Castles and Fortifications
We can pinpoint in almost every of our villages some remains at the top, gaps at the towers of our churches, or even remains of what could be walled enclosures or watchtowers. Thanks those remains, we can review history and find that the first Celtiberian settlements known were fortified, we also know that lived Muslim warlords who defeated their population against the advance of the Christian troops and that, among the Christian kings there was a lust for power that made them to come into conflict.
This territory was scenery of battles due its condition of borderline. The Cid also passed through these lands and fortified the El Poyo settlement. In a recent history, the Carlist troops took these Medieval buildings as quarters where stay and destroyed some others they could not conquer.
FORTIFIED SETTLEMENTS OF THE CELTIBERIAN ERA
The Celtiberian were the different villages that settled in the Iberian Mountain Range before the Roman conquest. They used to be small communities, of barely two streets surrounded by strong defensive walls. The favorite locations to build were the high places, with abundant visibility but close to a river or water source. In the Comarca del Jiloca exists several examples of this period.
In Báguena, the Iberian settlement of “La Escalerilla” with several sections of wall; in Bueña, the Iberian settlement called “La Fuente del Cantador”; “El Castillejo” in Castejón de Tornos; “Cabezo Raso” in Luco de Jiloca with great visibility; Ojos Negros has in its boundary the greatest number of Iberian settlements when its mines where already known, the “Cerro de las Salinas”, “Casa Carravilla”, “Los Castillejos” and “Torregabasa“; the medieval castle of Torralba is settled over an Iberian village, and finally in Villafranca some remains of a wall can be visited in a place called Las Saletas.
THE MUSLIM CASTLES
The present Comarca del Jiloca belonged to the administrative division known as Marca Superior. The capital was established in Zaragoza from which depended five districts and each one was divided into shires or aqalim (singular iqlim) that were units with an economic-administrative character having a village or castle as capital.
The iqlim of Cutanda was part of the shires dependent from the district of Zaragoza and the current villages of Olalla, Collados, Valverde, Navarrete del Río, Cuencabuena, Nueros, Godos, Torrecilla del Rebollar, Torre los Negros, Barrachina, El Villarejo, Bañon, Cosa, Corbatón and Alpeñes belonged to it. The former Cutanda Castle in the Muslim period only a few ceramic remains of andalusí style remain. It has an unquestionable strategic value and it makes other locations of its iqlim to have, at least, watchtowers with whom communicating with the main castle. It is for this reason why you can see some remains like the ones in Torre los Negros, Bañón or Mezquita de Loscos.
THE CID IN COMARCA DEL JILOCA
In El Poyo, judging by the Cantar of Mio Cid, he would establish a campsite, from which today barely still remains. It seems that it was in the San Esteban´s hill where Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar settled on his way to Valencia. He organized a fortified campsite using the ancient remains.
In the north of the region, more exactly in Monforte de Moyuela, is located the Montefuerte´s Castle, an strategic place that dominates the deserted plateau. It hardly remains two circular shaped towers and remains of its wall.
To the East, in the upper part of Torre los Negros, there is an hexagonal base tower with some remains of a walled enclosure.
THE WARS AGAINST CASTILLA
The best known battle across these lands was the Cutanda Battle, when the king Alfonso the First won the victory against the Almoravids.
Since this battle, other conquest took place by the Christians in the area of the South Ebro, and after those conquests, a kingdom with similar borders to the present was shaped. During the wars against Castile, the defensive system of the Community was organized around the city of Daroca, forming several defensive lines.
1.- Around the border with Castilla. Castejón, Tornos, Bello, Torralba de los Sisones, Odón, Blancas, Pozuel, Ojos Negros y Peracense. Due to the location of these villages, the closest to Castile, this was the area most seriously damaged, passing their castles into Castilian hands on several occasions.
The church tower of Castejón was probably part of a fortified church.
The castle of Tornos was always deeply appreciated because of its border situation, as it is located on the top of a hill dominating the plains of Gallocanta.
The actual “house of the primicias” in Bello is part of the remains from the tower of the castle. We can still observe a section of the wall with embrasures from which emerge a great rectangular tower.
The castle of Torralba de los Sisones played an important role during the Castilian-Aragonese wars. On the top of the hill we can still see the ruins of the castle. It remains part of its wall where still preserve the embrasures and two towers.
Due the short distance with the Castile border, Blancas became victim of the invaders. Today, it just preserves a squared tower in which you can appreciate embrasures belonging to the church.
In Pozuel, we just can appreciate some stone walls surrounding the plateau, on which the village is build, and also a battlemented tower.
Ojos Negros was scenery of Castilian wars, and therefore it had to be fortified. The castle is located on a hill of a great area, from which today is preserved the homage tower, part of the wall and the cistern.
To conclude this part, we must not forget the best preserved one: the Peracense Castle. Built on a reddish rodeno stone, the castle camouflages itself perfectly in the environment and is located over a gorge that makes its position the best strategy. It is composed by two walled enclosures and a false homage tower.
This is the second defensive line organized in order to avoid the Castilian invasion.
The castle of Báguena, which seemed to have a Templar origin, is located on a hillock and remain two towers.
There are little remains of the ancient medieval enclosure in the fortification of Calamocha, which includes the church and the walled enclosure. The lower-body of the tower is likely to belong to a military tower.
From the enclosure of Fuentes Claras, still preserved about 30 metres of good quality stone with visible embrasures.
The disappeared castle of Monreal must be the most important of the era. It was destroyed during the first Carlist War. Nowadays, it just can be observed the perimeter of the enclosure.
The facade and the tower of the Villafranca del Campo´s church, robust and in a quadrangular shape with embrasures, suggests that it was built in a defensive purpose.
The Bueña´s castle was witness of a tragic murder. Today, still remain two robust walls built in unreinforced masonry with a turret in the upper part.
In Singra, just remains a tower, used as a bell tower of the church.
3.- Rearguard at the border with Castile.
This defensive line goes through the mountain ranges and takes the strategic places previously conquered from the Muslims, as the case of Cutanda and Monforte. At tactical places several towers were built in order to strengthen unprotected castles as in the case of Cucalón or Lagueruela.
4.- The eastern border.
After the Final Reconquest achieved by Ramón Berenguer IV, he established a border from Segura, continuing through Torrecilla and Torre los Negros. Joined later Barrachina and Godos.
In Torrecilla still preserved the ruins of its castle, whose interior part contains the remains of a squared turret.
The tower of the church in Barrachina could had been the tower of the castle to judge by its structure.
A cylindrical tower in Godos that served in the Pedros´s war.
THE CARLIST WARS AND THE REUSE OF THE CASTLES
The villages of the valley, traditionally Liberal, strengthened some castles in bad conditions.
The Peracense castle was occupied by the “isabelinas” troops during the war. Monreal also rebuilt its castle and enclosures in Caminreal or Calamocha were also strengthened.
Some others were also occupied like the ones in Cutanda, Bañón, Barrachina or Singra.
The latest fortifications in Comarca del Jiloca have been the Civil War Trenches.