Dating back to the 11th century, this “Tower of Homage” is all that remains of the original castle complex that once stretched all the way down to Casemates Square, at the north end of Main Street.
The Moorish Castle Complex is made up of various buildings, gates, fortified walls and its most dominant features, The Tower of Homage and The Gate House. The former is an impressive sight, clearly visible to all visitors, not only because of its striking construction but also because of its dominant and strategic position.
For over six centuries people approaching Gibraltar from the mainland have been impressed with the sight of a great square tower right up on the hillside. This tower is the only Tower of Homage of the ancient Moorish Castle, which at one time dominated the surrounding area. The walls of the old castle enclosed a considerable area, reaching almost to the sea, where even today the Moorish Pier is still visible. Gibraltar - Jebel Tarik or Tarik’s Mountain - owes its name to Tarik-ibn-Zeyad. Tarik was Musa-ibn-Nosseyers freedman and commander of the 12,000 Arab conquerors who landed at this district around the 27th April 711 (5 Rayab 92). This very able leader achieved the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, overrunning a large portion of it in two years - an invasion, which led to Arab domination of part of Europe for over seven centuries. His successors soon built the first fortifications somewhere near the site of the present tower. This was replaced in 1160 by a larger castle which gave greater protection to the town which had grown nearby.
A continuous war between Muslims and Christians ensued for the domination of almost all the Iberian Peninsula which lasted for almost 800 years. By the early fifteenth century, the Christians had pushed the Moorish conquerors almost completely out of what was to emerge in history as Spain. In the meantime King Ferdinand IV, of Castile and Leon, who had just finally made peace with the kings of Aragon and Portugal, attacked Gibraltar in 1309 and captured the Rock. It was then reconquered by the Moors in 1333 and was held by them for a further 129 years. The main tower of the castle was ruined so much in 1333 that the Moors rebuilt it into the present Tower of Homage, and practically all the castle visible today. The Gatehouse, walls and bastions as well as the tower all date from this second Moorish period, contemporary with the building of the Alhambra in Granada.
During ten later sieges, artillery fire could make little impression on the tower, which is a solid mass of masonry except for the four little rooms on top. The tower proudly displays the battle scars of these sieges. Here, a Spanish Governor held out for five months in 1467 after being driven first from the town and then from the rest of the castle by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who was trying to take Gibraltar from his own sovereign Isabel la Catolica.
In 1540 hundreds of people found safety inside the castle when Turkish pirates attacked Gibraltar.
It was here that Admiral Rooke hoisted the British flag where it has flown ever since, when he captured the Rock in 1704.