The illustration shows the castle as it was
in the early 20th century; the Tower of Homage is on the right, and
the conical roof of the gatehouse can be seen on the left.
What we now think of as “the Moorish Castle”
is in fact only one part of it – the Tower of Homage, known to
the Spanish as la Calahorra.
The rest of what was once an imposing structure has been destroyed or
obscured by indiscriminate building – a whole housing estate was built
within the castle courtyard in the 1950s, and even in the 90s a hole was
hacked in the castle wall to allow for motor access, and a hideous metal
structure added to further obscure the remains of the wall.
Now, only the Tower of Homage and the original gatehouse to the south of
it have survived relatively intact. An idea of how impressive the original
castle would have been can be seen in the illustrations in George
Palao’s “The Guns and Towers of Gibraltar” or in the 19th
century model of the Rock in the Gibraltar Museum.
The Castle is often assumed to have been built by Tarik ibn Zeyad when
he landed in Gibraltar in 711 AD, but it is doubtful whether he remained
in the area long enough to undertake any building works. In fact, it
dates to 1160 when the town was built on the orders of the first Emir
of the Almohades, Abdul-Mamun.
The Tower of Homage may have been built after the Moorish recapture of
Gibraltar from the Spaniards in 1333. From 1436 it housed the bones of
the Count of Niebla, who had died in a failed attack on the Rock in that year.
Part of the Castle now houses the Civil Prison, which is long overdue for
transfer elsewhere. The interior of the Tower of Homage has been recently
restored and can be visited.
Further reading: Palao, G. The Guns and Towers of Gibraltar. Gibraltar,
1975; Kenyon, ER. Gibraltar under Moor, Spaniard and Briton. Methuen, 1938.