Sunday 8th June 2014
This was originally a hill fort which later became a Roman Citadel. In 1178 King Ferdinand 11 of Leon donated this to the Knights of the Templars who protected the pilgrims making their walk in the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrims were at risk of being attacked and robbed by the Muslim Moors along the route of their pilgrimage - so the Templars offered protection at different castles along the way as well as providing a 'courier service' of their valuables. The Knights would promise to return the pilgrims' valuables upon their arrival at Santiago de Compostela ( for a percentage of the value of these valuables, of course! - thus starting a basic form of a banking system for the pilgrims) and as such these Knights became a power to be reckoned with which later became a threat to the King. The Knights of the Templars - upon becoming too powerful and a threat - were later ousted of the region - and many of them moved on to set up their bases in nearby Portugal.
The castle covers an area of 16,000 square metres. Today it houses the Templars Library with some photocopies of the original works of Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately the afternoon that we were there the Castle was closed thus depriving us of an opportunity to visit the Library. So we just walked around the outer wall of the Castle and down to the Sil River for a panoramic view of it. We also passed the original Roman Bridge with re-inforced iron which gave the town its name, Ponferrada = Ponte Ferrata = Iron Bridge.