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Esteban Martín Martín, Castillo Monumento de Colomares

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Visiting Information

The site is open daily for a small fee, except between 2 and 4 pm. Visitors and small events (scheduled in advance) are welcomed.

About the Artist/Site

Benalmádena, on Spain’s southern Costa del Sol, might be a typical tourist town. Yet it boasts an astounding monument, the Colomares Castle built by Esteban Martín Martín and two local bricklayers to honor Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. Almost improbably built over the short seven-year period 1987-1994, this five-story castle combines elements that represent all of the architectural styles extant in Spain during the time of Columbus’s life: Mudéjar, Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine. It was slowly constructed by hand by these three men with stone, brick, artificial stone, and wood; stained glass windows ornament some of the interior spaces.

Martin Martín studied at the University of Valladolid to become a gynecologist. Subsequently, he departed for the United States, where he worked for many years in this capacity and as a surgeon, and where, ultimately, he met his wife, Austrian-born Hannelore Picka. Yet during his life in the States, he was astounded that the annual Columbus Day activities featured Italian parades and festivities as the Italian communities honored Columbus’s alleged roots in the city of Genoa; there seemed to be no mention of the role Spain played in providing financial and personnel resources to Columbus in support of his voyages to the “New World.” Having been educated during the years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, when patriotism was so highly vaunted and valued, Martín felt that Spain was being unfairly left out of the narrative.

In the 1970s he had purchased the plot of land known as Finca la Carraca in the hills above Benalmádena’s coastal beaches. At the time of the purchase, he had intended one day to build a simple retirement home for himself and his family (the couple had two children, a son and a daughter). However, he became obsessed with the injustice he saw in the American celebrations of Columbus’s discoveries, and resolved to construct a monument that would clarify, in great detail, the story of these world-changing events. He diligently studied every book and document he could then access in order to certify the historical veracity of the visual representations he created as documentation, and hoped that one day his monument would become a center for historical research on this theme.

The structure includes many elements referential to Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who financed his voyages, as well as details pertaining to the three main religions of Spain: Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish, along with components referencing Columbus’s alleged Jewish roots. Other more surprising elements include a Chinese-style pagoda tower (built on a Mudéjar-style base), symbolizing Columbus’s efforts to reach the Asian continent for its spices and riches. Particularly notable are the representations of the three boats on which Columbus sailed: the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. The entire stone monument is surrounded by gravel paths and landscaped gardens, elements which were added by the family after Dr. Martín’s death.

With a floor plan of roughly 1500 meters and towers that rise some 33 meters high, Colomares is the largest monument in the world dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Yet it also houses the smallest chapel within, only 1.96 square meters, dedicated to Saint Isabel of Hungary. This chapel has been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, and it was hoped that one day it would become the final resting place for Columbus’s ashes. Martín had great plans to add to and enhance the site, but by 1994, having run out of financial resources and depressed that his Castillo had not received more publicity or was not included as a resource for the widespread observances of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage in 1992, he stopped building. Now operated by Martín’s widow and family, they have plans of their own to enhance the site through more activities, providing much-needed funds for maintenance and conservation of the monument.

The site is open daily for a small fee, except between 2 and 4 pm. Visitors and small events (scheduled in advance) are welcomed.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Benalmádena, Andalucía, Spain
Latitude/Longitude: 36.598797 / -4.516806

Visiting Information

The site is open daily for a small fee, except between 2 and 4 pm. Visitors and small events (scheduled in advance) are welcomed.

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