Iglesia de la Inmaculada. Cella
The primitive church of Cella was built by the Templars in the last third of the 12th century. Being in ruins at the beginning of the 16th century, Pope Julius II issued a bull dated 3rd August 1510, granting indulgences to those who helped to rebuild it.
The model adopted was that of a single, very wide nave with side chapels. A detailed description of this second church is preserved, referring to the year 1721.
The rest of this primitive phase may have been the sections with simple diagonal ribbing. During the 16th century, the ribbing was completed, but the church still underwent a profound transformation in the second half of the 18th century, when the chancel collapsed and was enlarged with a transept with a dome. Tower at the foot, Epistle side, of stonework, dated 1609.
The most important artistic remains from the Middle Ages in this town is the beautiful image of the Virgin of the Castle, which must have been venerated in the chapel of this fortress. It is a Gothic alabaster piece with the typical incurvation. It may date from 1332, when King Alfonso III granted privileges to the council of Cella to repair the castle, which was threatened with ruin due to damp. This piece has certain similarities with the Virgen del Molino, a stone statue from the neighbouring village of Santa Eulalia.
The church tower is the work of the master mason Juan de Larrenaga, a neighbour of Cella. The first masonry body was built in 1609. This is the date that appears engraved on a corner stone that also bears the coat of arms of Cella: the fountain on one of the corners and the castle on the other. It was agreed between the master and the council of Cella that the remaining parts of the tower would be made of brick. However, on 8th January 1612, Larrenaga agreed by notary deed to make everything that was going to be made of brick out of stone on two sides.
In 1616, Don Tomás Cortés, bishop of Teruel, ordered by decree during a pastoral visit that the staircase of the tower be built. In 1976 the tower vault was repaired and reinforced.
As in so many other places, in Cella, the cemetery was adjacent to the church and was located in the courtyard that today we call “Fonsal”. As it proved to be insufficient, in 1855 the Town Hall built another one on the San Sebastián hill, and later the current one.
The current altarpiece of the high altar
After the enlargement of the church at the beginning of the 20th century, an altarpiece of painted boards and cardboard, lacking in artistic merit, was placed on the high altar.
In 1950, the bishopric of Teruel removed the altarpiece from the chapel of Nustra Señora de La Langosta in the municipality of Alpeñés, which was in danger of sinking.
The altarpiece was requested from the bishopric and granted, saying “you will do a good job restoring it”. For these reasons, this grandiose altarpiece has been in the church since 1976.
The altarpiece was built by the sculptor Francisco Ascoz, from Barrachina. It was placed in the Langosta on 29 September 1685. It cost 530 Jaquesan pounds (9,984 reales).
The paintings were due to Vicente Guilló, from Vinaroz, in 1686. They were said to have disappeared in 1936 during the civil war.
The present paintings of the altarpiece were painted by Juan Antonio Pumareta, a native of Cella, and the central one (image of the crucified) is the work of Sister Mª Gema Pitarch, from the Monastery of the Poor Clares of Báguena (Teruel).
In the sacristy, there are some worthy canvases, one of which shows the martyrdom of Pedro Martínez, a venerable Jesuit, born in this village, and two others of San Clemente and San Sebastián in the church
The organ in the parish church
It was on 18th May 1718, when Pedro José Cabello, a resident of Cella on behalf of the organ builder Pedro Gil, presented a proposal to build the organ for the church of Cella in one year. There had been an earlier organ, which is attested to by the decree of the pastoral visit in which it is ordered to “play the organ on the usual days”.
The choir is carved, apparently by the same craftsman who carved the woodwork of the handrail of the house of Ferrari (Italian engineer who was responsible for the stone parapet that surrounds the Fountain and for the works to drain the Laguna del Cañizar in 1729).
The beauty of the old choral books, which reveal the art and patience of the amanuensis, stands out.
It has recently been meticulously restored and can now be seen in all its splendour.