Saturday, January 23, 2010

El Castillo de Santa Barbara

The Castillo de Santa Barbara looms over the small modern city Alicante. The castle is a fortress dating from 900 AD. The original occupants were Muslim kings. However, the castle has hosted Romans, Iberians, notably Felipe II in the sixteenth century, and was occupied when Alicante was captured by Napoleon and also by Franco's army in the Spanish Civil War.

The legend of the castle, which we learned after our long walk up (during which we learned the above historical facts), is where the name "Alicante" derives from. The Muslim king had a beautiful daughter, Cantara, who was of age to marry. Two noble Muslim brothers each wanted to marry her. The king told them to go and bring him back something so precious he could not find it anywhere else. Whoever brought him the precious gift could marry Cantara. Ali, the first brother, wrote love letters to Cantara while he was away. The other brother did not, but he was the first to return with a precious gift, spices from India. The king was pleased and arranged for Cantara's wedding to this brother.Ali arrived back on the day of the wedding, and seeing what was happening, threw himself off the highest tower of the castle. Cantara, who had fallen in love with Ali from his letters, saw this and followed suit. The town comes from their names Ali-cante.

Even more, from the beach , it is possible to see the profile of the castle on the mountain, known as "El Caro del Moro," or "The face of the Moor." The Moor is Cantara's father whose sad profile gazes down on the town in eternal regret over what he did to his daughter.

My pictures aren't very good, but I plan to go to the Castillo again on a nicer day and take better pictures. Stay tuned!

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