“El Castillo de Papa Luna” or the Castle of Pope Luna in Peñiscola is a must stop along the Mediterranean coast of Spain in the Province of Castellon. Located in a little coastal town with cobbled streets, an ideal white-sand beach, lots of seafood restaurants and the most breathtaking castle views, Peñiscola is a hidden gem in Spain you wouldn’t want to miss.
The Castle of Peñiscola
Peñiscola is a small Mediterranean coastal town in the Spanish Province of Castellon that has become quite touristic in these past years. Recently, it was one of the Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain, which has brought a lot of international fans.
Nevertheless, Peñiscola is hardly as internationally famous as Barcelona or Granada. Although it could be easily visited as a day trip from Valencia, Castellon, Alicante, or Tarragona.
The tiny vibrant streets of Peñiscola are full of old charm and yet you can find tones of places with a modern twist, bright facades, and alluring local shops. In the summer months, Peñiscola is a cool place to hit a few trendy bars and grab some cocktails with friends, enjoy nightlife and beach activities. Although fine dining with views and local seafood delicatessen, as well as sightseeing, is available all your round.
During the last few days of December, the Medieval fair of Peñiscola normally takes place. It has all the attributes of the traditional Medieval fairs in Spain: musicians, buskers, artisans, merchants, food&drinks… However, the fact that the whole celebration takes place right by one of the top castles in Spain, the Peñiscola Castle, definitely whisks you back to the Middle Ages from the first minute of your visit.
The Castle of Pope Luna
Nevertheless, the most famous landmark in the city is the Castle of Pope Luna. Have I told you that the views from the top of it are simply breathtaking? Rising 67m above the Mediterranean, the Peñiscola castle was a residence of Benedict XIII (Papa Luna) from 1417 till 1423. Built-in 13 century on the remains of the Arabic fortress, El Castillo de Papa Luna is an important monument of our history which had survived several époques and is currently one of the top sites to visit in the region.
The story of Pope Luna
Pope Luna is one of the most famous historical figures of the Valencian Community that made it to the international political and religious scene ( after The Borgia Family, of course). From 1378 to 1417 the Roman Catholic Church split. It would be fair to say that the division was driven more by politics rather than any theological disagreements. Three men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Benedict XIII/ Pope Luna of Peñiscola was one of them. Council of Constance (1414–1418) tried to end the split (Great Schism) and Benedict XIII was considered an anti-Pope. However, until the last day of his life, Pope Luna refused to surrender his Papal tiara and follow the orders of the Roman church. He moved to Peñiscola and turned it into his Papal court.
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The whole story of Pope Luna is full of mystery and legends. His personality was quite contradictory and the stories vary significantly: some say he was a saint, others that he was a lunatic completely out of his mind. One of the most popular legends states one night he was escaping the castle after a betrayal and lost a golden ring that no one has found till nowadays.
No matter the true story behind – the Peñiscola castle is one of those few fairytale places in Spain that are straight out of a storybook. No wonder the creators of Games of Thrones have chosen it as one of the main Season 5 filming locations.
History geeks will definitely enjoy their visit to the Peñiscola Castle, which alongside its neighbors Jativa Castle and Morella Castle, simply belongs on your list of Must-See Castles in Spain. You can check the schedules and entrance prices here.