Following in the steps of El Cid Campeador (I): along the Ebro River and Castellón

By David Nogales Rincón, Professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid       

The route runs through those places linked to the history and literary memory of the Castilian Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar the "Cid Campeador", a knight at times pragmatic and opportunistic, at times moved by his love and loyalty to his master, King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile, called to forge in life, following his victories over Christians and Muslims, the myth of a faithful Christian vassal and knight who had never known defeat.

Wrapped in a legend that crystallizes around the year 1200 in The Poem of the Cid, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was born in Vivar, nine kilometers from the city of Burgos, around 1048-1050, barely fifteen years after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba, which had given rise to a mosaic of small Muslim political entities, known as the Taifa kingdoms, whose weakness had placed al-Andalus, for the first time in its history, at the mercy of the Christian kingdoms of the north. 

Rodrigo, a descendant of the Laínez family, of Leonese origin, and of the Álvarez family, members of the Castilian high nobility, would be what is known as an infanzón, that is, a member of the Castilian low nobility. His upbringing with Prince Sancho, the future Sancho II of Castile (1065-1072) and of Leon (1072), allowed him to form part of the royal court from an early age. When his lord, King Sancho, met his death in 1072 during the siege of the city of Zamora, Rodrigo did not hesitate to move on to serve the brother and former enemy of the late monarch: the overthrown King of Leon, Alfonso VI, who after his deposition in 1072 and having taken refuge in the court of the Taifa King of Toledo, returned not only to the throne of Leon, but also to that of Castile. By then, the young Rodrigo must have enjoyed great military prestige, as he was known as the Campeador, that is, the one who stands out on the battlefield. This prestige allowed Rodrigo not only to marry a relative of Alfonso VI, Jimena Díaz, but also to carry out judicial and diplomatic functions on behalf of the monarch.

The glory, however, would soon fade. In 1081, Rodrigo, in an act of recklessness, attacked, after a long persecution to the limits of the Taifa kingdom of Toledo, the Muslim troops that had attacked the Castilian fortress of Gormaz (Soria). This action, far from increasing Rodrigo's prestige in the eyes of the king, compromised the political interests of the monarch, who was an ally of the king of Toledo. The trust placed by Alfonso in El Cid vanished and Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar went into exile for the first time, where he would be at the service of the Muslim king of Zaragoza. There, during five long years, Rodrigo was able to consolidate his fame as a great knight, which favoured the Campeador finally ingratiating himself with Alfonso VI in 1086. Rodrigo returned to the kingdom that had seen him born, at a time of military difficulties for Castile after the defeat of the king at the battle of Sagrajas, near Badajoz, at the hands of the Almoravids, a Berber people from what is now Morocco, who had been called to the Peninsula by the kings of Taifas to resist the unstoppable advance of the Christians.

Fortunately, after the Cid had regained the monarch's lost confidence, in 1088, probably as a result of a misunderstanding, there was a new break with the monarch and the consequent exile, which was followed, after a brief reconciliation, by the third and final exile two years later. Rodrigo was left isolated, abandoned to his fate and to the onslaught of fortune. It was there, probably immersed in loneliness and its contradictions, that the Campeador accepted his destiny: to be the head of an autonomous and independent principality, becoming a lord of the frontier not much different from those kinglets who had divided up al-Andalus after the decomposition of the Caliphate. Rodrigo, after initially establishing a protectorate over Valencian lands, culminated his political project in June 1094, with the conquest of the Muslims of Valencia. From that moment on, he would present himself with the title of Prince Rodrigo the Campeador and would probably receive the treatment of sídi (my lord), which in time would give rise to the appellation of Cid.

The years following the conquest of Valencia must not have been easy for the Campeador, who was under constant military pressure from the Almoravids. This pressure, far from being a brake on his ambitions, gave El Cid the opportunity to prove his worth, with victories such as those of Cuarte (1094), near the city of Valencia, and Bairén (1097), near Gandía (Valencia). A few months after the last of his great deeds, the conquest of Murviedro, the current Sagunto (Valencia), a Cid who was close to fifty years old died on 10 July 1099 in Valencia. That day the legend began to take shape, which had already accompanied the Cid in life. The man died, the myth was born.

