The original building dated back to the days of the Romans and formed the site for a Muslim fortress. Additional fortifications were added during the Middle Ages and it was later restored by Bernardino Fernández de Velasco, and passed on to his sons Pedro and Iñigo.
The castle was not always the home of the feudal lord. Above the richly-adorned gateway to the castle, cast into the surrounding voussoir, the coat of arms of Don Pedro can still be seen.
The castle was an impregnable fortress for those that attempted to tear down its walls during that period. In order to reach the southern walls, it was first necessary to break through the only gateway to the walled town.
Other numerous obstacles stood in the way of any invading forces: on reaching the castle it would be necessary to cross the ditch and break down the imposing door, defended by barbicans and towers equipped with the finest defence systems.
Once there the lowered portcullis would await the invading forces, a small entrance leading to the central courtyard and the fortified three-storey keep. To the right, the route to the courtyard would lead through pointed archway at the base of a solid wall, followed by a narrow alleyway that was easy to defend, before coming out into the main courtyard that could be protected from the high walls that surrounded it. Lethal traps lay at every turn for the invading forces: a narrow spiral staircase, wells, underground passageways and gloomy dungeons.
Today, the towers remind us what this castle once was: a polygonal plant built of stone and surrounded by machicolations and battlements that run from watchtower to watchtower.
The vast walls that rise up to the north of the main courtyard once enclosed rooms and chambers, the ruins of which can still be seen today. A long gallery that caught the midday sun may once have run the length of this courtyard.
An event took place here that earned Pedraza Castle a place in the annals of history. Francis I, King of France, had been taken prisoner by the troops of Emperor Charles I in the Battle of Pavia on 25th February 1525. He was released from his imprisonment in Madrid after the signing of the ‘Treaty of Madrid’. In order to ensure that Francis I would keep his word, his two sons were sent to Spain as hostages.
They were kept under guard in Pedraza Castle. For just five months, Francis, aged 11, Dauphin of France and Duke of Brittany, and his ten year old brother Henry, Duke of Brittany, stayed at the castle under the watchful eye of the Constable Pedro Fernández de Velasco and his brother, Juan de Tovar, Marquis of Berlanga, acting on the Emperor’s orders. The gates opened to receive the princes on 18th May 1529. They were accompanied by a large entourage of servants as well as their custodians. During their stay they were treated more as guests than hostages. Perhaps due to the harsh climate – winter was fast approaching- or perhaps due to the desire to keep them under stricter surveillance, the Emperor ordered that they be handed over to the Archbishop of Bordeaux and Pedro de Bazán and be removed to Villalpando Castle in Zamora, which was also the property of the Velasco family. Francisco de Salinas, keeper of the castle, was there to see off the large entourage that set off, stopping at Valladolid and Palencia before finally reaching Villalpando. They were accompanied by the servants that had been at the service of the Princes. They remained in Villalpando until Francis I agreed to sign their ransom in 1530 and were accompanied as far as the town of Fuenterrabía, on the border with France, by Pedro Fernández de Velasco.
Mariano Gómez de Caso