To better understand why royal rulers constructed castles, just go and visit Pueblo de Alcocer. The small village is located between the artificial channels: Orellana and la Serena, about a 45 minute car drive from Merida. It is already possible to see from a distance the knight fortress over a solitary hill in the middle of the steppe countryside. The complex looks impressive and awesome at the same time. This feeling could have been much stronger in the 15th century than today. Visitors and residents of the neighbouring villages who drive past the residence hill respected and feared the regent. Thus, the lord of castle had achieved one of his objectives, namely power, because of the fortress. Walking through the massive walls of the castle in the cold interior of the complex and staying at the tall merlons, you will realise the second reason for the construction of the fortress: the limitless steppe of the Serena. Each nearby village can be seen in the distance; even single people and the roads can be identified. The regent could really control his folk from his fortress.
The protective function of the fortress was almost as important as power and control. Many of the castles were constructed in open spaces on small hills without being protected by town walls. That is why the castle’s walls were elevated and squarely built. This is the case not only in Alcocer, but also in more than 100 castles in both provinces of Extremadura. You also find the same method of construction in Feria, Aceuchal and Los Arcos, in Hornachos, Medelling, Villalba de los Barros and in many more towns in the province Badajoz. Fortresses in the province Caceres were built in the same way, namely in the towns Arroyo de la Luz and Brozas, Eljas and Monroy.
The Alcantara knights were the rulers in Alcocer. The Serena was a gift from the King of Castilia in gratitude for victory over the Moors. The Alcantara order constructed more fortresses, which can still be visited today. They include the Piedrabuena, Alburquerque, Mayorga and Azagala castles, among others. They are located near the border with Portugal in the north of Badajoz. On closer consideration of the map, it will be apparent that the four constructions form a defence circle. The knights departed from there for their struggle against the Moors.
When the knights lost several battles and an area, the new rulers from North Africa conquered the towns and built fortresses according to their own construction plans. That is why you find some of these Moorish defence fortifications in Merida and Badajoz, which are called Alcazaba or Alcazar and mean fortress in Arabic. The Bujaco Tower that was erected by the Muslims dated from the time of Moorish sovereignty and is the town’s emblem of Caceres. It is also the head office of the tourist information department.
Fortress construction over the centuries, moving from open spaces into towns, is more striking in Extremadura. From the late Middle Ages onwards, princes abandoned their solitary residence to establish themselves in towns. Because of this decision, they had to grant a say to residents. Evidence of this evolution can be found in Badajoz, Caceres, Merida and Trujillo, owing to the still existing town palaces and houses. It seemed to be a win-win situation because the sovereign could from then on count on the commitment of the townsmen to defend their town and consequently the sovereign if their living space happened to be attacked.