Castillo del Papa Luna – A Papal Palace and Knights Templar Castle in Peñíscola:
One of the main attractions in Peñíscola is its castle. The Castillo del Papa Luna or Peñíscola Castle, was built by the Knights Templar on a site that was previously an old Moorish citadel. The castle stands on the highest point of a rocky headland, some 64 metres above sea level.
Peñíscola Castle’s Strategic Location
Due to its strategic location, the rock on which Peñíscola Castle sits was much sought after by its early invaders. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs amongst other invaders all wanted the rock of Peñíscola. When James I conquered the territory, there was already an Arab citadel on the location.
He gave the fortress to the Templars who had helped him with the war. Between 1294 and 1307 the present Templar Castle was built on the remains of the Arabic fortress.
When Benedict XIII (Papa Luna) occupied the castle, small alternations were made to transform the Templar Castle into a Papal palace. Pedro de Luna was elected Pope Benedict XIII during the Great Schism which split the Catholic Church at the end of the 14th century. Although Benedict XIII was deposed by the Council of Constance, he continued to maintain his right to the papacy. Pope Luna lived at Peñíscola Castle from 1417 until his death in 1423 and as such Peñíscola is considered a religious city. After the Alhambra, Peñíscola is one of the more frequently visited sites in Spain.
There are three entrances to the fort:
- Portal Fosc is the Renaissance-style Dark Gate which srved as the main entrance until the 18th century.
- Gate of Sant Pere (Saint Peter’s Gate) was commissioned by Pope Luna in the 15th century. It provided Peñíscola with access from the sea.
- Gate of Santa María (Saint Mary’s Gate) was built in 1754, by order of Ferdinand VI to improve the access t the city.
One of the best attractions of visiting Castillo del Papa Luna is for the panoramic view from the top of the castle. It’s certainly worthwhile climbing the steps to the top for the magnificent view of Peñíscola and its beautiful beaches and coastline.
If you’re planning on visiting Peñíscola Castle, good walking shoes are recommended. The cobbled streets up to the castle is quite steep, although, I would say that walking up is easier than coming down as the cobblestones can be slippery.
Calle del Castillo s/n
12598 Peñíscola, Castellón
Map of Peñíscola: