Castle of La Mota

The castle of the Mota is a castle that is located in the town of Medina del Campo, (province of Valladolid, Spain).

Located on an elevation of the terrain (mota), dominates the town and all its extensive region.

From it started a walled enclosure, expanded three times, which embraced the population, and which remains some remains.

It was built with the characteristic red brick typical of the area, using the stone only for small details, such as hoops, shields, etc.

The building belongs to the model of castles known as Escuela de Valladolid.

It was declared a Property of Cultural Interest (B.I.C.) on November 8, 1904.

A scale model of this building is located in the Mudéjar Theme Park of Olmedo.


The village had to be repopulated between the years 1070 and 1080, first fortifying the enclosure of the old town, known as La Mota.

With the growth of the city, the enclosure of La Mota became an independent fortress of the town itself.

Thus, in 1354 Enrique de Trastamara and his supporters fought the town, “and forced it in. And there were six hundred of horses in Medina that King Don Pedro sent there, and they took refuge in the old village, and they pleaded that they should be saved.”

In 1390 Juan I donates the town to his son the infant Fernando de Antequera, future king of Aragon.

In this way, to his death in 1416, Medina and his Mota pass to the power of the infant of Aragon, Juan.

This one had to do some work in the old enclosure, by which in 1433 he condemned certain neighbors to pay two thousand maravedis “for the work of our alcazar and fortress that we have done in La Mota”.

The confrontations between Juan II of Castile and the Infantes of Aragon propitiated that the town was sometimes divided between one side and another, dominating the Aragonese the Mota and the king the palace of the square.

In 1439 the infant of Aragon had ordered “to close all the portillos and to put guards to the doors and in the town”, enclosing the king in her.

In 1441, however, it was the King of Castile who ruled the town and surrounded La Mota, where supporters of Aragon had taken refuge with “250 men, without food and very little water and bad wells”, reaching an agreement to render it when the king “began to undermine”.

After the battle of Olmedo in 1445 La Mota was finally in royal hands, and by 1460 Enrique IV of Castile ordered the construction of “a tower that was then the cause of a multitude of misfortunes.”

In 1464 he gave La Mota tenure to the archbishop of Toledo, Alonso Carrillo, who shortly afterwards betrayed him and supported the rebel prince Alfonso.

The king then went to Medina “and arrived before dawn, where Alonso de Vivero, who was mayor of the city and had the Mota, which is the fortress, by the archbishop of Toledo did not want to receive and the king ordered to keep people on guard On her that surrounded her and by captain (put) to his accountant greater Pedrarias Dávila”, that took it.

In 1467 La Mota was again in the hands of the supporters of the prince don Alfonso, supporting the town to Enrique IV, but finally the whole town fell in the hands of the prince.

The latter died in 1468, the rebellion was led by his sister Princess Isabel, who signed the agreement with the King of the Bulls of Guisando with the king.

In it stipulates that Isabel receives the “town of medina del campo and alcazar and fortresses of it and with the tower of the speck”.

However, in 1470 the king removes Medina to his sister Isabel to give it to his daughter, the princess Juana.

La Mota was then in the hands of a supporter of the king, the archbishop of Seville, Alonso Fonseca, until his death in 1473.

On this date, the Medinenses, with the help of the mayor of Castronuño, had surrounded La Mota and intended to overthrow it.

The archbishop’s nephew, who was defending her, seeing that it was impossible to maintain it, agreed with the Medinenses to surrender to the Duke of Alba.

The duke retained it until 1475 and had to do some small works in the interior, spending in them something more than 45,000 maravedis.

In 1475 the crown claimed La Mota and on February 20 they ordered Francisco Giron, the mayor, to hand it over to Alfonso de Quintanilla, sent by the kings.

It is from that date on when the artillery barrier was built, “at the time of the wars of the king of Portugal, eight or nine years little or less time while the work of the barrier lasted”, according to the statement of a witness asked in 1505.