 

ROUTE I

The route runs through different places linked to the history and literary memory of El Cid Campeador. The route begins in Tortosa (Tarragona), the Islamic Turtusha, a city that in the late eleventh century would be under the control of Mundhir al-Hachib Imad al-Dawla, Lord of Lleida, Tortosa and Denia, who, in alliance with the Count of Barcelona, Berenguer Ramon II, and the Aragonese King, Sancho Ramirez, would become one of the main antagonists of the Cid, continuing through Alcañiz (Teruel), whose lands, today dominated by the castle-convent of the Order of Calatrava, would be sacked, during the first exile of the Campeador, as the Song of Mio Cid informs us, over three days, after which Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar returned to Tévar (identified with La Pobla d'Alcolea, in Castellón), crossing the Teruel region of Matarraña, where we can visit the late Gothic castle-palace of Valderrobres (Teruel). The route continues to Morella (Castellón), owned at the end of the eleventh century by the aforementioned al-Hachib, whose surroundings were covered by the Cid, at least four times between 1083 and 1091, first in the service of the Taifa King of Zaragoza and then as an independent leader, having come to occupy the Cid, on one of these occasions, the city, although without having been able to take the castle (1086), ending the route in Peñíscola (Castellón), presided over by the imposing castle of Pope Luna, representation of the Valencia conquered by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar in the film superproduction El Cid (1961), directed by the American Anthony Mann.

Where does the route take place?

  • Castillo de la Zuda. Parador de Tortosa
  • Castillo de Valderrobres
  • Castillo de los Calatravos. Parador de Alcañiz.
  • Castillo de Morella
  • Castillo de Peñíscola

This route links with

Following in the steps of El Cid Campeador (II): in Valencia and Alicante

By David Nogales Rincón, Professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid[...]

Know castles and palaces in this route

More than two thousand years of history make up the cultural and historical heritage of Tortosa, a city which has been declared an area of artistic and historical importance. Located on the Ebro River, near the mouth where the delta begins, Tortosa enjoys a Mediterranean climate and charm. The Parador is situated in the spectacular Zuda Castle, overlooking the city from high above, offering a combination of monumental beauty and the attractions of the various natural areas that surround it. At this inviting hotel, you can enjoy the seasonal swimming pool, a cozy dining room with Gothic windows, comfortable guest rooms and magnificent views of the banks of the Ebro along the river's final stretches.

In Tortosa, you will discover a city with a special charm. Beautiful Santa María Cathedral, the Jewish quarter, the open-air sculpture museum of sculptor Santiago de Santiago, and Mirabel Castle are just some of the lovely sights it has to offer. A wonderful way to explore Tortosa is by following a walking or bicycle route around the walls and fortifications, beginning at the Parador and visiting the fortified complex known as the Avanzadas de San Juan, Inmaculada Square, the wall-walk and Célio Tower.

Its streets, artistic and cultural heritage, the scenery offered by the Ebro Plain, and the people, cuisine and festivals make this city unique. If you come to Tortosa during the second half of July, you will experience the Renaissance Festival, when thousands of locals dress in period costume and there are daily performances in the streets, transporting Tortosa five hundred years back in time.

 

 

 

Valderrobres Castle is temporarily closed due to the emergency situation caused by Covid-19.

The Castle-Palace of Valderrobres is a Gothic work built between the 14th and 15th centuries by the archbishop of Zaragoza, feudal lord of the area, who used the castle as a temporary residence. It was built with the parish church during the same period and both buildings were united by a passage that allowed getting to the tribune built over a lateral chapel inside the church.

The set of buildings preside the town. We can get to the castle area through two different doors. The first one is located next to the church, and the other one is under the passage which communicates both buildings. Crossing those doors, we first arrive to the parade ground, which was originally surrounded by a wall.

The castle is an irregular polygonal ground plant building and It was built surrounding a rocky hill. The builders used the mountain rocks as a quarry and gained that way new space in each floor up to the last where still today you can see the top of the hill.

On the ground floor we can find the stables with the servant’s rooms. The main floor features the kitchen, the pantries, a necessary one, the great hall of the chimneys, the library and the private rooms of the archbishop. On the upper floors are the oil stores, galleries and granaries and finally the round passage flanked by battlements, merlons and towers.

