Atalaya Castle, locally known as Castillo de la Atalaya or Castillo de Villena, lies on a hill in the town of Villena, in the province of Alicante in Spain.
Atalaya Castle was first mentioned in 1172 in Arab sources. It is suspected to have been built by Muslims on the site of a former Roman fortification, although no evidence for that has been found.
In the early 13th century Atalaya Castle was an important stronghold on the northern frontier of the Emirate of Córdoba. It was besieged unsuccessfully 3 times by James I of Aragón. In 1239 the castle was finally taken for the Aragonese Crown by a force of Almogavars, Catalans and knights of the Order of Calatrava. In 1244 the castle was handed over to the Kingdom of Castile after the Treaty of Almizra.
Ferdinand III of Castile gave Atalaya Castle to the Order of Calatrava. In the early 1260's, during Moorish uprisings, the castle fell into Muslim hands for a short time, until James I of Aragon ended the uprisings and returned it to the Castilian Crown. Ferdinand III then donated the castle to his son Manuel of Castile who became Lord of Villena. After his death his son, Juan Manuel, became Lord, Duke and lastly Prince of Villena. Juan was a writer and resided in the castle, producing much of his writings here.
In the second half of the 14th century the lordship of Villena was elevated to a march by Henry II of Castile.
In 1445 Atalaya Castle passed to the Pacheco family. In 1476 Diego López Pacheco was Marquess of Villena. He supported Joanna la Beltraneja in her claim to the throne of Castile against Isabella I of Castile. This caused a rebellion of the citizens of Villena who, with the support of the Isabella and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragón, then sacked the castle. After that the castle was no longer used as a residence by the marquesses and in 1480 the town and castle became property of the Castilian Crown.
During the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, between 1519 and 1523, the Viceroy of Valencia, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza took refuge in Atalaya Castle.
In the early 18th century, during the War of the Spanish Succession, 50 Bourbon loyalist troops sustained a siege of 8 days from Austrian troops.
Atalaya Castle was sacked by the French Marshal Louis-Gabriel Suchet in the early 19th century during the Peninsular War, after which it was abandoned and fell to ruin. It was restored several times and now houses a museum.
Atalaya Castle is a concentric castle with a nice keep showing several phases of its construction. The lower part is 12th century Muslim and built out of rammed earth. The upper part is 15th century Christian, ashlar masonry with the typical turrets.
At present Atalaya Castle can be visited for a fee. A very nice castle. Recommended.