Route of the castles
Aragón conserves numerous castles, built between the 9th and the 16th centuries. Most of them were erected as strategical sites or as refuges, and some were meant to be the residence for the nobility. Few of the Aragonese castles stand on the plain, we frequently find them on hills or rocks.
JACA (THE CITADEL)
It has been declared National Monument. Felipe II ordered its construction in 1591, and the building was first called San Pedro Castle. Its pentagonal plan has a grandiose size, with its moat and counterscarp. It is built on a plain. There is a typical bastion on each angle and an ample walkway allows to walk round the whole perimeter. In some of the corners there are sentry-boxes. The moat is crossed by a bridge with three arches and a drawbridge. The doorway has an Herrerian style. The interior is a vast pentagonal square surrounded by pavilions with two storeys of arches supported by pillars.
San Pedro chapel (18th C.) is an isolated building with a bell gable and a Baroque doorway. In Jaca we can also visit the Romanesque cathedral (11th C.), the Benedictine monastery, Santiago church, the hermitage of Sarsa, San Miguel bridge, the Clock Tower and the Town Hall.
In the Cinco Villas area, Uncastillo was the main fortress on the defensive line against Navarra. It is one of the biggest and best located in Aragón: on a very steep cliff, around which the castle was built between the rivers Riguel and Cadenas, which became the castle’s moats. It has oval plan, about 115x75 metres, and occupies a total extension of around 6600m2.
In the area of Cinco Villas, 90 km. from Zaragoza. The castle is built on a hill. In former times the town was at its foot, but in the 15th C. it was moved to the other bank of the river. The castle is from the late Medieval period, with Cistercian decorations (13th C.). Its plan is quadrilateral, almost rectangular, 38x30 metres, on an area of more than 1000 m2. Its walls are of an even height and quite elevated, having seven towers with rectangular plan, four of them on the corners. A narrow walkway goes through the towers by means of passages. The doorway, next to one of the towers, gives access to an open hallway through which we enter the big courtyard. In the centre there is an aljibe (cistern), with a high capacity. We can also visit the Gothic church of Santa María and the hermitage of Puilampa, from the 11th. century. There are interesting Roman remains in the surroundings.
70 km. from Huesca, taking the road to Lérida, we find this fortress on a steep hill. It was the assembly site for the three courts of the three realms belonging to the Realm of Aragón. It is a National Monument. The primitive Muslim fortress called Monçones, was conquered by the Christian kings and became the main settlements of the Temple order. Numerous sieges have taken place during its history.
On the road Zaragoza-Madrid. It is the most genuine Hispanic-Muslim town in Aragón. Declared Historic and Monumental Ensemble. It was founded next to the fortress of Ayub, attributed to Ayub-ben-Habid, the nephew of Muza-ben-Nusair, conqueror of Spain. The site is just few kilometres away from the destroyed Roman city of Bílbilis. The castle of Ayub is in ruins. It was of vast size, 100x50 m., with an irregular plan and two areas, topographically terraced. Drawbridges gave access to it. There were other four castles: those of the Clock, of Don Álvaro, of the Cliff and of the Consolation. The outer walls of the lower area enclose the town and link its castles. There are several towers. The area of the lower town has completely disappeared. Only the doorways of Somajas (or of Zaragoza) and of Terrer have survived. The Cliff (la Peña) castle was situated on the site where we now find the Sanctuary of the Virgin of La Peña. In Calatayud we can also visit the Collegiate church of San Pedro de los Francos (14th C.) and the church of San Andrés. Nearby are the ruins of the Roman city of Bílbilis.
It belongs to the Bajo Aragón area, 160 km. from Teruel. The castle-convent where the Calatrava order settled dominated the town from its high position. Almost all the styles have left a trace, from Romanesque to Baroque. It was a kind of towered fortress with trapezoid plan, but it was modificated in the 18th century. Nowadays it has been restored and made into a Parador Nacional (the Paradores Nacionales are state-run tourist hotels in monumental, Historic-Artistic buildings).
About 45 km. from Teruel, this fortress hangs from an isolated cliff of the Menera Sierra. It was built around the first half of the 14th C., for a strictly military use. The north and east sides are inaccessible. In the south and west a wall was built: it has the form of a right angle, it is 3 metres thick and is reinforced by three rectangular towers. There are machicolations and several merlons of the battlements have been kept. Nowadays it is being restored. The entrance to the castle is a narrow gate at the edge of the cliff. The fortress has irregular square plan, and it extends over 4000 m2.
