Sunday, November 28

The castles of Teruel, doomed to disappearance due to the abandonment of their owners

As its own name already anticipates, the town of Fortanete (Fort of strength and join, a deformation of Aneto, maximum height) It was once guarded not by one, but by two castles: Fortaner, whose remains are still visible at the top of the hill that presides over the urban area of ​​this municipality in the Maestrazgo Region; and the one known as Castillo del Cid, located in a natural area with difficult access, six 6 kilometers north of the town. In common they have the scant documentation that exists about their origin, their history or their uses, but also the state of progressive ruin that they present. So much so, that the Castillo del Cid, has recently been included in the red list of heritage of Hispania Nostra, but its possible rehabilitation is slowed down as it is a private property.

APUDEPA, the Public Association for the Defense of the Aragonese Heritage, was the one who presented a report to the scientific committee of Hispania Nostra requesting the inclusion of this fortress on its list. In it he alludes to the abandonment and poor condition of the castle, but also to the threat of the wind farms that are intended to be built in the environment, one of them, Headboard I, less than two kilometers away. Something that, according to the writings, would have a strong visual impact, but would also invade the access to the fortress, preventing archaeological or consolidation interventions from being undertaken on this monument in the future.

The association also recalls in the text that the castles of Aragon have been declared Assets of Cultural Interest since April 2006, which is why it requires public administrations and especially the Government of Aragon “to comply with their own laws, since the protection of the BICs does not consist only in the defense against the active damage of the assets (in this case materialized in a wind farm), but also of the damage by passive such as abandonment “, and proposes” that the ruins be fixed and consolidated through of a respectful rehabilitation “so that the fortress does not disappear.

However, the Castillo del Cid, like so many others in the province of Teruel, is privately owned, which makes any intervention or study difficult. This is explained by Rubén Sáez, president of Arcatur, the Association for the recovery of Teruel castles, and adds that, in many cases, “it is essential, beyond documentation, to carry out archaeological work that is what provides information more complete information on the origin of these fortifications “.

From the Fortanete City Council they say they are interested in acting both in the Castillo del Cid and in Fortaner to avoid further deterioration, but they regret that at the moment they are tied hand and foot – also due to the impossibility of financially facing the necessary actions . “Ideally, the owners and public institutions reach a sale or transfer agreement and that the assets pass to municipal ownership, then we would try to request financing from the DGA to begin to intervene in them,” explains Ángel Zaera, Deputy Mayor of Fortanete.

The town is not the first to come across a situation like this. In the neighboring municipality of Aliaga, the city council set out to locate the lost owner of his castle given its progressive degradation. It turned out that the fortress was bought for 120,000 pesetas in 1972 by a family from Catalonia, after the State put it up for auction with an initial price of 1,500 pesetas. The council has recently obtained a swap of the castle in exchange for a rustic farm for the owner. The next step will be to try to rehabilitate this key piece in the history of the town and give it a tourist outing.

“These fortifications are the identity of our peoples, they constitute a very valuable heritage because they are part of their history and also for tourism they are a great incentive,” says Zaera. In the case of Castillo del Cid, they consider that its location in the middle of forests and at an altitude of 1,600 meters could be a good claim for nature and adventure tourism.

The province of Teruel currently has nine heritage assets on the Hispania Nostra red list, including another castle, Los Ares, in Pozondón. From the scientific committee they point out that it is not an alarming figure compared to other Spanish provinces, however, they remember that in this list there are only those elements that have been reported by society given their poor state of conservation.

They also point out that, in general terms, there is greater speed when acting on property assets when they are public property. “One of the main problems that afflict our heritage is private ownership because there are individuals who do not have the capacity to undertake restorations of the caliber that are required, however in those of public ownership we are seeing how administrations have turned more into in recent years, thanks also to the pressure exerted by society, “says Victor Antona, coordinator of the scientific committee of the red list.

Fortanete and the possible relationship with El Cid

Only a few data are known about the Castillo del Cid de Fortanete. Chronologically it is prior to 1194, since it is cited in the Villarluengo donation and although it is not documented with documentation, it is believed that it may be linked to the conquests that the Cid carried out in these lands in the 11th century. For Sáez, another clue that links him to this time is the masonry used in its construction, in which the opus spicatum in walls and towers, a technique that in Aragon is of Muslim roots.

Taking into account the historical evolution of the fortresses in the area, and despite not being known with certainty, it is thought that this property was under the power of the Order of San Juan del Hospital until the 19th century, something that has been verified in the case of the other castle in the town, that of Fortaner. The plan is roughly trapezoidal, with two sides at right angles and the total area of ​​the fortified enclosure barely exceeds 500 square meters. It can also be said that the castle lacked the necessary habitability conditions, so it was a purely tactical fortification.

Teruel is one of the richest provinces in terms of fortifications given its strategic importance. Many of them are of Islamic origin since the confrontations between the Hispano-Christian kingdoms and Al-Andalus lasted for more than a century in this territory. Also the War of the Pedros or the conflicts during the Carlist Wars contributed to further fortify the area. From Arcatur they calculate that there are more than 500 castles in the province, despite the fact that the number of municipalities barely exceeds 200.

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