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Loarre Castle. Source: FJ / Adobe Stock

The Formidable Castle of Loarre, Jewel of Aragon


Spain has a strong medieval heritage. Specifically, its northern region of Aragon is strongly rooted in the early origins of a modern and unified Spanish nation. As a vestige of that glorious medieval era, many formidable castles still prevail in spite of the passing centuries. Loarre Castle, located in Huesca province, Spain, is one such medieval fortress renowned for its historical significance and architectural beauty. What do we know about its history?

The initial phase of the construction of Loarre Castle was ordered by Sancho the Great, depicted in this portrait by Felipe Ariosto. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The initial phase of the construction of Loarre Castle was ordered by Sancho the Great, depicted in this portrait by Felipe Ariosto. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Loarre Castle and the Ancestral Kingdom of Aragon

The majestic Loarre Castle is one of the oldest Romanesque castles in Spain, believed to have been built in the 11th and 12th centuries AD. The castle stands atop a rocky outcrop, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Of course, such positioning was due to strategic reasons: it offered a commanding view, but it also made the castle hard to assault. In fact, the castle's strategic location overlooking trade routes and valleys contributed to its significance in controlling the region, as well as its survival.

Throughout its history, Loarre Castle served multiple purposes, from being a defensive stronghold to a monastery and a royal residence. When constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries, the primary purpose of the castle was military defense. Being perched so high up, it provided effective surveillance and defense against potential invaders. But its safety also made it a good place for the nobles to reside in, fleeing from their enemies in times of war. Of course, Loarre Castle also houses various rooms that served as living spaces, kitchens, storage areas, and more, each reflecting the lifestyle of its time.

One of the most notable features within the castle is the Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Mary. It's a small but intricately designed chapel with elements of both the Romanesque and Gothic styles. This also indicates the castle’s role as a religious center. This spiritual aspect was integral to medieval life, and the presence of a church within the castle's walls suggests its importance as a place of worship and reflection for both common residents and the nobles.

Loarre Castle from the air. (Tolo / Adobe Stock)

Loarre Castle from the air. (Tolo / Adobe Stock)

The Survival of Loarre Castle Through the Ages

Loarre Castle is a remarkable example of medieval architecture that showcases a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic styles, exemplified by its sturdy stone construction and impressive towers. The castle features typical Romanesque characteristics like robust, thick walls with small windows, semi-circular arches and simple, functional designs. Over time, however, as architectural styles evolved, the castle incorporated some Gothic elements as well, seen in the pointed arches and more elaborate decorations. This unique blend of the two styles provides Loarre Castle with its unmistakable charm and beauty.

The medieval architects were skilled in masking the actual functions of the castle with decorations and embellishments. Thus, the Romanesque and Gothic details all draw the eye away from the actual functions of this military structure. The tall towers, the battlements and ramparts, the culverts and secret nooks and crannies; they all exist, but perfectly hidden behind stunningly carved stone details.

In later periods, Loarre Castle also functioned as a prison and administrative center. Its strong walls and remote location made it an ideal place for confining prisoners or holding important administrative functions.

The evolution of the castle's purpose reflects the changes in society, from the importance of defense and religious influence in the medieval era to its adaptation for governance and even punitive purposes in later times. This adaptability and versatility speak to the castle's significance in accommodating the changing needs of the time, cementing its position as a historical treasure that reflects the socio-political dynamics of various epochs.

Interior of the Church of San Pedro within Loarre Castle with its spectacular dome. (Agustin Barredo Rodriguez/Wirestock / Adobe Stock)

Interior of the Church of San Pedro within Loarre Castle with its spectacular dome. (Agustin Barredo Rodriguez/Wirestock / Adobe Stock)

Loarre Castle; Cultural Relic of Northern Spain

Loarre Castle’s picturesque setting and historical significance have made it a popular tourist attraction. It has also been featured in various films and television series, adding to its cultural impact. Most notable is its appearance in the 2005 medieval epic movie  Kingdom of Heaven.

Of course, one of the aspects that contributes to its popularity is its remarkable preservation. The castle  was, however, restored and preserved several times. The first major restoration was conducted in 1913, followed by subsequent preservation campaigns, mainly in the 1970s. It is important to note, however, that through these restorations, the original look of the castle was not changed. And that’s what really makes it special.

Today, Loarre Castle stands as a jewel of tourism in Aragon, and the north of Spain in general. Visiting the Loarre Castle offers a distinct glimpse into the medieval era, showcasing the architectural prowess and historical context of that time. Its strategic location, coupled with its impressive design, makes it a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and architectural admirers alike. If you find yourself in the region, don’t miss the opportunity to witness this marvelous historical site.

Top image: Loarre Castle. Source: FJ / Adobe Stock

By Aleksa Vučković


Gudiol, A. D. 1971.  El castillo de Loarre. Saragossa.

Stalley, R. 1999.  Early Medieval Architecture. Oxford University Press.

UNESCO. 2007. “Loarre Castle” in  UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Available at:


Frequently Asked Questions

Loarre Castle, a masterpiece of medieval architecture, was constructed under orders of Sancho the Great (Sancho III of Pamplona) around 1020. It from about 1070, during the rule of King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon, that the fortification was expanded to include the Church of San Pedro. After the surrounding land had been reconquered from the Muslims, the fortress served to fortify the expanding Kingdom of Aragon's borders, defending against incursions from neighboring realms and securing territorial integrity. Once the latter were conquered, it was presented to the St. Augustine Order, which turned it into a very influential monastery, benefiting from

The first phase in the construction of Loarre Castel was ordered by Sancho the Great, while the second phase was conducted under orders of King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon in the 11th century. Loarre Castle was built to strengthen the defenses of the Kingdom of Aragon and secure its borders against the Moorish Huesca.

The 2005 historical epic Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, was set during the Crusades. Loarre Castle served as one of the filming locations, providing a stunning backdrop for scenes depicting medieval warfare and political intrigue. Its rugged beauty and authentic atmosphere added depth to the portrayal of the era.

Aleksa Vučković's picture


I am a published author of over ten historical fiction novels, and I specialize in Slavic linguistics. Always pursuing my passions for writing, history and literature, I strive to deliver a thrilling and captivating read that touches upon history's most... Read More

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