The fortifications on and around the site of the Moorish Castle were first built in 1160, or earlier. These were, however, destroyed when the Spanish re-conquered Gibraltar from 1309-1333. The Tower of Homage, its main feature, dominates the hillside and the landward approach to Gibraltar. A rebuilt tower dates primarily from about 1333 AD when Abu’l Hassan recaptured Gibraltar from the Spanish. On another occasion, the Count of Niebla attacked the castle, was captured by the Medieval defenders and his body was suspended from the walls in a barcina, a net for carrying straw.
The Tower of Homage proudly displays the battle scars inflicted during the various sieges. Here a Spanish governor held out for five months against the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who took Gibraltar from his own sovereign, Queen Isabel of Spain. In 1540, hundreds of people found safety inside the castle when Turkish pirates ransacked Gibraltar. The lower castle formerly stretched all the way down to Casemates Square, the Grand Battery area and the Old Mole. It is interesting to note that the courtyard of the Moorish Castle served as a prison up until 2010.
HM Government of Gibraltar
The Moorish Castle is the name given to a medieval fortification in Gibraltar comprising various buildings, gates, and fortified walls, with the dominant features being the Tower of Homage and the Gate House. Part of the castle itself also housed the prison of Gibraltar until it was relocated in 2010. The Tower of Homage is clearly visible to all visitors to Gibraltar; not only because of its striking construction, but also because of its dominant and strategic position. Although sometimes compared to the nearby alcazars in Spain, the Moorish Castle in Gibraltar was constructed by the Marinid dynasty, making it unique in the Iberian Peninsula
Gibraltar’s Tower of Homage may not be the most elegant Moorish Castle in Iberia but it is probably the largest. In fact it is so big and imposing that one would have imagined it would be easy to trace its origins and find out exactly who was responsible for having built the thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the time of writing and despite much research into obscure Arabic documents and tentative archaeological investigations we still really haven’t a clue.
The following therefore covers my own very limited research into this conundrum. It is based entirely on whatever documents I have been able to uncover. But to start at the probable beginning.
The People of Gibraltar
A stroll around Gibraltar No. 18 : Moorish Castle (internal photos)
Gibraltar Old Moorish Castle
Publisher: V.B. Cumbo, Gibraltar (1905-1911)