Do you dream of turning back time and spending the night in a castle high above a lovely town filled with history and tradition? Make your dream come true at the Parador de Alcañiz. Unique landscapes, architectural heritage, tradition, adventure sports, hunting, cuisine, and more. It all starts here.

This castle/monastery dates from the 12th-13th centuries. The keep, belfry, sacristy and a section converted into an Aragonese palace have all been preserved. Contemplating its Gothic wall paintings, Plateresque sepulcher and baroque façade or strolling through the peaceful garden offer many pleasures for your senses.

The Teruel town of Alcañiz conceals secrets beyond your wildest imagination. You will be astonished by the beauty of its medieval underground passageways, the Fountain of 72 Spouts and the Gothic Lonja (market). It is also a place for fun. The MotorLand Aragón track offers a place for sports like autocross, karting and motocross, as well as competitions such as the MotoGP Grand Prix of Aragón.

Another appealing option? Grab your bicycle and head to the Val de Zafán greenway, less than an hour from town. You will find a secluded route that travels along old train tracks which have been adapted for cycling tourism and horseback riding, crossing the Matarraña, a river of spectacular ravines and magical waterfalls. If history is your thing, the province of Teruel offers more than 70 cave painting sites. You can also view examples of this form of artistic expression in Alcañiz. 

Don't leave without introducing your palate to the exquisite local cured ham, black truffles, olive oil from the Bajo Aragón region, saffron from Jiloca and traditional sweets. Close your eyes, breathe deep, relax and enjoy, because this is a one-of-a-kind experience.

The castle is on a mountain in the middle of a valley.

It controls the region of Els Ports, a large territory of more than 1000 km2 that was set in the Islamic era. This landscape is approximately what you can see from the highest point of the castle (Plaza de armas). It is in Islamic era (7-14-1231) when the castle takes over from Lesera, the Iberian Roman city in the current term of Forcall, as a center of the region. In this period (1084) is when The Cid arrives, who was at the service of the Muslim king of Zaragoza.

The importance of the castle during the Christian era is given by its location in the geographical center of the Crown of Aragon. Moreover, the castle was the only fortress under the control of Aragon Crown in many kilometers around, because all the near territory was under military control. Jaime I el Conquistador said that the castle was worth as much as a county and that it could only be in the hands of the King.

It has gone through a thousand vicissitudes and countless wars: Unión wars, (s.XV), Las Germanías (XVI), war of succession (XVIII), Francés war (XIX) and three Carlist wars, the first one was the most important war (1833-1840). In this period appears the General Cabrera who ruled the castle and Morella as a small state at the end of the war.After the three Carlist wars, the castle and Saint Francesc Convent were controlled by the Otumba infantry regiment with 300 soldiers until 1911 when they leave the square.

So, the castle history covers from the Neolithic Age where there were already settlements until well into the 20th century.The history of the castle is linked to the history of Spain.

It is National historic monument from 4th July 1931.

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The areas open to visitors, managed by the Castellón Provincial Council, comprise the castle itself and the Artillery Park, which surrounds the perimeter of the fortress overlooking the sea. The castle was erected by the Knights Templar between 1294 and 1307, when the Order was on the verge of extinction.
These walls also gave shelter to Benedict XIII "Pope Luna" who spent his final years in this fortress, between 1411 and 1423, transforming the castle into a pontifical palace and defending his legitimacy as Pope until his death. Both the Knights Templar and Pope Luna survived their own tragedy and have their place in history today.
The Artillery Park is a military area with batteries, tunnels and ramps that connect with the maritime zone. The gardens that surround them were created in the 20th century.

In the lower area, you can visit the fortifications built in the time of Philip II, in order to modernise the defences of the medieval castle and combat the attacks of pirates and the Turkish Navy.

The upper area of fortifications and gardens connects with the medieval castle and with the lighthouse enclosure.

The lighthouse building was built at the end of the 19th century and was converted into a visitor reception centre in 2017. From the square around the lighthouse you can see the 13th century tower of Pope Luna and, next to it, the bastion that protects the entrance built in the time of Charles I and the stairs of Pope Luna. These are located in the fortifications on the east side, 45 meters above sea level.

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