El Castillo de Colomares de Benalmadena, or simply Castillo de Colomares. Built in 1987 by Dr. Esteban Martin, the castle was completed in 1994, and is meant as a monument to the great explorer, Christopher Columbus, and his discovery of America. The castle overlooks the Alboran Sea, and while it was never a residence, its magnificent views offer a beautifully picturesque background for this interesting monument to the world’s most famous early explorer.
Dr. Esteban Martin had spent time working in the United States as a surgeon and grew increasingly frustrated with the international depiction of Columbus as a Genovese Italian who is heralded more for being an Italian, rather than for the support he received from Spain, which immortalized his memory to begin with. The last straw came during a Columbus Day celebration, when Dr. Martin decided he could no longer stomach how Columbus was idolized and remembered. Dr. Martin decided to leave his job in the United States, and with the help of two bricklayers, put together a structural representation of the accounts of Columbus’ travels that had previously only been put down in books, intended to be a book carved in stone. While Dr. Martin had no architectural knowledge or training himself, he started looking into the plans for building the Castillo in the early 80s until he was able to start construction in 1987. Construction occurred on the castle until Dr. Martin ran out of funding, but what he and his masons had accomplished was nothing short of remarkable. Even when he had run out of money to continue construction, Dr. Martin took to old books to try and find Castilian phrases and references that might someday still be incorporated into his living monument to the great explorer. He had a great passion for Spanish history, and wanted to preserve it, in a version that he believed was most correct, as much as possible.
In years past, the castle has been used as a reptile center, and falconry, but today serves only as a monument to Christopher Columbus. The entire castle itself looking like something out of a fairy tale with its ornate decoration and varying architectural styles, it acts like a storybook brought to life in a tangible structure.
The Castillo de Colomares covers nearly 5000 square feet or 1500 square meters, and has become known as the largest monument in the world that is dedicated to Christopher Columbus, and it is a major tourist attraction for visitors to the Malaga region. All around the exterior of the Castillo are carvings that pay homage to the Catholic monarchs who accompanied Columbus on his journey, as well as various depictions of sea life and representations of the ships that comprised Columbus’ fleet. For example, after searching for a financial backer to fund his desire to search for a passage to the East Indies via the West, the Italian Columbus sought support from Spain. The Catholic Monarchs there, as well as Queen Isabel, supplied Columbus with the support he needed, in exchange for the ability to use Columbus’ route and future fleet in order to enter into the booming spice trade with Asia. To pay homage to that commitment and that support, the designer of Castillo de Colomares placed bronze shields on the exterior as a perpetual sign of gratitude and recognition, carved with the names of the Catholic Monarchs, Hispanic and Andalusia, who supported Columbus’ expeditions – both the first, and the following four journeys he set out on, continually looking for a shorter way to get to the East Indies, by sailing west instead.. The bow of a ship, an homage to the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, is carved into one of the turrets of the castle.
Initially, Columbus was intending to land in Japan, but as he had sailed west from Spain, he first ended in what he termed, San Salvador, or Our Savior (Jesus Christ). The natural wildlife of the island included an abundance of iguanas, so San Salvador was referred to by the natives as the “Island of the Iguanas.” Around the castle are carvings of iguanas, but also the small chapel constructed in the castle was built as an homage to that first “rest stop” for Columbus’ fleet. In fact, that chapel, which measures just under 2 square meters, was labeled by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest church!
While Columbus’ remains have been moved several times over the last five centuries, and they currently remain where they have been for over 100 years – the Cathedral of Seville in Seville, Spain, the Castillo de Colomares contains a small mausoleum that was constructed in the hopes that someday Columbus’ remains might be moved to reside within.
Within the castle are ornate stained-glass windows and more carvings adorning the walls which represent the three most prevalent religious cultures during the 15th century – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The castle’s architectural styles also reflect those that were popular throughout Spain during the time of Columbus, namely Bizantine, Romanesque, Arabic and Gothic, which contributes to the ornate lattice work, detailed spires, and pointed arches that can be found throughout.
How to get To Colomares Castle.
Getting to the Castillo is easy. From Benalmadena, it is just a quick trip south to Carretera Costa del Sol, followed by a 10 minute walk or short bus ride to the front of the castle. Unfortunately, there isn’t any other close parking, but the walk is easy and the bus is inexpensive. Taxis are also available. Admission prices are under 3 Euros per person, and student and senior rates are available. Group rates are also available, and professional tour guides are always on hand to explain the architecture of the castle. The Castillo’s open hours vary slightly depending on the season, but it is typically open 10am-2pm, and also 4-6pm in Winter months, 4-7pm in Autumn months, and 5-9pm in Summer months.