Photograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso RodríguezPhotograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso RodríguezPhotograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso RodríguezPhotograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso RodríguezPhotograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso RodríguezPhotograph: M.ª del Carmen Alonso Rodríguez

Name of Monument:



Gormaz, Soria, Spain

Date of Monument:

Hegira 354 / AD 965

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad of al-Andalus, Caliphate period


Toward the end of the Umayyad Caliphate it came into the possession of Count Sancho García for his military support for the pretenders to the throne of Córdoba. From 1059 (AH 451) it was converted definitively into a Christian fortress. It was remodelled during the 13th and 14th centuries (AH 7th and 8th centuries).


The castle at Gormaz is the most important of the fortresses that have survived from the Caliphate period along the Douro. Its excellent and sober architecture and its enormous size of 380 metres make it one of the most conspicuous monuments of the Umayyad Caliphate along with Madinat al-Zahra and the Great Mosque at Córdoba.
Gormaz sits on a regular hill with a uniform northerly slope, the only one in the area. The end towers, possibly Arabic, have disappeared and only survive in old drawings and a description from the 18th century. The layout is irregular but perfectly adapted to the topography, and its total area exceeds 10,000 m2. The fortified area, which stretches from the western spur to the citadel, ends to the north above a steep decline with a curving wall deployed southwest/northeast, flanked by ten equidistant rectangular turrets and slightly inclined to better resist attack, a characteristic structure in Umayyad fortifications. The site is completed by the citadel, whose second parade ground makes it feel like a second castle. The lower, original, parts of its polygonal exterior have the same walling pattern, with two thick buttresses. The inside is the most reconstructed part.
The enclosure walls are of similar height, some 10 metres, and are extremely uniform in the north face, higher on the eastern spur and less so on the western spur. Two patterns and bonding systems are used: the north wall employs roughly carved headers, similar to the very robust arrangement on the western spur made up of small headers and long stones on the corners. On the face of the western spur short and long stones alternate regularly in the upper courses, as in the Great Mosque at Córdoba and Madinat al-Zahra. Being a military construction, its defensive functions dominate the aesthetics. The thickness of the walls varies between 3 and 4 metres. For access, there is a door in the north wall, of which only the inner face with a horseshoe arch has survived, that leads to a horseshoe barrel-vaulted passage and a gateway in projection on the southwest side on a steep and overgrown upward slope. The gateway is monumental, with smooth jambs, a caliphal horseshoe arch with carefully cut voussoirs converging at the line of the imposts, an off-centre extrados and double-framed alfiz panel. The rear gateway is similarly constructed, but the arch was ruined and then restored. The only surviving decorative elements of note are the carved ashlars and four rippled modillions (ornamental brackets), a vestige of past greatness.

View Short Description

Gormaz Castle is the most spectacular fortress to have survived from the Caliphate era. Located on top of a steep hill, it is an excellent example of adaptation to the terrain and use of relief. A large part of the Douro valley could be dominated from its long and narrow hull-shaped outer wall.

How Monument was dated:

From documentation from Arabic and Christian sources. The chronicler al-Maqqari gives the date AH 354 / AD 965.

Selected bibliography:

Gaya Nuño, J. A., “Gormaz, Castillo Califal”, Al-Andalus, 8, Madrid, 1943, pp.431–50.
Gómez Moreno, M., El Arte árabe Español Hasta los Almohades: Arte Mozárabe,Ars Hispaniae, Vol. III, Madrid, 1951, p.179.
Llull Martínez, P. et al., “Un Itinerario Musulmán de Ataque a la Frontera Castellana en el Siglo X: Fortalezas, Castillos y Atalayas Entre Medinaceli y San Esteban de Gormaz”, Castillos de España, 93, 1987, pp.3–14.
Sentenach, N., “Gormaz: Estudio Histórico-Arqueológico”, Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 80, Madrid, 1922, pp.53–68.
Zozaya, J., “Las Fortificaciones de al-Andalus”, in Al-Andalus: Las Artes Islámicas en España, Exhibition catalogue, Madrid, 1992, pp.63–73.

Citation of this web page:

Ángela Franco "Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018.;ISL;es;Mon01;13;en

Prepared by: Ángela FrancoÁngela Franco

Ángela Franco es Jefa del Departamento de Antigüedades Medievales en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional.
Obtuvo el Grado de Doctor por la Universidad Complutense de Madrid con la tesis Escultura gótica en León y provincia, premiada y publicada parcialmente (Madrid, 1976; reed. León, 1998); y la Diplomatura en Paleografía y Archivística por la Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Diplomatica e Archivistica, con la tesis L'Archivio paleografico italiano: indici dei manoscritti, publicada en castellano (Madrid, 1985). Becas de investigación: beca posdoctoral del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Academia Española de Bellas Artes de Roma (1974-75); beca posdoctoral del Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Academia Española de Bellas Artes de Roma (1975-77); beca de la Fundación Juan March de Madrid (1978).
Tiene en su haber 202 publicaciones, fundamentalmente sobre arte medieval cristiano, en especial la iconografía: Crucifijo gótico doloroso, Doble Credo, Danzas de la Muerte, temática bíblica en relación con la liturgia (el Génesis y el Éxodo en relación con la vigilia Pascual) o con el teatro (Secundum legem debet mori, sobre el “pozo de Moisés” de la cartuja de Dijon). Es autora de cuatro catálogos monográficos del Museo Arqueológico Nacional, entre ellos el de Dedales islámicos (Madrid, 1993), y de publicaciones sobre escultura gótica y pintura en la catedral de León y sobre escultura gótica en Ávila, así como de numerosas fichas para catálogos de exposiciones.
Ha participado en innumerables congresos nacionales e internacionales, presentando ponencias y mesas redondas, y ha dirigido cursos y ciclos de conferencias. Es Secretaria de Publicaciones en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional desde 1989.

Copyedited by: Rosalía AllerRosalía Aller

Rosalía Aller Maisonnave, licenciada en Letras (Universidad Católica del Uruguay), y en Filología Hispánica y magíster en Gestión Cultural de Música, Teatro y Danza (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), ha obtenido becas de la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional y la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia de Madrid, así como el Diplôme de Langue Française (Alliance Française), el Certificate of Proficiency in English (University of Cambridge) y el Certificado Superior en inglés y francés (Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Madrid). Profesora de Estética de la Poesía y Teoría Literaria en la Universidad Católica del Uruguay, actualmente es docente de Lengua Castellana y Literatura en institutos de Enseñanza Secundaria y formación del profesorado en Madrid. Desde 1983, ha realizado traducción y edición de textos en Automated Training Systems, Applied Learning International, Videobanco Formación y El Derecho Editores. Integra el equipo de Museo Sin Fronteras desde 1999 y ha colaborado en la revisión de los catálogos de “El Arte Islámico en el Mediterráneo”. Así mismo, ha realizado publicaciones sobre temas literarios y didácticos, ha dictado conferencias y ha participado en recitales poéticos.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: SP 16


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