Castillo de Ponferrada in Ponferrada, Spain

The Castillo de Ponferrada, a magnificent historic Templar castle, is located in the town of the same name in northwestern Spain, and forms an important stop on the Way of St. James.

The Castillo de Ponferrada is located in the Spanish town of Ponferrada and was originally a Celtic fortification. The Romans built a fortress here through which they could ensure the removal of gold from the Las Médulas, nearby gold mines that are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built high above the Sil River, the mighty bulwark is strategically located and offers a good panoramic view in all directions.


PICTURES: Castillo de Ponferrada

Photo gallery: Castillo de Ponferrada 

Pilgrimage protection by Knights Templar

The 12 mighty towers of the Castillo de Ponferrada reproduce the shape of the constellations, Spain - © JoseAngelAstorRocha/Shutterstock
© JoseAngelAstorRocha/Shutterstock

From the Middle Ages, the Way of Saint James passed through Ponferrada. Since the Arabs ruled over this area of Spain at that time, King Ferdinand II of León gave the castle to the Knights Templar in 1178. The Knights Templar expanded the castle so that it was habitable and a shelter for pilgrims on their way to the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The ramparts were also reinforced, which was the cornerstone of the castle's current appearance. A lord of the castle further expanded the castle in the 13th century; about 200 years later, a total of twelve mighty towers were built, which replicate the shapes of the constellations.

Since the actual purpose of the impressive castle was protection and defense, it was equipped over the centuries with everything that one would expect from a medieval castle today: towers, battlements with battlements, thick walls with embrasures, a keep and a drawbridge over which one can cross the moat in front of the gate. This is where the castle got its name (Pons ferrata = iron-reinforced bridge).

Fall and renovation of the Castillo de Ponferrada

A drawbridge leads across the moat to the imposing entrance gate of the Castillo de Ponferrada in Spain - © Pabl1n / Shutterstock
© Pabl1n / Shutterstock

In the 19th century, the castle was largely destroyed to prevent it from falling into the hands of the French. After that, the ruins were used by the population mainly as a quarry and as a sports field. Part of a wall was even blown away to build a sports facility.

Gradually, however, the historical value of the Castillo de Ponferrada was recognized and the castle was rebuilt. For this purpose, different stones were used, and so you can tell by their shape and color which part of the castle was restored in which construction phase.

Visit to the Castillo de Ponferrada

From 1178 to 1198 and from 1211 to 1307, the Castillo de Ponferrada was owned by the Knights Templar and is still known today as the Templar Castle, Spain - © emei / Shutterstock
© emei / Shutterstock

Ponferrada is located about 200km east of Santiago the Compostela on the banks of the Rio Sil. Although the castle was owned by the Knights Templar only from 1178 to 1198 and from 1211 to 1307, it is still officially known as the Knights Templar Castle. A visit is worthwhile especially because of the carefully restored knight's castle and the magnificent view. For the visit of the time-honored walls, about 1-2 hours should be planned, but the gigantic complex is also impressive to look at from the outside (without paying admission).


Also worth seeing is the Templar Library, which houses the Center for Historical Research and Studies of Ponferrada and presents its visitors with valuable ancient writings. About 1400 volumes are stored here, including priceless facsimile books of the works of Leonardo da Vinci.

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Opening hours and entrance fees of the Castillo de Ponferrada