Spain/Castilla La Mancha: Ucles Monastery
The Ucles Monastery sits on a piece of land that has been a settlement and a fortress since the Bronze Age. It was a Celtic fortress, then the Moors came in the 8th century, just to be defeated by the Christian armies in the 11th century, just to get recoquered by Muslim armies in the 12th, and then fall into christian hands a century later. What a mess! It’s not even on a high ground – sort of in the middle of a flat plane and below a hill. Yet, every army fortified the town and the central castle. After the final reconquest, the Spanish king gave the town of Ucles to the religious Order of Santiago (thinking I guess that religious fanatics would fight more zealously against any future Arab invasion). The monastery building is surrounded by a square outer building, then there are two defensive towers, and the the whole thing is surrounded by a defensive wall. The main facade was built in the 17th century in a beautiful baroque style. The monastery was actually closed for visitors so I briefly sneaked in to run around, saying “perdona me no hablo espanol”.