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In the Province of Jaen, near Bailen, there is the small town of Baños de la Encina, with a population of about 2700. This town is famous for its Moorish castle, called Burgalimar, built by the Caliph of Cordoba Al-Hakam II, the son of King Abd Al-Rahman, in 968. The word Burgalimar is derived from the Arab Bury Al-Hamma, which means castle of los Baños. The location of the town in Jaen is at the entrance to the Guadalquivir Valley, of strategic importance. During the Middle Ages it was ruled by the Moors and later by the Christians. Finally Fernando III (the Saint) conquered it in 1225. This is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe. The castle is the second oldest castle in Europe and it was declared a National Monument in 1931. In 1969 it was made a Historical and Artistic Complex. The lookout points from the castle are terrific because the castle is built on the highest point of the hill.
The castle has an oval shape and has fourteen towers that are of the same height and are square in form. There is also a Tower of Homage, built by the Christians in the 14th and 15th centuries and this is much bigger than the other towers and its style is Gothic. There are two doors to the castle. The walls surround the patio of arms, which has a covered reservoir of water. The castle occupies a space of 2700 square meters. It is a perfect example of a Moorish fortress from the 10th century and the best conserved Moorish castle in Spain.
In the 11th century, the Caliphate of Cordoba broke up into many Taifa Kingdoms and the castle became the object of contention between the Moors and the Christians, who fought for the entrance to Andalusia. In 1147 Alfonso VII of Leon conquered the castle from the Moors, but on his death in 1157 the castle was taken over by the Moors. In 1189 Alfonso VIII of Castile and Alfonso IX of Leon were able to recuperate the castle. In 1212 after the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, the Moors again gained control of the castle. In 1225 Fernando III of Castile finally regained the castle and it became part of the Kingdom of Castile. The king gave the castle to the Archbishop of Toledo, Rodrigo Jimenez, to defend the castle with the help of the Order of Santiago. When the French invaded Spain during the time of Napoleon, the castle was occupied by French troops and suffered some damage and the patio of the castle was used as a cemetery. Recently the castle has been restored by the government.
It is said that King Fernando III, the Saint, was born in the castle in 1189. The castle is also called the castle of the seven kings, because seven Christian kings lived in it. These were Alfonso VII, Alfonso VIII, Alfonso IX, Pedro II, Sancho VII, Fernando III and Fernando the Catholic. Since 1969 this castle was allowed to fly the flag of the European Community, and the only other castle that has this privilege is the Castle of Florence.