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Olite Castle (Palacio Real de Olite)

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 Olite Map&Location

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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Royal Palace of Olite by Luis G. Cabello
Photos by R Lasaosa
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