As we were avoiding Sitges and the beach on Easter weekend we decided to explore the Olèrdola Castle Historical site which sits on the mountain opposite Finca Viladellops. In fact the tower which gives our house, Torre Casa, its name was built so that it could signal the castle during the period when the City of Olèrdola played a major role in the struggle between Christians and Muslims.
The history of this area goes back 4000 years, when neolithic man from the Bronze age first inhabited the mountain site, which is a natural fortress, basically impregnable and commanding the surrounding area. Relics remain of those early inhabitants, and there are still walls and excavations of their houses and community. The first walled town dates back to the Iron Age, 8th-7th Century BC, and in the 4th or 5th Century BC the site was inhabited by the Cessatani, the ancient Iberian people. When the Romans conquered Spain they occupied the site in 1st Century BC and improved the defensive wall which cut off the only access to the mountain top. The site allowed them to control the surrounding countryside and the important road to the coast and Tarragona. As the Olèrdola Iberians adopted the Roman customs the need for the fort reduced, and was eventually abandoned during a long period of peace.
For nearly a thousand years the site was rarely used, but was once again a key position during the period when Olèrdola was on the frontier of the fight to expel the Muslims from Spain during the 10th Century. As the frontier moved south in the 12th Century the site once again fell into disuse and the population moved down to the fertile plains. It is now a Registered Heritage Site.It is an amazing feeling to walk somewhere that people have walked for 4000 years. Imagine the stories that these stones could tell. What happened in these houses? In the town, in the church?
The site includes remains of the Pre-Romanesque church which was built between 917 and 937. Also the Romanesque Church, Sant Miquel, that was in use until 1885 after being destroyed and rebuilt many times.
Surrounding the church is the graveyard, with sites carved out of the solid rock. According to the guide brochure “Anthropomorphic tombs are a characteristic feature of the High Middle Ages. The tombs were carved out of the rock in the shape of a human body. They are also know as Olerdolan tombs as Olèrdola was one of the first places where they were documented. It was the parish cemetery until 1914.”
A sobering part of the site was the Pla dels Albats necropolis which was part of a settlement outside the walled enclosure. Again quoting the guide brochure “There are nearly a hundred anthropomorphic tombs distributed around the church of Santa Maria. Many of them were for new-born babies and children (albats), hence the name of the site. The church and its cemetery are located in the middle of what was a densely-populated extramural neighbourhood.”
Like I said before…the stories these stones could tell.
I’ll leave you with these final photos which are the view of our home from the site.