Sunday, 11 February 2024, 08:47
The promotional slogan of Castillo de Láchar (Granada province) is "a treasure to be discovered". While the castle, which won a Travelers’ Choice award in 2022 and 2023 and is part of Spain’s historical heritage network (Red de Patrimonio Histórico), is well known, it hides secrets behind its walls about some of Europe’s most well-known historical figures.
The original tower was built in the fourteenth century and the building started as a farmhouse on the lands of the Nasrid royal family, although some theories date the first structure to the Visigoths in the early eighth century.
It remained a watchtower until the Reconquista at the end of the 15th century when it fell into the hands of the Cañaveral family and was extended over the years. In 1885 Julio Quesada-Cañaveral and Piédrola of Láchar, Duke of San Pedro de Galatino and Grand Duke of Spain and Count of Benalúa and Las Villas, ordered a palace to be built on the remains of the Islamic construction.
It was built in the neo-Arabic style with tiles and other traditional Islamic art including 16th century carved doors, very much to the Duke's taste - as would be seen years later in the Alhambra Palace Hotel, another of his projects.
Among the Duke's friends was Spain’s King Alfonso XII with whom he had been at school and then later his son Alfonso XIII also became a regular guest. In fact, it was he who granted the duke the title of San Pedro de Galatino and Grande de España.
Other European royal guests that came with Alfonso XIII included Prince Arthur, first Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and seventh child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who is believed to have brought with him Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the legendary creator of Sherlock Holmes. The Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla also visited Láchar with King Alfonso XIII. The result of the visit was his painting 'Capilla de la finca de Láchar', which is now in the Sorolla Museum in Madrid.
With the death of the Duke of San Pedro de Galatino shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the castle was passed over to Spain’s now defunct Instituto Nacional de Colonización (national institute of colonisation) at the end of the war until 1971, when the institution sold it to a private owner, an American of English descent called Donald Leroy Brown, also known as Lord Marton.
Later Brown transferred the property to Herm Jan Van Asselt, a Dutch man known in Láchar as 'Mister Harris', who was honorary consul of Guinea Bissau and the country’s flag flew at the castle for several years. He and his wife Eduina considered converting it into a hotel and made some more modifications to that end, although the plan never actually came to fruition. the castle was declared an asset of cultural interest (BIC) in 1985.
In 2005, tired of people trying to visit the castle thinking it was open to the public, Eduina Van Asselt published a statement in which she appealed to people to stop calling “because it is a private castle that is not open to the public". Her appeal was printed in Granada’s Ideal newspaper.
On 15 June 2016 the property was acquired by Láchar y Peñuelas town hall and after a year of restoration work – the castle was in very poor condition - it was opened to the public. Guided tours and visits can be booked via the castle’s website where further information about its history can also be found in Spanish and English: Castillo de Láchar
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