Some accounts of these years are preserved with payments to the master of Abdalla, possibly the chief architect of the work, the master Ali de Lerma “engineer” and the teacher Fernando.

There are also accounts of the works in the last four years (1479-1482), whose sum is close to three million maravedis.

The barrier had to be finished in 1483, with that date on the shield that is kept on the main door of the latter and in which the arms of the Catholic Monarchs appear without the pomegranate and the yoke and the arrows, their currencies.

Later, the castle became a state prison, and in it were different people, such as Hernando Pizarro, Rodrigo Calderón, Duke Fernando de Calabria, César Borgia or Count Aranda.

Perhaps the most outstanding fact is the escape of Caesar Borgia, the so-called Duke Valentino, son of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), and to whom the Great Captain was taken prisoner in Naples, sending him first to the castle of Chinchilla, in the present province of Albacete, from which he attempted to escape by means of a stratagem, not without wanting to throw his warden and guardian, Gabriel de Guzman, on the battlements, who escaped certain death through his agility and strength.

After the failed blow, the Catholic King ordered the transfer of Borgia to the castle of La Mota, guarded this time by the governor Gabriel of Tapia.

After a time of rigorous imprisonment, although characteristic of a personage of his rank, he devised a new escape with the external complicity of the Count of Benavente, Rodrigo Alonso Pimentel, enemy of the Catholic King, and the interior help of the chaplain and some servants.

On the night of October 25, 1506, he was taken off by rope from the tribute tower.

The rope did not reach the ground, so that the last stretch had to save him jumping.

Together with the Count of Benavente, they came secretly to Villalon, where he hid for a few days (ten thousand ducats were offered for his capture).

Then they went to Santander to escape the siege that the Catholic King had arranged for his capture, and from there he moved to Navarre, whose king Juan III de Albret was the brother of his French wife Carlota.

During the war of the Communities in 1520-1521, the fortress remained faithful to the crown, although Medina was comunera and controlled the park of artillery.

“A ruler went so far as to say that the artillery was used to overthrow the Mota” and even “when those of the Junta (comunera) arrived in Medina from Avila, some 2,000 men also came to them asking that they take the fortress”, but thanks To the diplomatic ability of the warden, who had the fortress trimmed, did not come to attack it.

After the Spanish Civil War, General Franco gave the castle to him like central headquarters to the Feminine Section of the FET party of the JONS.

The Power of Artillery: Transitional Artillery Fortress

The effect of the use of the artillery in an assault was the almost immediate destruction of the battlements of the castle.

This prevented the defenders any response to the enemy attack, leaving the base of their walls without defense, either against the continuous firing of the artillery itself, beating without being disturbed, or against the work of mine or shoe that the assailants could do with Any comfort.

Since the guns had a certain difficulty in firing down, and because the walls were too narrow to accommodate the pieces, the construction or adaptation of low perimetral enclosures to the fortresses Barriers – that by means of cameras housed in their thick walls allowed the emplacement of artillery pieces that struck with flush the surrounding field.

The barrier, in turn, prevented the bases of the castle’s main walls from being beaten or squeezed, even though the high parapets were destroyed.

These barriers had towers in their corners and escorting the doors, where they housed guns that covered with flanqueante shot the straight canvases.

As the enemy could shoot with their ball-point mortars in parabolic shot on these towers, which were not very high, they developed spherical cap vaults -casamatas- able to resist the impacts without opening.

The barrier, however, was at the same time very vulnerable because it did not have much height and its firing cameras were very exposed to the assault of the enemy infantry.

For this reason they were surrounded by large moats, so that from the field the barriers barely rise a few meters, but reach heights about 20 meters from the bed of their moats.

To avoid that the lower parts of their walls could be destroyed, by shoe or bombardment, they developed great embankments, and their towers and canvases had shooting chambers or intramural galleries to the lower levels of the pit, resulting in the practice of fortresses with three or four levels of fire, literally constructed from the interior of the moat.