MORA DE RUBIELOS
41 km. from Teruel. This castle is located on a hill of Gúdar Sierra. Its exterior is military, severe and quite closed. It extends over an area of 4000 m2. It follows the Gothic style (13th C.). It has an irregular quadrilateral plan and its four façades are different, as well as the four towers. The structure is the usual one in noble fortresses: rooms around an open courtyard, quite vast, with a cloister-like look of pointed arches resting on octagonal columns. In the rooms only some old doors and windows and rests of glazed tile have remained. In July and August theatre performances are held in the castle, organized by the Diputación General de Aragón and the Diputación Provincial de Teruel as part of their cultural programmes.
SOS DEL REY CATÓLICO
Sos was one of the most important fortified sites in the Cinco Villas area during the 10th and 11th centuries. Its splendid setting on a high spur, in the foothills of La Peña sierra, makes the town become a real natural fortress. Two promontories stand out: the southern, with the Sada Palace (Historic-Artistic Monument), where king Fernando el Católico was born in 1452, has battlements that give it a fortress-like look. In the northern, called Feliciana cliff, Ramiro II had the castle built: from here the ample visibility allows to see the Pyrenean mountains and those of Navarra (Sangüesa).
29 km. from Huesca we find the most important Aragonese castle, declared National Monument. From the point of view of the architecture and sculpture, it is one of the most perfect examples of Romanesque art in Spain and in Europe. The castle is built on a rock of about 2200 m2. It is surrounded by a long outer wall, reaching a total extent of about 10000 m2. The Queen’s Tower, with the chapel, dates back to a previous period, having Arab reminiscences. The church and the rest of the military buildings belong to a later period (11th and 12th centuries). The keep, with rectangular plan, stands out over the whole ensemble with its 22 metres of height. It was a military tower. The Queen’s Mirador (viewpoint) is a modification of the south walls of the primitive castle.
48 km. from Huesca, taking Barbastro road. Alquézar is an interesting example of a small town that has kept its Medieval lay-out almost intact. It has been declared Historic-Artistic Monument. The primitive castle, from the 10th-11th C., must have been just the tower, with very thick walls, probably Muslim. A bit lower there is a rural Romanesque chapel. In the front there is a calvary with three crosses. On the only accessible side of the cliff there is a picturesque wall conserving its primitive battlements and two rectangular towers. The Collegiate church from the 16th century was built on the upper part, with its two outer walls at the edge of the cliff. Its cloister is remarkable, with capitals from San Juan de la Peña school. The castle and the Collegiate church have been declared National Monuments. Around the town there is a charming Pyrenean landscape. Excursions can be made on foot along the course of the river Vero.
98 km. from Zaragoza. It is an enormous fortified ensemble surrounded by walls built between the 13th and the 16th centuries and almost completely conserved. Two defensive doors are remarkable: the lower door, remodelled in the 16th century and having two quadrangular towers; and the upper door, transformed in the 17th century. These doors are located in the two main entrances to the city. Besides, there are other doors, like the Valencia door or the Mudejar door of San Martín de Parra.
193 km. from Teruel, it is one of the loveliest and most authentic urban ensembles in Aragón, with its typical streets and part of its walls, and, on the top of a hill, the castle and the archpriestal church, forming one of the most beautiful ensembles of purist Gothic in Aragón.
36 km. from Teruel. It is a picturesque town, declared National Monument. Its Medieval lay-out has been conserved almost intact in a landscape of cliffs and the steep meander of the river Guadalaviar. The oldest part of the town gathered around the noble castle, located on a high rock. On this rock lies the Military Residence of the Lords of Albarracín, Muslim first, and Christian afterwards. At its foot were the cathedral (Historic-Artistic Monument) and the episcopal palace. The church of Santa María (16th C.) is located towards the closest end of the gorge. The ruins of the Muslim castle lie overshadowed by the spectacular curtain of walls climbing up the hill. In other two mountains two more castles were built: Andador Castle, of which a tower has been conserved and Muela Castle, of which there are no traces.