a morning at castillo de teba & a scotsman’s story of the battle of teba

Sunday, July 7:  On our way to Ronda this morning, we stop at the historic Teba Castle, scene of a famous battle with the Moors.

on the way to Castillo de Teba
on the way to Castillo de Teba

Estrella Castle, locally known as Castillo de La Estrella or Castillo de Teba, lies on a hill next to the village of Teba in the province of Málaga.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba

On the way to the castle and from the hilltop fortress, we can see wind farms all around.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to any country that takes advantage of the wind like Spain does.

view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba with a wind farm in the distance
view from Castillo de Teba with a wind farm in the distance

Estrella Castle was probably built somewhere in the 10th century by the Moors. During the 12th and 13th century, under Almohad rule, the castle was strengthened and enlarged.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba
Scottish thistle
Scottish thistle
flora around Castillo de Teba
flora around Castillo de Teba
more weeds around the castle
more weeds around the castle
view of a reservoir from Castillo de Teba
view of a reservoir from Castillo de Teba

In 1330 Estrella Castle was besieged by the Christian troops of Alfonso XI, King of Castile. When Muhammed IV, Sultan of Granada, reacted by sending an army led by a Berber general, Uthman bin Abi-l-Ulá, to relieve the defenders, the Battle of Teba ensued in the valley below the castle. (Estrella Castle)

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba

Our guide Barry, who is Scottish, dramatically tells us the story of how the Scots played a part in this battle.  Though the battle had no effect on Scottish affairs, it contributed in a small way to the demise of Muslim rule in Spain.

The events which led to that fateful day in August 1330 started on the death-bed of the King of ScotlandRobert the Bruce, in 1329.

Bruce had always dreamed of leading a crusade to the Holy Land. As he lay dying from leprosy, he instructed his beloved friend and second in command Sir James Douglas to remove his heart after death, place it in a casket, and take them on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and bury his heart in the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.

Although Sir James Douglas was known in Scotland as Sir James the Good, in England he was referred to as The Black Douglas.

view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba

The Black Douglas took Bruce’s heart, embalmed it, then put it in a casket which he wore round his neck, and set off on the crusade to the Holy Land with a party of 25, made up of knights and noblemen.  In the spring of 1330, they made for Flanders and during their 12 day stay, they attracted more followers from all over Europe.  Their plan was to sail to northwest Spain to visit Santiago de C0mpostela, which had been ordained as a holy town by Pope Alexander III following the discovery of the remains of the Apostle James.

A pilgrimage to Santiago captured the imagination of Christian Europe as it was the 3rd holiest site in Christendom.  At the height of its popularity in the 11th and 12th century, it attracted over half a million pilgrims each year.

view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba

However, before they could set off for Santiago, word reached them that the King of Castile, Alphonso Xl , in his efforts to drive the Moors out of Granada, had laid siege to the Castillo de las Estrella (Castle of the Stars) at Teba which was occupied by the Saracen Army of Mohammed lV, Sultan of Granada. The Black Douglas sent word that they were prepared to join forces with Alphonso and sailed immediately to help, making landfall at Seville and marching the short distance to Teba.

Alphonso, having heard tales of Douglas’s bravery and leadership skills, gave him the right flank of the Castilian Army.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba

On the morning of the August 25th the Saracen army had assembled below the Castillo de las Estrella. The Castilian trumpets sounded and Douglas, thinking it was a general advance, led his troops forward. The Scottish contingent charged the Saracens and, although not fully supported by the rest of the army, managed to hold them.  Finally the Moors, unable to withstand the furious onslaught, fled.  Douglas, as was his custom, followed them until, finding himself deserted, he turned his horse intending to join the main body.  Just then he observed Sir William St Clair surrounded by a body of Moors who had suddenly rallied. With the few knights who attended him Douglas turned hastily to attempt a rescue.

