Discovering the splendours and Moorish past of Malaga
  • Europe /
  • Spain /
  • Malaga

An itinerary that traces the history of the city and stops at the main arabesque points in Malaga.

Castle of Gibralfaro
(by Kristoffer Troller, Denmark, CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)
La rendición de Granada (by Francisco Pradilla)

(by Kristoffer Troller, Denmark, CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The Castle of Gibralfaro, or Alcázar of Gibralfaro, is one of the most famous Arab fortifications in Spain. It takes its name from the mountain of the same name where it is located, which in turn derives from the Phoenician word: Jbel-Faro: mountain of the lighthouse. It was one of the most impregnable fortresses on the Iberian Peninsula, the protagonist of one of the bloodiest sieges of the Spanish Reconquista.

In 1487, Mālaqa was one of the main targets of the military campaign led by the Catholic Monarchs against the Emirate of Granada, which was steadily losing territory to the forces of the Crown of Castile. The Catholic King Ferdinand II of Aragon headed towards the city with an army of 20,000 horsemen, 50,000 labourers and 8,000 support troops.

The Moorish city of Mālaqa was the second largest city of the emirate after Granada and an important commercial port on the Mediterranean. The city was prosperous, with elegant architecture, gardens and fountains, surrounded by solid fortifications. Above its citadel stood the impregnable fortress of Gibralfaro. The city was well supplied with heavy artillery and ammunition. In addition to the regular garrison, it contained volunteers from other towns in the region and a corps of Gomeres, experienced and disciplined African mercenaries. Hamet el Zegrí was in command of the defence.


After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate terms, four months of intense and restless siege followed. Finally, the city surrendered in August 1487, and the Catholic monarchs triumphantly entered the citadel. The fortress of Gibralfaro, under the command of Hamet el Zegrí, surrendered the next day. 

King Ferdinand II of Aragon had tried several times to negotiate the city’s surrender during the siege, but the defence forces refused. Consequently, the conquerors imposed a harsh penalty on the defeated side: the population was condemned to slavery or death, and Hamet el Zegrí was executed along with many others. The survivors, between 11,000 and 15,000, excluding foreign mercenaries, were enslaved and their property confiscated. Some were sent to North Africa in exchange for prisoners, many were sold to cover the costs of the campaign and others were distributed as ”gifts”.

After raising the cross and the flag of Castile in the major tower, King Ferdinand gave Malaga the image of the Virgin of Victory, a work of German origin given by Emperor Maximilian I to the Spanish monarch. Since then, the ‘Virgin of Victory’ has been the city’s patron saint. The conquest of Malaga was a severe blow to the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, which lost its main seaport. Thus, the Castle of Gibralfaro represented one of the last essential refuges of the Moors before the definitive Spanish Reconquista. 

The Sultanate of Granada fell in January 1492 into the hands of the combined crowns of Castile and Aragon and their respective kings, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. On 2 January, the Catholic Monarchs entered Granada victorious, crucifix in hand, sanctioning the end of the Moorish reign in the peninsula and the beginning of a long series of events that defined Spain as we know it today.

Just about the same year of the conquest, Isabella of Aragon financed one of the most famous voyages of mankind. At the head of the expedition was a Genoese adventurer named Christopher Columbus. This event shaped not only the future of Spain but of the entire world.


1. Patio de los Narajos

2. Alcazaba

3. Castle of Gibralfaro