically but also due to the legislation in force at the beginning of the 16th century. At the time, it was forbidden to build new castles, in an attempt by the monarchy to secure its power against the nobles. But a Spaniard would not be a Spaniard if he did not circumvent these laws. According to the Marquis, he was in possession of the remains of a fortress on which he later built his fortress. And this was not forbidden. He also pointed out to the rulers that it was necessary to strengthen his new power in the area. That it worked can be seen from the fact that the castle is still standing.

 

Imagine how mighty the castle must have looked in those days. The entrance to the castle was through a courtyard, in simple shapes and adapted to the rocks supporting it. A drawbridge was necessary to cross, which of course made it easier to defend. The centre of the castle was the palace itself. The guards were posted in convenient places, isolated from the noble rooms, where discretion was a necessary priority.

From above, we can see the lines of an unequal hexagon, a truly impressive sight. Inside, however, things changed radically. The whole arrangement was aimed at creating a palace. Several rooms were intended for the residence and the court.

 

In the middle of the construction was the “Patio de Honor”. It was a magnificent Renaissance exhibition in Macael Andalusian marble. With two heights, the low gallery only covered the southern segment. Meanwhile, on the western wall there were six windows, in two groups of three. The northern side was part of the keep, was used for defence purposes and had a coat of arms. All elements showed a classical cut, with rich sculptural decoration.

 

What remains of the upper gallery of Vélez-Blanco Castle.

From the galleries you could go to different rooms. In that of Mythology and Triumph, the absolute protagonists were a series of wooden bas-reliefs. They showed, among other things, mythological scenes and Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.

Over the centuries, the palace fortress ended up in the hands of several dukes. The 19th Duke, Joaquín Alvárez de Toledo y Caro, was the person most responsible for the disaster that befell the Vélez-Blanco Castle. During his dukedom, he caused monumental looting throughout Spain. He lost valuable objects, including the patio and the friezes.

 

Galleries of the Patio of Honor of Vélez-Blanco in New York. | Metroplitano Museum of New York

 

Much of the art from the castle in Vélez Blanco passed into the hands of various art lovers around the world. The Court of Honour was purchased by German-American banker George Blumenthal for his personal use. It was then to be donated to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, a place with a large amount of heritage similar to that of the Vélez Blanco Castle.

Galleries of the Patio of Honor of Vélez-Blanco in New York. | Metroplitano Museum of New York

 

The bas-reliefs beze remained in France and went privately to the Louvre. They lay in their cellars for decades without anyone paying attention to them. The rediscovery in the 1990s made them see the light again. They were not exhibited in the aforementioned museum because that would have meant placing them next to the works that were stolen during the War of Independence. Instead, they went to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.

Fries of the Vélez-Blanco castle.

Because of all the above, the castle of Vélez-Blanco is a shadow of what it was during the Fajardo era. Nevertheless, it can be visited, and one can feel its greatness. The rooms are open to show the history of the castle. At the same time, guests can see the vantage points where they have a nice view of the surroundings and the village.

 

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