from 11:00 to 17:30
The best-preserved Medieval Castle
A thousand years of history
1096 Anno Domini, Loarre Castle
Several hours ago the gate was closed. Shortly after this, various tallow candles and torches silhouetted the village houses that lay scattered beyond the castle walls. It has been a quiet, warm day, which is a strange occurrence at this time of year, although it is true that the weather is changing, as are the times. Fortún López, the lieutenant of the stronghold, ponders over this as he walks the along the upper terraces. He observes the sleeping village below him, the orchards and ploughed fields, black as jet. Bolea and Ayerbe in the distance, quietly watching the Christian castle. Covered by the mist, La Hoya appears and fades before his eyes. And finally, on the horizon, Wasqa (Huesca), the city of ninety nine towers. King Pedro, the first of that name, and the counsel of his lords gather together noblemen and soldiers there. The battle for Wasqa is imminent and the anxiety in the air intensifies.
Letters and heralds have made public the news of Muslim incursions on Christian villages and towns in the mountains in an attempt to arrest the gathering of Aragonese soldiers. Troops left behind have been ordered to re-group at the fortress of Loarre, which has already joined forces with the men at arms and the clergy, as was the wish of Sancho Ramírez, the father of our king.
Fortún muttered a few words which faded into the distance and he wrapped himself in his dark cloak. There was just one more knight to arrive with his men...
Minutes passed and a small snake-like shape took form in the twinkling lights to the south of the village.
- The cry of Aragón! was heard in the distance. After a while, a chorus of voices replied in unison: - Glory!
The men at arms ran from the battlements shouting:
- The soldiers are coming! The soldiers have arrived!
- Aragón! resouned a second time and, once again, a chorus of cheers was heard, Glory!
Glimmers of light shone from the pristine helmets, and the lances danced among the houses of the village as they approached the dark castle walls. They were the last to arrive, marching in tight lines.
- Aragón! The cry resounded a third time, and for the third time the clamour increased: Glory!
- A long march in just a few days, Fortún mumbled, with his hands on the wall with a smile appearing on his lips. The guards hurried to light torches and, in an instant, the fortress stirred with the comings and goings of the soldiers and their servants.
The Leutenant picked up his sword and walked towards the gate in the wall, shouting:
- Open the gate! Wake up the cooks. Tonight will be a night for stories by the fireside!
- Welcome friend. How long has it been? Two years already? I know you are tired but, before supper, let me show you the most unique fortress in the kingdom. It is finished now. Lift your eyes and see how it sits on top of the rock that has given it dominion over the lands. My lodgings are there, in that tower, the tallest one which overtops the rest. But to reach our destination, we have to go around the monastic precinct which surrounds us. It was built by the father of our king, Sancho Ramírez, but I expect you remember that. Its just two years since he died by the walls of Wasqa. He built this monastery surrounding the primitive fortress that sits on the top of this rock. His grandfather, Sancho Garcés, the third of that name and king of Pamplona ordered it to be built.
Don't pull that face when faced by the main stairway, many merchants and nobles are open-mouthed in astonishment and are speechless when they see it. And then, silently and with sideways glances, they look at it with jealousy in their eyes. Now that the Nones are over, let's go into the Royal Chapel, the church of our king. I know that it doesn't do it justice because, with the light from the torches, you can only just make out the dimensions of the church and its cupula and you can't see their real splendour. Tomorrow at dawn I will show you the spires and tell you their story.
Not that way. Those are the monk's quarters, the dormitory, the refectory, the kitchens and stores. Let's take a short cut through this corridor and go up to the military quarters. And let's go in quietly, as I fear that the guard has gone to sleep... Oh, the fortress! Wake up soldier!... I know who will be cleaning the latrines tomorrow...
I am grateful for the silence. Today has been a training day and the training yard was as active as an ants nest. At the end is the small chapel where the soldiers can lighten the burden in their souls. And that building next to it is the hall. I am sorry that you have to see it this way. The north wall fell in two weeks ago, but the works are not advancing as quickly as I would like. Some of the stonemasons may also be sleepyheads...
Watch your head and we'll go through the towers. My, that food smells good! There's only a few stairs to go now, I promise. This is the southern tower of the three that we have. Some call it the Queen's Tower, possibly because of the beautiful windows that adorn it. Now that we've reached the terraces, I hope you're not afraid of heights. We'll go over this bridge and we've reached my lodgings. My tower was built using the same methods and style as the towers in France and the Taifa. Its not a bad defense point, even if the whole complex is conquered - even the nooks and crannies, passageway and doors. A new bridge needs to be constructed, as once we seek refuge in the tower, the bridge can be dropped into the void. What? Yes, of course, the escape tunnel is found at the lower level and it comes out in the nearby woods to the north.
But for now, let's stay here. The fire is crackling in the hearth and the food is ready...
Stroll around the castle, discover its hidden corners, enjoy the magnificent Romanesque-Jaqués art with its oriental nuances which fills its Church-defensive tower and spills out into its spires. Relish the uniformity of the Lombard walls, be thrilled by studying the tryptich windows emerging from its most exquisite tower, (on the same level, facing it from above the apse of the church of San Pedro), Discover the hidden inscription of the name Sancivs carved into a stone, or its ancient script, which is difficult to read and evokes endless uncertainties and moments of pleasure for sensitive souls.
Click on the points indicated and discover the majesty of Loarre Castle.