He soon found himself surrounded and, making one last charge shouting the words “A Bruce, A Bruce,” took the casket containing the heart from around his neck and hurled it into the enemies’ path shouting “Now go in front, as you desired and I’ll follow you or die.” Douglas and a party of his followers were all slain, but they had diverted enough of the enemy forces away from the main thrust to enable the Castilian army to overrun the remainder and capture the Castle.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba
more Scottish thistle
more Scottish thistle
Barry and Carol at Castillo de Teba
Barry and Carol at Castillo de Teba

It has been speculated that the Moors’ lack of knowledge of European heraldry had a part to play in the death of Douglas. Noblemen on both sides were valued as hostages, but because Douglas did not display the red cross on his tabard that distinguished English knights, but instead had the 3 stars of the Douglas family on his harness and shield, the Moors did not recognize his status or they would probably have spared his life.

Douglas’s body was recovered from the battlefield along with the casket.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba

The only 2 remaining knights from the Scottish contingent decided that as Douglas’s body would not survive the long sea journey home in the heat of the summer, they would revert to the normal practice at that time which was to boil the body in a cauldron of vinegar until the flesh fell from the bones. The flesh was buried in Teba at an unknown and unmarked spot and his bones returned to Scotland, where they were buried in St Bride’s Kirk in Douglas South Lanarkshire, and the casket was returned to the new king of Scotland, David II, son of Robert the Bruce, who wished it buried in Melrose Abbey.

Thus, the Bruce’s last wish of having his heart buried in Jerusalem was never granted.

crusader inside the museum
crusader inside the museum
windfarm viewed from Castillo de Teba
windfarm viewed from Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba
me at Castillo de Teba
me at Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba
view from Castillo de Teba

Although Teba was a victory for Alphonso, it would take another 60 years to finally drive the Moors from this area, but The Battle of Teba was the decisive action when the Saracen leader realized he could no longer defend his territory, and would have to rely on help from Morocco in future battles to retain Granada. Christian rule was not fully established in Spain until 1492.

Castillo de Teba
Castillo de Teba

Each year on the 25th of August the village organizes what they refer to as El Douglas Dia, when a pipe band from Scotland and Scots from all over the world, join together with the villagers and invited dignitaries to commemorate the Battle of Teba.

Sir James Douglas was only 44 years old when he was cut down, yet in the 26 years he lived in Scotland he had gained a reputation as a fighter for Scottish Independence only bettered by Wallace and Bruce. Somehow the history books overlooked the part he played in Scottish history, but thanks to the villagers of Teba this monument to his final courageous stand is lasting memorial to one of Scotland’s bravest Knights (Spain-info: BRAVEHEART The Battle of Teba).

looking back at Castillo de Teba
looking back at Castillo de Teba

After we leave Teba Castle, we head on to Ronda. We drive through rolling hills of neat patchwork farmland, planted with olive trees, grapevines and sunflowers.

landscape on the drive to Ronda
landscape on the drive to Ronda
landscape on the drive to Ronda
landscape on the drive to Ronda

6 thoughts on “a morning at castillo de teba & a scotsman’s story of the battle of teba

  1. I see you are having great adventures as you travel. Your bolgs are inspiring.
    Keep the pictures coming.
    Spencer leaves Oman on Sat. Aug. 3rd.
    A couple weeks at home then off to New York City.

    1. Thanks so much, Ron! I’m getting behind because I don’t always have good internet and I barely have time to keep up. It will get done when I get home, I’m sure! It’s been fun. I’m sure you’ll be happy to have Spencer home! Tell him I said hello!

  2. Hi Cathy! Enjoying the travelogue but looking forward to more personal insights and observations along the road. Now that the dust of Oman has been permanently washed away, what are your thoughts now on the past two years? How are you arriving at them while in the heart of Europe? Sandra is convinced you told her you were returning to Asia to teach and nothing I said could dissuade her of this! If anything, you will be returning to Europe … but as a tour guide!?

    1. I don’t think I would work as a tour guide, but I do love being a traveler here! As far as insights, I really don’t have time to do much but absorb what’s right in front of me. We’ll see if I have any when I get home. All I do know is that I don’t miss Oman. 🙂

  3. Cathy, Wow! Gorgeous! I have some catching up to do…. I have never been to Spain, so this I am looking forward to.

    And Ps: Congrats on “the escape”😉 I totally get it!

    1. Thanks so much, Tahira. I’m glad you came along! You would love both Spain and Portugal, I’m sure! And yes, the escape is wonderful. And to know I’m not going back to Oman, but going home instead, that means the world to me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s