I love the city of Cadiz, Andalucía, that ‘lively and luminous’ city known as ‘the Bride of the Sea’, so much so that I set not one but two of my romance novels there: Masquerade and Legacy.
Cadiz is the very oldest city in Spain, and one of the oldest in all of Western Europe; consequently, the city is steeped in history and legend, which of course is very appealing to a romance novelist!
Did you know that, according to mythology, Cadiz was founded by none other than Hercules himself, while on his journey to the end of the world to take on the monster Geryon (his tenth labour)? In addition, in ancient times a temple was erected there by the Phoenicians to honour Kronos, leader of the first generation of Titans, and father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera, and it is said to have been the site of the pillars of Hercules.
The temple stood on a little islet that juts out from the emblematic La Caleta beach in the city. The temple is long gone, but what has been constructed there since has an interesting history.
Cadiz is the city of watchtowers, and one such tower has stood on the little island for centuries, to be used for defence (over the years the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans penetrated Spain at this point), and also for protection, wherein the light cast by the tower acted as a lighthouse to warn sailors of the islet’s presence.
In 1457, when the plague infected a boat from Venice, the crew were forced to quarantine themselves until they recovered, and while doing so the city of Cadiz permitted them to use the islet. There, the sailors built a chapel dedicated to Saint Sebastian, patron saint of the plague stricken.
In 1706, it was decided that a watchtower was insufficient defence for the city, and the San Sebastián Castle was built. The castle, which was further developed in 1860, is notable for its irregular shape, the outer walls following the lines of the island.
Nestled within the safety of the walls is the lighthouse, this iteration built on the site of the old Moorish watchtower back in 1908, when it was fabulously modern, being only the second lighthouse in the country to be run on electricity. It towers over the castle, some 41 metres above the sea.
Originally, the island was cut off from the mainland, but in the late nineteenth century a causeway was built. Today, visitors to Cadiz walk along the causeway, the Paseo Fernando Quiñones, out to the island and through the magnificent old archways into the fortress.
I did this walk while researching my Andalucían nights series, and was so inspired by the perspective I got of the city; the views really are worth the long and windy walk along the causeway. Because the fortress is not wholly restored and polished into a tourist attraction, I got such a strong sense of history and legend out on that little islet.
But it’s not just my imagination that’s been captured by this fortress on an island. If you’re wondering, having looked at the picture above, why San Sebastián Castle looks familiar, it may well be because you saw it in the James Bond film Die Another Day. Although the action is meant to be set in Havana, Cuba, that country has been off limits to film-makers since its revolution, and so Cadiz was chosen as a substitute. The iconic scene where Halle Berry walks out of the sea? That was filmed at La Caleta beach. The island with the clinic? That is the San Sebastián Castle.
Have you ever visited San Sebastián Castle? Would you like to? Do you enjoy exploring old castles – ruined or renovated? Do you find an air of romance within the old stone walls?