The Royal Castle of Olite (Palacio Real de Olite) is a
former castle of the kings of Navarre, situated in northern Spain.
Royal Palace of Olite History
Olite castle symbolizes the unique character of the Navarre monarchy in the
late medieval period, open to Europe through its interests in France and in contact with the
other kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula.
The first castle, designated the ‘palace of the kings of Navarre’ in
13th-century documents, had been laid out at an unknown date on the site of a Roman praetorium
of the 1st century AD; only its outer walls survive, with some Roman foundations, now
incorporating the Parador de Turismo.
Olite castle served as a residence for the governors
during the kings’ long absences in France, but with the accession of the Evreux dynasty (1328)
it became a favourite royal seat, owing to its pleasant climate and position in a rich wooded
valley with abundant hunting.
Queen Joanna II (1328–1349) and King Philip III of Evreux (1328–1343),
followed by Charles II (1349–1387), all made some improvements to the old castle, but it was
during the reign of Charles III (1387–1425) and his wife Eleanor of Castile that this nucleus
was expanded, with the construction of new ranges in the space behind the 13th-century church
of S María. For this work, begun in April 1399 and continuing, with some interruptions, until
1420, Charles assembled artists of widespread origins.
Many of the painters were from Catalonia, working initially under Master
Enrique and then in the second decade of the 15th century under Juan de Laguardia; French
artists such as Jacob le Conte and Juan du Ruisel collaborated on the decoration; glass
painters came from Aragon and Flanders; and Moors from Tudela were engaged on plasterwork,
carpentry and tiled decoration.
The irregular plan of Olite reflects its construction
in stages, as the wishes of the patrons developed. The new ranges, with halls, bedrooms,
terraces and a chapel dedicated to St George, were linked to courtyards and
gardens by hanging galleries and corridors; numerous towers (the keep, the Torre
del Homenaje, the Torre Nueva, the Tres Coronas and Cuatro
Vientos) crowned the walls, forming an elegant silhouette against the horizon . The
massive walls, with only a few slit windows, accentuated the fortified character of
Olite, but this was in strong contrast to the luxurious interior.
Charles’s daughter Blanche (1425–1441), wife of the future King of Aragon,
John I, continued building works at Olite, and the castle again became an
official residence after Navarre lost its independence to Castile in 1515.
Subsequent documents record its gradual decline, despite continual repairs.
One of the towers was burnt in 1794, and in 1813, during the Peninsular War, the castle was
burnt to prevent its use by the enemy ‘and its interior ruined’.
The ruins were acquired by the provincial government in 1913, and in 1925
Olite castle was declared a national monument to save it from total
destruction. Restoration work, begun in 1937, is now well advanced, but although the documents
give some indication of the original state, there are difficulties in achieving it.
Palacio Real de
Address: Palacio Real de Olite, Estación, 3, 31390 Olite, Spain. Get help with directions
using the map provided bellow:
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Royal Palace of Olite Photos
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View of Olite Royal Palace
Royal Palace of Olite Tower
Royal Palace of Olite Detail
Royal Palace of Olite
Royal Palace of Olite detail
Royal Palace of Olite Towers