The massive stone fortress that towers over the village of Peníscola has a storied past. The Castillo del Papa Luna was built by The Order of the Temple and occupied from 1294-1307. It was a centre of both spiritual and economic power on the Mediterranean coastline. Knights Templar, monks, and soldiers enjoyed two centuries of commercial prosperity under Papal blessing and the castle at Peníscola was their final crowning achievement. By 1307, King Philip IV of France, however, worried about the Templars advancing power declared that they should be exterminated and within twenty years the Templars disappeared from the historical map, today a legendary memory.
About the year 1411, the castle became the pontifical seat of Antipope Benedict XIII known as Papa Luna. He lived out the final years of his life (1328-1423) at Peníscola, defending his papacy with the sitting Pope in Rome via letters.
Protecting the mediaeval castle is the fortifications and the Artillery Park. Walking around the grounds offers superb views of the area.Surrounded by the sea on three sides and with the castle at the centre, the town has grown into a summer beach resort with many low-rise condos and hotels extending along the lengthy sand beach. Our visit in late December coincided with the off-season, and the village was quiet but enjoyable nonetheless. Although we missed our family and friends during the holiday season, the view from our balcony at the hotel Cabo del Mar and the warm sunny weather helped to make up for it. Peníscola, Spain, a lovely place to get away from the city, visit the past and enjoy the present.