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La Mota Fortress

In Arabic, Qal’at means “fortified town” and it has been the root of the city’s name since the Middle Ages. Over time however, this has changed from the original Astalir, name of a nearby spring, to Yahsub, a family from Yemen who settled in the city, to the later Banu Said which lasted until Alfonso XI distinguished it with the name of Real, (royal), a somewhat differentiating factor since amongst the several towns which still maintain the Arabic root in their names, this is the only Real.

La Mota Fortress is a classic example of the typical layout of the Almohad populations, which were made up of:

- A double or triple-walled enclosure, as is our case, with one or various suburbs between the main wall and the outside.

- Inner enclosure divided into three sections: The Military quarter or Alcazaba (Citadel), the Noble or Medina quarter and the Bahondillo or lower-class quarter.

 

Defence System. The Walls.

Proof of the strategic position of the city during the Middle Ages can be seen thanks to the network of walls found at the intersection of the Granada valley and the plains of the Guadalquivir. The main wall is set into the cliffs and rocks of the hills, especially on the north, east and south sides, which made it impenetrable. The second line of the wall was flanked by towers and blocks and the most outstanding is the eastern side from where the enclosure could be accessed and where remains of its important towers can be found. The picture shows a clear Nasrid-style tower and the tower of La Cárcel, an Albarrana type of tower from the Almohad era with caliphal-style vaults.   The entrance doors to the city have disappeared on this side. These originally led to the High Town Square of the City, the heart of business and administrative matters within the enclosure.

Alcazaba (Citadel)

The Alcazaba or citadel is located on the highest part of the hill at 1,033 metres, separated from the rest of the city by an interior wall. It had an exterior bailey as well as an interior bailey flanked by the Mocha, Homenaje and Campana (also known as Vela) towers. The enclosure could be accessed through this 20 metre high tower, via an arched, curved, passageway of Almoravid inspiration. From here, we can see the network of Iberian watchtowers that mark out the territory. These were reconstructed during the Middle Ages and used to warn of the arrival of enemies.

Bahondillo or the lower-class quarter.

This area occupies the western part of the enclosure and is situated at the foot of the hill. Today, we can see interesting constructions of cave dwellings cut out of the rock, and an extensive snow field, which is still in perfect condition. The urban lay-out of the Fortress has a common denominator: the abundance of cellars found in the dug-out plots which indicate the importance that vine cultivation had in the area.

La Medina.

To the south of the Alcazaba and where the Mayor Abacial church now stands, stood the Moorish mosque, La Cárcel Tower and the Casas de Cabildo (the Town Hall). This was the administrative and religious heart of the city. Today, we can see the remains of the palaces and arcades which made up the city’s High Town Square.

 


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