Although today the fortress of Salobreña is more than 500 metres farm from the coastline, not many centuries ago this hill was a peninsula: the water extended to its western slope, the streepest one. (Arteaga, 1990)
Written sources allow us to know the evolution of this Andalusian town until it became in the Nasrid period (1232-1489) a coastal town, headquarters of a district in which there were several farmhouses dedicated to the cultivation of sugar cane. This Moorish castle evolved until it became the summer residence of the Nasrid sultans and the well-off prison of several overthrown emirs.
The main figures who were imprisoned there lived in the 15th Century. The first one was Yusuf 3rd, who spent 11 years there when his brother Muhammad 7th usurped the throne, until he finally recovered it in 1408.
The future Sultan Muhammad 9th, the Left-Handed, was imprisoned in the same place before being proclamed king in Granada in 1419, overthrowing Muhammad 8th by surrender. (Castrillo, 1963)
These are the different buildings that are part of the fortress of Salobreña:
1. The main gate-tower
It was build after the conquest. In it, there is a simple curved entrance in an square space covered with a brick vault. The exterior opening is made of brick with an arch framed by an alfiz in its southern part. The bays are protected by vaults with holes, also known as “buhederas” (embrasures), to improve their defence in case the enemies attacked the wooden doors. Inside there is a flared artillery embrasure located in the eastern wall of the tower. In the northern part there is a regular niche in which there must have been a pew for the guard to rest. (Navarro et alii, 2018)
2. The artillery barrier following the main gate
This structure stars in the gate-tower and finishes in the southern enclosure area. It is made with rough stone and mortar with high levels of lime in the Catholic Monarchs’ period. It houses four flared arrow slits that narrows outwards. (García-Consuegra, 2016)
3. The Cube Tower
It is part of the artillery barrier and has a very similar construction. It has a semicircular ground plan and it is equipped with holes made for guns. It only has one single room with a brick vault and a central ventilation hole.
The fortress has three enclosures. In the entrance of the fortress we can find the first one, which is at the southernmost spot. Due to its proximity to the main gate of the alcazaba it can be believed that its function was destined for stables and troops both in the Islamic and Castilian periods: this space was always differenciated and sepparated from the others.
The southwest part is the one that varied the most from its original design because it contains many Christian structures.
4. The bastion of the tank
It was designed in 1767 by the military engineer Joseph de Crame to watch over and guard the coast. The tank, which still exists today under the bastion designed by Crame, was designed un February 1490. (Romero, 1995)
In both the Andalusian and Castilian periods, it was possibe to access to the upper enclose through a long, narrow and steep passageway which led to the tower-gate at the southern part. (Navarro et alii, 2018)
5. The gate-tower
It is the access to a square plan tower which originally had rammed earth walls, but nowadays is made of masonry and brick. Its gate has a brick arch framed by an alfiz. On the right wall there are two niches with brick arches that were seats for the guards to rest. Opposite the gate there ir another niche with an image of Saint Onofre, which was placed there once the fortress became Christian.
This place was enclosed by a wall. This defensive structure had an irregular shape because of its need of adapting the terrain. (Cruz and Escañuela, 2007)
In addition to the wall and the gate-tower mentioned above, this enclosure had other towers that also seem to have had an Andalusian origin.
6. The New Tower
It is a Castilian construction that replaced another from the Andalusian period. Its defensive and control importance was very important due to its location next to the “portillo”, which gave access to the two ramp-passages that wen up to the upper emplacement in the Andalusian period.
Due to the location in the population centre, it is believed that it played a similar role as the tower-qubba, facing the sea.
Both towers would have a symbolic function: to show the power: the eastern tower would face the population on the slope of the hill, while the western tower fulfilled the same mission facing the sea, thinking of all those who came to Salobreña by sea (Navarro et alii, 2018).
7. The Tribute Tower or Tower of El Polvorín
This is probably the only one that is mentioned in written documentation from the 16th Century. According to the blueprint, it is believed it had another floor needed for its control mission. (Romero, 1995)
8. The Qubba Tower or Old Tower
It has a square floor plan and it is 16 metres high. It is thought that it was an undivided space with a qubba inside, associated with the main hall of the palace, just like it is in other Nasrid residences, such as the Comares palace. It was made to be used as a propagandistic element to praise the power of the sultan to impress the whole town. In Salobreña it faces the sea due to the importance of its natural harbour. The hypothesis is that this tower was a qubba is reinforced by the presence of a decorative band formed by interwined blind brick arches (Navarro el alii, 2018).
9. The bath
It is the best-preserved building in the palace are due to its location facing the north.
It was a place dedicated to the use and enjoyment of the Nasrid royal family with an excusive and private access from the palace. It is organized as the typical Andalusian baths. From the northern part to the southern one, you can visit three functional areas: the first one is the dry arena, placed at the entrance of the bath, the second one is the wet area and here is possible to find the three usual rooms: cold, warm and hot. Finally, there is a service are where the oven, the boiler and the woodshed are placed. The wet area is organised into three consecutive spaces that were once a transition space between the dry and wet areas (Navarro and Jiménez, 2008).
It is located at the northern end of the fortress. There are three particularly important architectural elements in this enclosure. The gate known as “Socorro del mar” and the “Water Tower” and “Bastion of La Coracha”. Both the gate and the first tower appear to be structures that were part of the Nasrid alcazaba, while the Coracha Tower has Castilian origin and it was probably build on top of a pre-existing tower.
10. The Gate of Socorro del mar
As its name shows, this gate must have played a very important role in the Nasrid alcazaba in relation to the defence and access to the port of Salobreña. The fortress got complete independence thanks to it direct communication with such an important and strategic place.
11. The Water Tower
Its it called “The Water Tower” because for centuries it had a waterwheel destined to supply water to the fortress.
12. Bastion of la Coracha
It is located at the northwest end of the castle with a trapezoidal groun plan. It is topped with loopholes for the rifle corps on its three outer façades. It is made with brick and masonry and its purpose was to defend those who came to the fortress from the sea.