Thursday, April 3, 2014

Castillo de los Fajardo, Vélez Blanco, Andalucia, Spain

"Castillo de los Fajardo" sits upon a spur of mount Mahimon above the town of Vélez Blanco, Andalucia, Spain. In 1506 Don Pedro Fajardo y Charcón, the first Marquis de Los Vélez and 5th Governor of the Kingdom of Murcia, was given the town of Vélez Blanco as a reward for his assistance in the suppression of the Moorish rebellions in Andalucia.

He ordered the construction of the "Castillo de los Fajardo." between 1506 and 1515. It was built on the site of a Moorish Fortress and became one of the most difficult and unassailable castles in Andalucía. The castle is now know as Vélez Blanco Castle.

Fajardo, raised in the culture of humanism, was governor of Murcia during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and assisted in suppressing Moorish rebellions in their lands. By royal act, he was given the town Vélez Blanco, and between 1506 and 1515 he erected a castle with a central courtyard embellished with Italian Renaissance ornament in local Macael marble carved by craftsmen from Lombardy.

"Castillo de los Fajardo" 
Sits upon a spur of mount Mahimon
Above the town of Vélez Blanco, Andalucia, Spain 

Fajardo Coat of Arms 
On the Wall of the Castillo de los Fajardo 
With magnificent views through the Blanco valley, the castle appears on many post-cards, books and publications for the province of Almería. It is considered one of the finest examples of Renaissance style in Spain, melding indigenous gothic and Hispano-Moresque structural precedents, such as segmental arches and flat timber ceilings with exposed beams, to the architectural canons and ornamental motifs of the Italian Renaissance. Its construction is usually attributed to the Italian Architects Francisco Floretín, Martín Milanés, Francisco Fernández and Michele Carlone whose presence is also documented during these times as having worked on the Palace of La Calahorra in Granada.
"Castillo de los Fajardo" Vélez Blanco, Andalucia, Spain 
The castle occupies 2,300 square meters. It is comprised of two distinctly different parts; a rectangular structure of bricks and mortar, on the remains of the Moorish Fortress and the main palace 10 meters above floor level accessed via a drawbridge, still in place today. The main body was built of masonry and ashlar, on an irregular hexagonal floor, which included the 'patio de honor' a small room measuring 16x13.5m, the jewel of the castle, separating the Torre de Homenaje (tower of tribute), the military quarters to the north and the main residential areas.
Fajardo Coat of Arms
On the Wall of the Castillo de los Fajardo 

The 'Patio de Honor' was built with marble from the Marcael quarry with elegant arcaded galleries, elaborately carved marble capitals, window and door frames. Crowning the patio was an epigraphic cornice adorned with gargoyles. The graceful carvings that embellished many of the window and door frames, fantastic tiered candelabra and animal grotesques, foliate scrolls, birds, vases and monsters are believed to be the work of itinerant Lombardo-Venetian sculptors, who brought their carving skills and pattern books from northern Italy to the small mountain village of Vélez Blanco. The patio carvings are among the earliest of this style in Spain and antedate any published designs, showing Pedro Fajardo to have been in the vanguard of artistic patronage in Spain.

Tower of the Castillo de los Fajardo 

The higher level consists of two open galleries one with views across the Vélez-Blanco valley and the other looking over the patio to the main body of the palace and the Torre de Homenaje. The two main reception rooms, Salón del Triunfo and Salón de la Mitología were decorated with large relief friezes, unparalleled in their classical subject matter and exceptional vigor, richly carved with the themes of the 'Triumph of Julius Caesar' and the 'Labours of Hercules' and the coats of arms of Pedro Fajardo and his wife Doña Mencía de la Cueva.

The Fajardo family occupied the castle until the 17th Century when the line of succession came to an end. In the years that followed it was occupied at various intervals until it was finally abandoned following French invasion and decades of political and social upheaval in Spain.

The patio's marble fittings were sold by the castle's owner in 1904 to Parisian art dealer, George Blumenthal. He acquired them in Paris in 1913 and had them installed it as a furnished interior hall in the centre of the large house he was building in New York, on Park Avenue and 67th Street. In 1945, after his death and the demolition of his residence, the approximately 2,000 marble blocks were bequeathed the patio to the Metropolitan Museum, but it was not until 1945, when the house was torn down, that the patio's marble blocks were dismantled and transported to the Museum. In 1964, after extensive research into the patio's architectural and historical context, the structure was re-erected as part of a new wing built to house the Thomas J. Watson Library. In all some 2,000 marble elements adorn the Patio del Honor.

The patio of 
Castillo de los Fajardo 
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 

a stamp printed in the Spain shows
Castillo de los Fajardo
Velez Blanco, Almeria, Spain, circa 1969 

Following a three-year renovation programme, the Vélez-Blanco Patio returned to public view in 2002. The 2,750 square-foot, two-galleried structure had undergone extensive conservation work in order to bring the structure closer to its original appearance in the 16th century castle of Vélez-Blanco. To celebrate its return to public view the Metropolitan Museum held an exhibition of the 'Forgotten Friezes from the Castle of Vélez-Blanco', six large relief friezes were loaned from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, where they were identified in 1992 as those from the castle of Vélez-Blanco. Each of the pinewood reliefs is approximately 20 feet in length and 550 pounds in weight.

The castle was declared a National Monument (Bien de Interés Cultural) on June 3, 1931 and the Junta de Andalucía have been working to bring the castle back to its patronage. In December 2004 the Junta De Andalucía made a sale of agreement with the current owner, Salvador Ferrandis Álvarez De Toledo, Marqués de Valverde, and having completed the necessary administrative procedures, the final contract of sale took place on September 30, 2005. Three annual payments made in equal parts of 1 million euros in 2005, 2006, and 2007 were made.

Jesús Romero, Director General of Bienes Cultares said ' Now we can say that the Castle of Vélez-Blanco is the property of the Junta de Andalucía, therefore it is the property of all andalucians, and naturally of all almerians and most importantly that of the residents of Vélez-Blanco'. Once the final sale took place the Junta de Andalucía, together with the Council for Culture will put into motion the renovation of the interior of the castle. Alfonso Ruiz García, professor of Geography and History and co-ordinator of the Cabinet of Fine Art of the Junta de Andalucía, emphasises that the castle is ' one of the best examples of almerias heritage, together with the Alcazaba and the Cathedral. These three are the principle references of the heritage of the province of Almería, with their military, artistic, historic, scenic and touristic qualities'. The problem lies in the fact that many visitors remain impressed with the exterior but few venture inside due to the fact that the interior remains empty. The Junta de Andalucía are currently negotiating the acquisition of the friezes from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. With little hope of acquiring the Patio de Honor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Junta de Andalucía together with the Culture Council plan to rebuild the Patio using marble from the quarry in Macael.

Additional findings in April 2019:

The castle of Don Pedro Fajardo y Chacôn (ca. 1478–1546) stands above the town of Vélez Blanco,near the southeastern coast of Spain. Fajardo, raised in the culture of humanism, was governor of Murcia during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and assisted in suppressing Moorish rebellions in their lands. By royal act, he was given the town Vélez Blanco, and between 1506 and 1515 he erected a castle with a central courtyard embellished with Italian Renaissance ornament in local Macael marble carved by craftsmen from Lombardy.

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