Peniscola Castle in Peñíscola, Spain


Peniscola Castle has two distinctive claims to fame. First is that from 1417 to 1423, it was the seat of the so-called Antipope Benedict XIII during the Western Schism of the Catholic Church. Second, the castle and town walls served as a film set representing Valencia in the 1960 movie El Cid, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.

The castle castle at Peniscola, in the Valencia region of Spain, has a history long before its use as a movie set. It is based on a castle built by the Knights Templar in the late 13th and early 14th centuries and built on the site of much earlier Ibero-Roman occupation from the first and second centuries B.C. In the 11th century, a Moorish castle was built on the same site. This was transferred to  James I of Aragon in 1229. His son, James II, gave the Templars the land and they completed their rebuild in 1307.

The old town walls integrate seamlessly with those of the castle and the old town seems to cling to the castle walls. It was involved over the centuries in wars including the War of the Spanish Succession (early 18th century) and the Peninsular War of the early 19th century.

The restoration of the castle, and much of the town walls associated with it, was carried out during the preparation of the set for the filming of El Cid. It was used to represent Valencia as, by that time, the Valencia skyline had been distorted by modern buildings, and CGI was not even dreamt of.

If you are looking for a genuine historical experience, rather than movie nostalgia, you should bear in mind that the set designers added several walls in addition to those for which there was archaeological evidence. Within the castle, there are displays relating to both the Templar period and the period of Benedict’s occupation of the castle. Around the base of the town walls, next to the port, there is a decorative version of a moat with integrated fountains.





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