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Moorish Castle

January 29, 2019

As one of Gibraltar’s most famous buildings, Moorish Castle dates back to the 12th century. The ancient monument remains one of the most easily-recognisable features of the Rock of Gibraltar, with its most dominant points including the Gate House and the Tower of Homage.

The mighty structure is a famous landmark and modern-day visitor attraction, having been the subject of many archaeological investigations to determine its rich history and to piece together its development over the past eight centuries.


As its name suggests, Moorish Castle was built during the Moorish occupation of Gibraltar, which originally lasted from 711 until 1309. The Andalusians, known as the Moors, were famous for their beautiful architecture, which was dominant in North Africa and in parts of Spain and Portugal -known as Al-Andalus.

Gibraltar became an important part of the Moorish conquest of Spain, led by Musa ibn Nusayr and Tarik ibn Ziyad, as it was a stepping-stone to Spain and to part of France. Construction of the castle was believed to have been completed in around 1160.

Its walls enclosed a large area, spanning from the upper part of the Rock of Gibraltar down to the ocean. The upper tower, known as the Tower of Homage, overlooked various terraces, the battlements and the Gate House.

It was a common misconception in writings of the 13th and 14th century that Tarik ibn Ziyad ordered the construction of Moorish Castle in 711. Archaeologists now believe he merely ordered a lookout post in the location, with the castle being built much later.

Historical documents suggest the King of Seville, Al-Mutadid, ordered his governor in Algeciras to improve Gibraltar's fortifications in 1067 and this was when construction of Moorish Castle began.


The castle suffered terrible damage when the Spanish forces fought the Moors in the early 14th century. Historical documents describe how it was "ransacked" between 1309 and 1333, leading to its near destruction during the Spanish occupation.

However, the Moors then reoccupied Gibraltar and Abu-l-Hasan commanded the rebuilding of the castle, so the present Tower of Homage - and much of what is left today of the structure - was most likely rebuilt in the 14th century, during the second Moorish occupation. Historians believe the new tower was much bigger than the original one.

Rebuilding work was continuing into the late 14th century and the castle was mentioned again in 1462, when Gibraltar was recaptured again by the Spaniards from the Moors.


In 1540, Pedro Barrantes Maldonado, a page in the court of Francisco de Sotomayor, Duke of Béjar, wrote about the castle in his well-known factual works, Dialogo. He described it as being on a hilltop and having a very strong wall and towers, with the sea beating on it at one side.

He said it had to be strong, due to the rough place in which it was built. Above the castle was another fortress known as the Carrahola, which was a very large, old tower, made of brick and lime.

Maldonado said the Carrahola was built in such a way, that as few as 20 soldiers could defend it, even if the city and the castle were under siege. The castle needed some 200 men to defend it.

Queen Charlotte’s Battery

A development that took place in 1727 was the construction of Queen Charlotte's Battery, located on the eastern corner of the castle. It was built to the south of the existing Hanover Battery to house guns that would further defend Gibraltar against attack.

In 1859, it was reported that Queen Charlotte's battery had two guns. It was known as a "retired" battery because it was away from Gibraltar Harbour. Batteries were built because they were more difficult for the enemy to target.

Their position, high on the slopes of Gibraltar, gave the gunners an advantage due to increased range and visibility. The battery still has its guns today and is open to the public as a visitor attraction.

From the time of the Great Siege, which took place between 1779 and 1783, the castle was the main Prison of Gibraltar for many years - the facility was relocated in 2010.

Celebratory events

Today, Moorish Castle is one of Gibraltar's main tourist attractions. It is playing an integral role in Gibraltar's annual National Celebrations, taking place from 24th August until 10th September.

The castle will be spectacularly illuminated with a multitude of red and white lights for the duration of the event, jointly organised by Gibraltar Cultural Services and the Self Determination for Gibraltar Group. The National Celebrations will begin with the Gibraltar Fair, and climax with the National Day events.

Gibraltar is renowned for being a historic location, steeped in tradition and heritage, with attractions such as Moorish Castle pulling in thousands of visitors each year.  Gibraltar is also the home of Fiduciary Wealth, a bespoke wealth management practice, specialising in providing ethical and tax optimised financial solutions on a cross border basis.

Please contact us for information on our range of investment and wealth management services.