The firing of the artillery inside vaulted rooms or intramural galleries forced the engineers to design effective ventilation systems that eliminated the abundant smoke of the guns, that would otherwise have prevented the permanence of these enclosures.

Chimneys were developed with ducts that served as primers for the airflow, as in La Mota, or holes were opened in the key of the spherical vaults to allow the escape of smoke.

The most vulnerable point of the barrier was the gates, unable to withstand the direct impact of the artillery.

Then appeared the internal defenses like the patches of La Mota or Puebla de Sanabria, with a second door disengaged or elbowed to the first, unattainable for the assailant artillery, and a wall with embrasures, that cut and repelled the frontal shot that Would have knocked down the first door.

An external defense was also developed, usually a tower or small enclosure exempt of smaller height than the barrier, that was placed right in front of the main door and protected it of the direct shot.

This tower received in Castilla, at that time, the name of bulwark, and it housed cameras for artillery that beat frontally the field or covered from its flanks the moats and dead angles of the barrier.

The access to this stronghold was carried out laterally so that its gate and that of the barrier were not in line, avoiding that the enemy artillery could line both from the same position, being forced to demolish practically the whole bulwark before being able to beat the Gate of the barrier.

If there was a moat, the bulwark used to be placed on the outside of it, covering the access to the drawbridge, as was probably the case with the now-defunct Coca bulwark.

It could also be placed in the midst of the moat, serving as an intermediate step between two unprocessed bridges, as in La Mota (1483), Salsas (Roussillon 1503) or Imola (Italy 1505), a provision that already in the second third of the sixteenth century will receive The name of revellín.

The bulwarks were designed to withstand the enemy’s frontal shot and had therefore a semicircular or pentagonal plan in the bow, thus avoiding to offer flat faces to the impacts of the artillery, recovering the tradition of pentagonal towers of the fourteenth century.

They were covered with spherical vaults to resist the bombing and even lacked roof, being rounded its outer covering, like the caponeras of the Italian treaties.

As they were lifted, the bridges were isolated outside the fortress, they had a secondary access to the pit from the barrier, either by facing porches, as in Coca or La Mota, or through vaulted corridors, as in Salsas.

The danger of the mines was also counteracted by the presence of listening wells in the lower and higher parts of the building – the most exposed towers of La Mota or Coca barriers – which allowed the miners to hear and build galleries, Attacking the assailant galleries.

One of these listening wells is called the Airón well, a toponym related to the god Airón.

Therefore, the fortress of La Mota (1476-83), along with that of Coca, should be considered among the best of its time in Europe, in keeping with others, such as the French of Dijon (c. 1480) and above Of the Italians of Mondavio (c.1488) and Ostia (c.1483) who have traditionally been considered the most advanced of their time.


The current building owes its image to a long process of restoration, still in progress, initiated as a result of its declaration as a Property of Cultural Interest (B.I.C.), on November 8, 1904.

The castle has a trapezoidal floor and consists of two enclosures.

The first or barbican is low, with cubes at the corners and at the center of each of its sides.

It presents escarpment towards the moat, and the door is protected by two robust towers, communicated in vertical sense. The second, much more solid, has walls of high height and strong towers in the angles, emphasizing by its elevation the tower of the homage.

Torre del Homage: it has a square plant and measures 38 m in height and 13 m in width on each side of its outer perimeter. Attached to the walls of the second enclosure, it forms the north angle of the same, defending the entrance door that gives to the Court of Arms. At present it has five floors. The first and second are rebuilt, they are octagonal, with a flat vault. The third, also rebuilt, is a square with a full-vaulted vault. On these is the most beautiful and interesting of all, reformed by a room of square plant that is transformed into an octagon by means of semibóvedas of edges or tubes, that close the angles of the square and after a polygon of 16 sides mounted in A flying arch of triangular plant, opening each archito on a base that is diminishing from top to bottom until finishing in tip. Also of square plan and vault of cloister is the stay of the highest floor, transforming in an octagon by means of flat pechinas located in the angles of the square. On the platform of the tower there are matacanes along each of its facades, protected in turn by eight garitones that form angles in this one. In the center rises a knight tower of semicircular arches.

