Calatrava la Nueva – Birding on a Height

As mentioned in my previous post about Calatrava la Vieja, the Knights of Calatrava moved from near Carrión de Calatrava to their new castle near Calzada de Calatrava in 1217. It is a most impressive structure high on a rocky hill overlooking a pass through the mountains from the Sierra Morenas in the south and the stepp of the Campo de Calatrava in the north. On a rocky outcrop across the valley stand the remains of the Moorish Castle of Salvatierra which was built in the tenth or eleventh century on the ruins of a Roman construction. The road up to La Nueva winds up around the hill to the very foot of the walls, affording the visitor some great views over the countryside. The road up is also a favourite spot for locals to walk and pick delicious wild asparagus.

Castle of Calatrava la Nueva
Calatrava la Nueva, courtesy of Wikipedia
View from the Castle
View from the Castle, courtesy of my friend Trevor Durity.

When you reach the carpark the size of the formidable castle becomes apparent. The walls reach for the skies, skies that have Griffon and Black Vultures using the updrafts to soar high in their search for carrion. If you look closely you can also find Black Wheatears, Blue Rockthrushes or Hoopoes bringing caterpillars and insects back to their young nested within the walls.

Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)
Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)

Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)
Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

The site of the castle was in use since the Bronze Age and has remains of that time and of the Visigoths who had their capital at the old Oretani settlement of Oretum near Valenzuela. The castle is built on a hill 936m high and was extremely well protected by the natural defences of the rocky hill as well as the immense walls. The castle comprises of the outer battlements, and inner wall and the keep. One could really imagine a thriving and heavily militarised community living here within the walls, so well preserved is the castle.

Main Entrance to Calatrava la Nueva
Main Entrance to Calatrava la Nueva

Entrance to the Keep at Calatrava la Nueva
Entrance to the Keep at Calatrava la Nueva

The Keep at Calatrava la Nueva
The Keep at Calatrava la Nueva

The Cistercian chapel, the Knights of Calatrava being based on Cistercian Rule, was built in the time of the Reyes Católicos, Isabella and Fernando who reigned from 1474 to 1504. It is a marvellous and atmospheric chapel famous for it’s beautiful architecture, in particular the great rosette window carved from the local volcanic rock over the entrance. Within the chapel are brick vaults and three apses to the side with pointed roofs which were smaller chapels. In one can be seen a painting of knights on horseback jousting.

Calatrava Chapel Rosette Window
Calatrava Chapel Rosette Window
Painting depicting jousting knights
Painting depicting jousting knights, courtesy Viajando la Vida

 

Next to the chapel is the graveyard of the Order of Calatrava, the Campo de los Mártires, or Place of the Martyrs. Their remains were all exhumed and moved to Almagro when the order left the drafty castle for the more comfortable houses of Almagro in the 18th Century and was still in use until the 19th Century.

 

Graveyard at Calatrava la Nueva
Graveyard at Calatrava la Nueva

So not only does Castile la Mancha have great birds, it has fantastic places to see birds whilst you explore its historical past.

Contact us now at Oretani Wildlife to book your birding tour in Spain and take in the fantastic historical sights whilst you watch a myriad of beautiful birds.

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