A secret Medieval Jewel on the Spanish Mediterranean coast
Peniscola is located on the Costa Azahar or “Orange-Blossom” Coast in the region of Baix Maestrat. It sits on a privileged setting, surrounded by forests and Mediterranean farmlands. It is an ancient city that was home to the Pope Benedict XIII.
But long before that Peniscola has always been a strategic town, the crossroads of many Mediterranean civilizations. It was home to Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginian and Romans.
Legend has it that Hannibal landed his army on the beach surrounding the rock of Peniscola, as the gliders carrying his elephants could only land in very shallow water. The saga further reports that Hannibal himself directed the landing from the hill overlooking the rock and the entire beach. That is why the locals call it the “Cerro Hannibal"
In 718 Peniscola was conquered by the Arabs and re-conquered by King don Jaime in the 13th century, who drafted the Carta Puebla giving the town to Arnaldo de Cardona and other noblemen. Later on the town was taken over by the Order of the Templar Knights, who took advantage of its strategic location. At this time the knights erected the castle over the old Arab citadel.
The Templar castle (declared historical and artistic complex in 1972), built in the 13th century and reformed by the Montesa Order, represents an excellent example of medieval castle with its moats, pontifical rooms, flag hall and the papal basilica where the Pope Luna is buried“
You also have to visit the castle walls, situated on the highest part of the rock; Portal Fosc (1578); Portal de Sant Pere or Pope Luna (1414); the sea museum; the parochial temple of La Virgen del Socorro (15th century); the hermitage of Mare de Déu, which is situated near the castle, houses the image of the town’s patron saint. It was built by the governor Don Sancho de Echevarría between 1708 and 1714; and the artillery park, surrounded by palm trees and gardens, which is full of casemates and gunpowder. The castle was built with stone work walls. The majority of the rooms have barrel arch roofs. It is a serious and solid construction. The Papa Luna, after his transfer to Peñíscola in 1411, converted the castle into pontifical palace and library. Declared Artistic/Historic Monument in 1931.
During the War of the Spanish Succession the city favored King Philip V and was consequently graced with the title of "Very Noble, Very Loyal and Very Faithful City". In 1812, during the War of Independence, it was razed to the ground and conquered. In 1890 it stopped being a parade ground and all the structures that served that purpose were torn down. The city developed within the wall enclosure, at the foot of the castle.