Patio de Armas: it is organized by means of three cradles that open to the patio by a series of pointed arcs, reproducing the original traces of the dependencies of the castle. The gothic cover is an empty one of the one that Beatriz Galindo, the Latina, ordered to put in the Hospital of Madrid that bore its name. The original of this cover is the work of an Arab artist, the alarife Hazan. It is made to the Moslem taste, as indicated by the bow of the entrance arch, which sports a decoration of balls, statuettes under beautiful canopies and enhancing the whole an airy window, all framed within a naturalistic type. It depicts the embrace of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne before the Golden Gate, the timbres of Ramirez and Galindo, and statues of two saints. The placement of this cover in the Patio de Armas is due to the Marquis de Lozoya.

Chapel: dedicated to Santa María del Castillo; Is of Romanesque-Mudéjar type, suggested by F. Justo Pérez de Urbel. Sober and serene of lines, adjusted to the standards of the purest liturgy and Christian symbolism. It is one of the most beautiful quarters of the castle. In the main altar there is a simple altarpiece with bas-reliefs representing six Spanish saints: St. Raimundo de Fitero, St. James the Apostle, St. Ferdinand, St. Teresa of Jesus, St. Isidore and St. Isidore. There is also a silver shrine of basilical form and Romanesque lines. This altarpiece crowns a sixteenth-century ivory christ with cross of forge. On the sides there are two images: Santa María del Castillo and San José, the work of the sculptor José Clara, are known as the “Mota group”, are carved into a cherry trunk whose tone harmonizes with the brick of the building. On the left side of the cruise there is a flamenco triptych that critics attribute to Memling and others to Jan van Eyck (it is owned by the Hospital of the Immaculate Conception and San Diego de Alcalá, Patronage of Simon Ruiz Envito, Medina del Campo). On the right side there is a carving of St. Teresa of the seventeenth century, coming from the workshop of Gregorio Fernandez. In the area of ??the feet of the chapel there is a Catalan table with Italian influence of century XV. The slab of the first sepulcher of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera when he rested in El Escorial forms part of the soil.

Vestibule: decorated with a copy of the letter of Juan de la Cosa, painted by Viladomat on canvas, reproduction of the Naval Museum of Madrid, and a wood carving from Haiti. It is a trunk that represents an Indian with a drum and two lateral figures.

To the noble floor it is acceded by a staircase of Honor, of flamboyant gothic style, also copy of the one of the Hospital of the cited Latin.

In this floor is the Hall of Honor, with access to one of the rectangular towers, a small room seven m long by two wide called “the viewpoint or peinador de la Reina”, in memory of Juana la Loca, where say that he spent long hours waiting for the return of his beloved husband.

It is covered with barrel-vaulted vault, bordered by Gothic third parties and Rosettes; In it remain remains of the original polychrome.

On the tympanums of the vault were the emblems of the Catholic Monarchs, which are now scarcely perceived. The hall is decorated with plasterwork that represent the same symbols that are in the viewpoint of the Queen.

Evolution and restorations

The current castle takes advantage of a corner of the old town, built in concrete of lime and chalk, and similar characteristics to other areas of the repopulation of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, such as Olmedo.

The mudéjar door that is conserved in this enclosure, trapped inside the castle, and the lining of the primitive towers with factory of concrete and bricks of stone also remember to some doors of Olmedo and to the wall of the neighboring town of Madrigal de las Altas Torres, and could be dated to the end of the thirteenth or early fourteenth century.

Of the works apparently made by the infant Don Juan de Aragon, about 1433, only the relevant one of the rectangular towers of the old wall, whose posterior arch blinds the wall of the castle of Henry IV of Castile, would be preserved.

