|CASTLE OF PORTILLO
In 1255, Alfonso X of Castile donated the Portillo villa with its “alfoz” (the surrounding area) to the municipality of Valladolid. However, during the riots of minority of Alfonso XI, there were two men competing for it: Juan Manuel and Prince Felipe, the latter succeeding in taking the villa by force. The existence of the castle is not mentioned in the chronicle, and neither does it appear in the official documents which tell of Alfonso XI’s donation to Valladolid in 1352. Despite the recognised rights of the people of Valladolid in 1339, the King included the villa of Portillo in the villas he offered to his son, Prince Tello. It was confiscated during the civil war (when Prince Tello’s brother Enrique was fighting against his half-brother Pedro), and it passed, for a short while, into the hands of Fernando de Castro.
When Enrique II won the war, Prince Tello regained all of his possessions, allowing him to build the first ever castle in Portillo. He donated the castle to his four children equally in his will, but later, Enrique II ordered in 1378 that only one of them would inherit the villa and the “fortress” of Portillo. In 1378, Enrique II donated Portillo to his son, the Duke of Medina Sidonia. When he dies in 1404, the villa and the surrounding land fell back into the hands of the Spanish royalty, forming part of Princess Maria-hija’s dowry when she married Enrique II. He then went on to sell it to his brother Juan II of Castile in 1415. During the length of his reign, it belonged to Diego Gomez de Sandoval, Ruy Diaz of Mendoza, Alvaro de Luna, and to his son, Prince Alfonso.
Enrique IV went on to regain the fortress between 1454 and 1464. Throughout this time, he extended the tower and built the impressive main body of the castle. It was then Rodrigo Alonso Pimentel, the Count of Benavente who became the owner of the castle in 1465. He retained both the ownership of the castle and his title as Count throughout the complex Spanish civil wars (1466-1479), during the course of which his loyalty changed several times. During the 1470s, the Count built the barriers and moats, the patio as it stands today, and a very deep well with stairs leading down to it and adjacent underground rooms. During the War of Secession against Portugal, the castle housed the Counts’ archives which had been brought from the castle of Benavente. Nowadays, these archives belong to the University of Valladolid, after they were donated by Pio del Rio Hortega.
A WIDELY DISPUTED OWNERSHIP
During the reign of Juan II of Castile there were two opposing factions; on one side, the King and Alvaro de Luna, and on the other, the Princes of Aragon. The castle acted either as a reward or a prison for both sides, depending on the changing winds of the war. In 1423 the King handed over his villa and the castle of Portillo to Diego Gomez de Sandoval. In 1429, the latter supported the Princes in arms in Penafiel, and as a punishment, Juan II confiscated all of his villas from him and declared him to be “disobedient and a rebel”. As a consecuence, he then sought refuge in Aragon. In 1436, both sides reached an agreement, despite the fact that Juan II of Castile did not allow Sandoval to enter the kingdom without his explicit permission. Two years later, when he could finally return to Castile, the King had already donated Portillo to Ruy Diaz de Mendoza, on the 11 September 1438. The situation remained favourable for the King and Alvaro de Luna until 1441, when Juan II was taken prisoner in Medina del Campo by the Princes of Aragon. All donations after 1st September 1438 were deemed null and therefore Diego Gomez de Sandoval regained ownership of Portillo, where the King himself was imprisoned. However, Juan II managed to escape and come up against the Princes in the Battle of Olmedo (1445), where he was victorious, imprisoning Sandoval.
The year after, he was pardoned and regained his possessions. This was only until 1448, when Alvaro de Luna, fed up with the Princes’ meddling, leads a coup d’etat and imprisons many of the ringleaders in Portillo. Diego Gomez de Sandoval manages to flee to Aragon, where he died, and Alvaro de Luna was given the castle by Juan II. He, in turn, fell into disrepute in 1453 and was imprisoned, by royal order until his execution.
Juan II handed it over once again to Ruy Diaz de Mendoza who enjoyed it briefly. However, the king, in his will (1454) left it to his son, Prince Alfonso. Nevertheless, the will included the heir to the throne, Enrique I, who held onto the castle until 1464 when the league of nobles forced him to recognise his brother Alfonso as the heir and to give back all of the villas donated to him by his father. And so, Portillo was passed on to Alfonso, but he following year (1465) the war between the two brothers began and Alfonso handed over Portillo to his supporter: the Count of Benavente. El Pimental, aware without doubt of the recent history, adopted a very singular strategy in order to retain ownership of the castle, “adapting along with the changes in history”. Thus, in 1468, he changed loyalties, meaning that Enrique IV also donated the villa to him.
The war ended after the death of the Prince, and the king confirmed the donation (1471) and allowed it to be a part of the Count of Benavante’s estate. The Count carried out many important works in the castles, and in other fortresses such as Villalba. He supported the King until the latter’s death against Isabel and Fernando, but when Enrique IV died (1474), he once again switched sides, supporting the Catholic Royals against the heiress princess Juana and her husband Alfonso of Portugal. During this war, Portillo was given up to (and occupied by) the Portuguese in 1475, barter ransom of the Count of Benavente who was imprisoned. However he was subsequently set free by order of Fernando and thereby definitively regained possession of the former.
The Castle of Portillo. Despite being modelled on the School of Valladolid, it is the fruit of successive stages of construction that were carried out over the course of almost 150 years. The older part (the level of the inner enclosure) was built at the end of the XIV century, possibly at the time of Prince Tello, with its pointed arches, its gothic vaults on transverse arches and its unusual tower in the shape of a D in one of the corners. The first important reform, however, was that which gave the castle the impression of being a castle-palace of Valladolid. The tower was extended with a large room with a vaulted ceiling; the main body of the castle was built in a palatial style and was fixed onto the façade; between the main body and the tower is a small entrance patio with large doors which protect the entrance. Soon after, the work continued and a floor was added to the main body of the castle, but this time with different stonemasons but with the same shields on the front of the windows.
Planta y alzado con etapas constructivas.
The shields were attributed to the Mendoza at first, and then to Diego de Sandoval and Maria Ladro of Pallars. However the date of this marriage (1447) does not seem to match up with neither a long enough possession by the Sandovals to be able to build Portillo castle (it was confiscated from them definitively in 1448), nor does it match up with the details of the sentry box of the castle which have been attributed to the building work of Ampudia and Villalonso, both of which were built after 1450. Neither can the crest be traced back to Sandoval’s second wife. The most logical date, from a statistical point of view, for its construction coincides with the time of Enrique IV (1454 – 1464) and the shields may well be his own personal weapons. The gang (which belonged to his father Juan II), the territory of Aragon and his mother’s (the daughter of the King of Aragon – Fernando de Antequera) followers, along with the other Princes of Aragon all went on to replace their shield, each showing particular images.
In the 1570s the Count of Benavente began important works on the castle: building the outer barrier, surrounded by deep moats filled with stone; reforming the palatial courtyard in which he replaced Enrique IV’s primitive galleries and built an impressive well which is 35 metres deep, thus reinforcing the military status of a building which until that point gave the impression of being a palace and had very little defence. Indeed, in 1452 Alvaro de Luna “agreed that his treasure should be brought to the fortress”, Gonzalo Cachón replied that “that fortress was not for such a purpose, since it didn’t have water, neither was it supplied with it.”
Fernando Cobos Guerra
José Javier de Castro Fernandez