The Moorish Castle Complex is made up of various buildings, gates, fortified walls and its most dominant features, The Tower of Homage and The Gate House. The former is an impressive sight, clearly visible to all visitors, not only because of its striking construction but also because of its dominant and strategic position.
History Of The Period
Gibraltar has always been of special significance to the numerous peoples and civilisations which have visited or occupied it over the ages, from the Neanderthal period, through the Classical and on to the Moorish, Spanish and the present British occupations.
The Moorish occupation is, by far, the longest in Gibraltar's recorded history, having lasted from 711 to 1309 and then from 1350 to 1462, a total of 710 years.
The importance of Gibraltar to both Moslems and Christians lies in the fact that the Moorish invasion and occupation of Europe started from Gibraltar in 711 and, through its final re-capture by Spain in 1462, Moorish rule was gradually undermined till, with the fall of Granada in 1492, the Moorish occupation of Europe came to an end after an uninterrupted 781 years.
The Moorish conquest of Spain was led by Tarik ibn Ziyad and Musa ibn Nasayr. Gibraltar thus became the stepping-stone to the conquest of Spain and part of France. This spectacular feat of arms took a mere twenty-two years, no mean task considering the distances involved, the state of the terrain at the time and the fact that mechanical power had not yet been invented.
Gibraltar is reputed to have derived its present day name as a breakdown of Djebel Tarik, the Rock of Tarik.
History Of The Moorish Castle
Little is known of the actual history of The Castle. Some chroniclers claim that its origins date to the 8th Century when The Castle, in its simplest form, is reputed to have been completed by Tarik in 742.
In 1068, the Arab Governor of Algeciras, the city on the west side of the Bay of Gibraltar, ordered that a fort be built on "Djebel Tarik" (Gibraltar) to guard and watch events on the other side of the Strait. This could very well have been the origins of the present Tower of Homage since there always appeared to have been a castle on this very site around which the original walled town grew and to which the population withdrew in troubled times.
In the early 14th Century The Castle was rebuilt to its present form. It, therefore, stands on the actual site where the very first Moorish fortification ever constructed on European soil stood. It thus became the main fortification on the Rock of Djebel from where the conquest of Iberia had been launched in 711. But this is not The Castle's only important attribute since it also has the distinction of having the largest Castle Keep and the tallest Tower in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
The Moorish Castle Complex starts at its highest point with The Tower of Homage at its eastern extremity. Around The Tower lie the Inner Keep and the Outer Keep. West of the Keeps lies The Qasbah with its famous and unique Gate House.
Further down the Rock we come to Villa Vieja (The Old Town) and from thence to La Barcina with its Sea Gate at the site of the present Casemates Gates. La Barcina is the name given to the area where the original Moorish dockyard stood and where their boats were careened for repairs and protection.
Great lengths of these Moorish fortifications and walls remain, providing us with excellent examples of Islamic architecture of the period. The Gibraltar Heritage Trust is now faced with the daunting challenge of protecting them for posterity by making good the ravages of time and neglect of man, and restoring them faithfully to their original style and design and with the same materials as were used at the time.