The work of this king, identified with the tower of Homage attributed to him around 1460, was to be finished in 1468, when it is explicitly quoted in the donation to his sister Isabel.

The castle thus constructed was really a short cut in a corner of the vast enclosure of La Mota, formed by two perpendicular canvases and a great Tower of Homage in its corner.

In spite of the irregularity, caused by taking advantage of part of the wall, the resulting building responds to the characteristics of the castles of the model of the Valladolid school.

It is singular, however, that the wall that starts from the Tower of Homage in the direction of the Mudejar door was designed with the intention that the new enclosure would include a pre-existing well, on which the wall passes, practicing a fireplace inside, to allow its use.

An abrupt turn of the wall, barely beyond the well, allowed the primitive door to continue in service to the exterior of the castle, yet integrating the towers of the door into the castle’s defenses and giving the latter control of the passage.

Inside the castle had a defensive skating around the Tower of the Homage, and on it flew a drawbridge, until an elevated access of the tower, like the castle of Mombeltrán.

The staircases embedded in the walls, which currently access the Tower of Homage, are false and were built in the restorations of 1913 and 1940.

This was possibly the castle that suffered the attacks of 1467 and, almost certainly, the assault of 1473.

The impacts of artillery balls that the enclosure, and especially the tower of Homage, must have this origin, has documented no further attacks.

The construction of the artillery barrier by the Catholic Kings meant the destruction of the enclosure of the old town outside the castle of Henry IV, surrounding it with its strong walls and deep pit.

The work done for this purpose, made the castle of La Mota the most advanced artillery fortress in Europe.

The works lasted seven years (1476-1483), cost a little more than four million maravedis (a respectable sum for the time) and its artificers were the master Fernando, a gunner of the royal armies, and the teacher Abdalla, a Mudejar alarife.

The barrier with its four firing levels, its more than two hundred artillery shells, its ventilation systems and its intramural galleries (more than half a kilometer) made it the most advanced fortification of its time.

Its plant adapts to the perimeter of the preexisting building, displacing the canvases that form one of its corners, to make room for the Tribute Tower, in the manner of Portillo Castle or Caracena.

The tower of this corner, with its three spherical vaults and ventilation holes, is the strongest of the barrier and presents the singularity of moving ostensibly towards the outside, to possibly cover the flanks better, at the most exposed point of the fortress.

In the outer part of this tower is conserved a well that, besides providing water to cool the guns, should have, given its position, contramina functions.

The problem of cooling the guns was solved in the liza opening a new well that, through an underground gallery, communicated with the old well of the tower of Homage.

The most unique element of the whole barrier is the entrance body, with its defensive skating, its great vaulted lower room – true heart of the subterranean defenses – and the impressive dungeon that underneath it.

A ladder recovered in the last restorations, allows access from the skating rink to the underground chamber and from there, bordering the dungeon, you reach the porch that allowed to go down to the moat.

The drawbridge of this entrance body was tilted on a diaphragm arch, now rebuilt, and supported on the inner part of a bastion exempt in the middle of the moat and which the last works have partially recovered.

The castle had continuous problems of conservation and the memories of known works give us much information about its original distribution.

In 1550, the “two drawbridges were repaired which are the great as we entered the fortress and the small is por do a rise to the tower of homage with its roof.”

In 1649, the external fixed bridge of the bastion was rebuilt, whose measures coincided with the supports found in the last restoration works, and the factories of the barrier were recalcitrant.

In 1774, the castle was recognized by order of the Marquess of Esquilache and informed him, among other things, that “because the counter-ship of the moat is not covered, so much land has been destroyed that it can be ruined everywhere.”

Between 1806, date of the plane of Julian Ayllón, and in 1848, date of the plane of the Corps of Engineers of the Army, the castle had lost one of the towers of the barrier, apparently flown, possibly in the War of the Independence when it was tried To use the fortress, destroying part of the bulwark and trying to fly without success the south canvas.

