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Málaga - Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro

Malaga City

The original colony in the Malaga area was founded by the Greeks and was called Menace. Near this colony at the present site of Malaga the Phoenicians built Malaca. It was an important link in their trading network that stretched from Greece to Gibraltar and round to Great Britain. In those days, around 700BC, the shoreline was much higher and lapped against the foot of the hill on which the Alcazaba and the Castillo were later built. By 600BC the Phoenicians had built a walled town on the side of the Alcazaba hill on terraces.

The Romans conquered Malaca in 205 BC, built on the Phoenician foundations and extended the town. In about 50AD the Roman town of Malacae was granted a town charter. During the 1st century AD the amphitheatre at the foot of the Alcazaba hill was built. It is similar in size to the one at Seville and was used as a theatre for 300 years. Apparently the whole amphitheatre was shaded with muslin suspended from poles erected around the top terrace. It is now being excavated and restored. 

I must say a quick word about the restoration of edifices in Spain. They do it remarkably well, using the original types of stone, mortar and so on. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the original from the restored. This is very true of the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro.

The Roman occupation lasted some 600 years and it has recently been discovered that during that time they improved the Phoenician fortifications on the Alcazaba hill.

In the 5th Century AD the town was invaded by the Visigoths who occupied it for about 300 years until the 8th Century when the Moors arrived. The Alcazaba seen today was built on all the previous foundations, most of the work starting around 1050 AD ordered by the then King of Granada, Badis el Ziri. At this time the inhabitants of the area were constantly under threat from pirates roaming the Mediterranean. Much of what you see today was built to protect the populace.

In the 14th Century the increasing use of artillery made the Alcazaba vulnerable, particularly from the higher hill a couple of hundred metres away. Yusuf I ordered the construction of the Castillo de Gibralfaro (Yabal is Arabic for mountain whilst Faruk is Greek for lighthouse, hence Gibralfaro). A series of zig zagged walls and fortifications link the Castillo with the Alcazaba. 

Malaga Alcazabar

In 1487 the military took possession of the Castillo. It is interesting to see the provisions made for the well being of the defenders. In the Castillo there is a deep well to supply water, two ovens to bake bread and food crops, including many herbs, olives and fruits, were grown on the terraces, within the outer walls. There is an interesting series of posters in the herb garden showing the crops and how they were used. Unfortunately the predominant herb now is rosemary, the rest having long since withered.

Work on the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro never stopped until Malaga was taken from the Moors in 1487 by Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Castile. In my opinion the result is comparable on a smaller scale with the Alhambra at Granada. 

Ferdinand and Isabella used the Alcazaba as a residence as did the Catholic Kings succeeding them. Even in the 17th Century King Phillip IV lived here.

Alcazabar Restored

The years to the present day were turbulent ones for the Alcazaba, Castillo and Malaga. In 1656 the buildings were damaged by an English bombardment and in 1810 the place was captured by the French during the Peninsular Wars. Following this the Alcazaba buildings started to decline and were not maintained again until restoration began after 1930. The Castillo continued to be maintained and used by the military right through until 1925, a total of 438 years. p>

Days Out

The English Cemetery
La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
A Visit to the Picasso Museum
La Concepcion Botanical Gardens

© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.

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