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Bellver Castle is known locally as Castell de Bellver (or "castle with a beautiful view") due to its pristine view of the nearby ocean and treetops leading to the shore. foundin_a_attic/Flickr
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An aerial view of Bellver Castle's remarkable design.Wikimedia Commons
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Bellver Castle has a moat and drawbridge, as well as three defense towers and a free-standing donjon, or keep.Wikimedia Commons
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One of three towers at Bellver Castle.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The construction of Bellver Castle spanned from 1300 to 1311 A.D. It was originally built for King James II of Aragon and Mallorca, but would serve as the monarchical residence for all future kings when they weren't staying in mainland Europe. Wikimedia Commons
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A welcome opportunity for visitors sit before continuing their exploration of the castle.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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Bellver Castle withstood two sieges during the Middle Ages. The first revolved around Peter IV of Aragon's attempted reintegration of the territory into his realm in 1343. The second was rooted in a peasant revolt in 1391.David Blaikie/Flickr
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The inner stairway.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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Due to the castle's enclosed, circular nature, the medieval fortress was used as a prison from the mid-1300s until the early 1900s. Notable inmates included the Queen of Mallorca and her children, following the death of her husband, King James III, in the 1349 Battle of Llucmajor.Rafel Miro/Flickr
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Remarkably, Bellver Castle only fell into enemy hands once during its centuries-long history. This occurred in 1521 during the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, which saw artisan guilds in the Kingdom of Valencia fight against its new ruler King Charles V. barnyz/Flickr
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The castle's outer wall between the moat and castle proper.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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Designed by architect Pere Salvà, Bellver Castle was constructed from the very rock it was built on.
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The History Museum is easily accessible through the central courtyard and contains a number of artifacts from the Roman, Arab, and Spanish historical periods of Palma's history. Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The castle was most notably used as a prison during World War II and the dictatorial reign of Francisco Franco. Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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Bellver Castle was built as a two-story fortress encircling an inner courtyard, with each floor lined with semi-circular, Romanesque arches. Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The History Museum is composed of eight separate rooms.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The circular design of Bellver Castle was unique for castles in the region, and provided the political players inhabiting it with the palatial luxuries they were used to — plus the defensive strength of a proper castle.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The castle's rooftop provides visitors with stunning views of Palma below.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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In addition to the museum, visitors can explore the chapel and the kitchen — which contains smoke-charred walls to this day.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The keep of Bellver Castle is known as the Torre del Homenaje, or tower of tribute.
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Bellver Castle held its final inmates in 1931, when the Second Spanish Republic bestowed it to the city of Palma, Mallorca. Within a year, it became a museum which was restored in the 1970s to become Palma's official History Museum. Sergei Gussev/Flickr
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Gothic, semi-circular arches line the central courtyard.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The central courtyard is known as the Patio de Armas, or courtyard of arms.
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The interior of Bellver Castle.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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Bellver Castle is one of the 16 stops of the Palma Sightseeing Tour which transports visitors around the city in an open-air bus.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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While the castle's imposing history has long given way to brighter uses, the structure itself remains rather daunting.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The moat of Bellver Castle.Sergei Gussev/Flickr
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While Bellver Castle has a rich history as a political place of power and prison, it serves an event space for public ceremonies, concerts, and cultural festivities today.David Salgado/Flickr
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The structure has now been standing for more than 700 years.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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The castle's namesake of "beautiful view" couldn't be more evident by the ocean in the distance.Cristian Bortes/Flickr
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With the modern advancement of artillery, the castle was fortified with battlements on the top balconies.Kamil Porembiński/Flickr
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The steps leading up to Bellver Castle.Thomas Barregren/Flickr
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The castle is primarily a tourist destination today, but hosts concerts and events, weather permitting.Greg Heywood/Flickr
33 Pictures Of Bellver Castle, Spain’s Majestic Island Fortress
Bellver Castle is known locally among Spanish islanders of Palma, Mallorca, as Castell de Bellver. The Catalan translation of "castle with a beautiful view" is rather apt, as the 14th-century fortress overlooks Palma's port. Constructed from the very rock it was built on, the castle is as picturesque as it is historic.
With a unique circular design, three defensive towers, and a free-standing donjon, the hilltop castle withstood two medieval sieges and only fell into enemy hands once. A walkable museum today, Bellver Castle once served as the island residence for Spanish kings — and a penitentiary for political prisoners.
The History Of Bellver Castle
King James II had more in mind than picturesque views when he chose Bellver Castle's mountainous location. The hilltop altitude of 369 feet also provided the monarch with a perfect defensive position in the event of an attack.
King James II was also eager to make the structure just as palatial as it was fortified, as Castell de Bellver was to become his primary residence when he wasn't on the Spanish mainland. Construction began in 1300 and would largely conclude in 1309, though the detailed ornamentation would take another five years.
James II was not only Mallorca's king but the lord of Roussillon and Cerdanya counties and the dominion of Montpellier. Ultimately, King James II had Bellver Castle built as a hub for him to consolidate his territories.
Cristian Bortes/FlickrThe donjon of Bellver Castle.
The monarch chose Pere Salvà to spearhead the project. The architect would prove to be one of the most famous in his field and was mandated to rebuild the Royal Palace of La Almudaina right across the bay while working on the castle's finer details until 1314. As for the Castle's design, the inspiration was ancient.
Historians believe Salvà was influenced by the Herodium which was built by Herod the Great between 22 and 15 B.C. in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. The ancient complex was both circular and constructed at 2,487 feet above sea level — and served just as much as a palace as a fortress.
Bellver Castle's Sieges
Bellver Castle's first siege occurred in 1343 when Peter IV of Aragon tried forcibly to reintegrate Mallorcan territories into the Crown of Aragon on the mainland. The fortress withstood the attempt, and yet again in 1391 when violent, anti-semitic riots erupted across the island.
Prince Charles of Viana tried to claim the castle for himself in 1459, but his father, King John II, of Aragon ruled otherwise. Ultimately, the fort did fall into enemy hands in 1521 during the "Revolt of the Brotherhoods" — which saw artisan guilds (or Germanies) from the Kingdom of Valencia rise up against King Charles V.
Sergei Gussev/FlickrBellver Castle is over 700 years old.
As political power shifted toward the mainland, Bellver Castle began to serve largely as a prison. Notable inmates included Age of Enlightenment philosopher and outspoken statesman Gasper Melchor de Jovellanos and political dissidents during Francisco Franco's dictatorial reign in the 20th century.
Bellver Castle Today
As weapons of war advanced to artillery, the castle was modified to hold battlements on the balconies. Ultimately, Bellver Castle would never need them as the fort was returned to the city of Palma in 1931 and turned into a museum in 1932. After major restorations in 1976, it became the tourist destination it is today.
With eight rooms holding artifacts chronicling Mallorca's Roman, Arab, and Spanish periods and a courtyard that hosts concerts and cultural events, the 700-year-old structure is a marvel — and one offering staggering views of the ocean from an expansive rooftop.
And at $4.50 per entry, a visit is just too good to pass up.
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.