For the following restorations we had to wait until the beginning of the 20th century.

Between 1913 and 1916, under the orders of the architect Teodosio Torres, the battlements and parapets were rebuilt, in imitation of the little that was kept original, the walls were finished and the flooring of the towers and towers were restored.

In 1917, the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts began repairing the castle, whose project commissioned Juan Agapito and Revilla.

The works were carried out in several stages (1917-1919 and 1928-1929).

Many weak elements were consolidated and comfortable and easy access was given to certain elements of the castle, such as the barrier, underground galleries and the Tribute tower.

In this one was made a project of total reconstitution of the knight tower, but this project did not settle and only reconstituieron the parapets and the crenellated one.

In May 1939, the castle of La Mota was ceded by the Head of State to the Women’s Section of the Falange to restore it and dedicate it to educational and cultural purposes, and immediately began work.

On July 21, by means of a Special Order, Pedro Muguruza and Otaño, Commissioner for the Defense of the National Artistic Patrimony, were commissioned to rebuild the castle, which appointed Francisco Íñiguez Almech as architect and Pedro Hurtado Ojalvo as assistant-builder.

The artistic direction was entrusted to the Marquis of Lozoya, in a reconstruction that basically respected the traces of the original domestic distribution, except for the entrance skating and the accesses to the tower of the Homage, distorting when adjoining to this the modern domestic constructions.

In 1992 the program of documentation and diagnosis of the Master Plan was created, with Fernando Cobos Guerra, with the help of the architect Ignacio García de Tuñón and the documentalist Antonio Andrade.

Full plans were taken of the whole building, the different factories and constructive elements of each period were analyzed and tracked in different archives (Simancas, Alcalá, H.P. Valladolid, H. Militar, etc.).

This documentation, accompanied by methodical excavations, has served to reveal the hitherto obscure, greatness of the historic building, to evaluate in all respects the Castle of La Mota, allowing it to be recognized as one of the works of Most important military architecture of the European Renaissance.

At the end of July 2010 the tribute tower was opened to the public, after a restoration and adaptation of it.

Ownership and use

The Castle of La Mota is owned by the Junta de Castilla y León and is used as a conference center, courses, seminars, etc., as well as tourist use.


The visit to the fortress can be carried out free of charge to a reduced area of the building (patio of arms, chapel and room of Juan de la Cosa) or through the guided tours that are managed from the Visitor Reception Center that Is located in front of the castle.

For the realization of the same it is advisable to make previous reservation. Currently there are several types of guided tours.

Guided visit to the Mota Castle

In this visit, in addition to discovering the history and importance of this fortress, you will know the most remote origins of the Villa de las Ferias. The route of this visit includes: the prehistoric sites of the Iron Age; The surroundings of the castle with the remains of the medieval wall; The defensive barrier with its subterranean galleries; The courtyard and the chapel of the castle.

Guided visit to the Torre del Homenaje

One of the most imposing aspects of the castle is its great tower of homage with a height of almost 40 meters. In this modality of visit will cross internal zones of the building like the hall of honor, the combing of the queen, the two upper floors of the tower and the viewpoint of the Knight.

Other types of visits

Theatrical visits: In the annual programming of the activities of the Mota Castle, this type of visits is included more playful and participative. In them, characters related to these buildings come to life and transfer the visitor to that past that both intrigues and attracts.

Didactic visits: This type of visits is oriented to the school public so there are several types of visits and activities adapted to the school curriculum.

Thematic visits: To complete the program of the Castle of La Mota and not forget the events that took place there are several thematic visits scheduled. The narrative speech made by the guide, is articulated around events that took place and carried out by famous figures of the history of the town.

Tour package “Roads of a Queen”. This tourist package includes the main buildings of the town of Medina which are related to Queen Isabella the Catholic (Castillo de la Mota, Royal Testamentary Palace, Collegiate Church of San Antolín, etc.).