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Castillo de Villel

It is the oldest and certainly the most emblematic building in Villel, occupying a predominant place in the town’s coat of arms. It is located on top of a rock that is difficult to access, with a drop of some 65 metres from the level of the river. Its northern part is a precipice, and only the southern part, where the only entrance gate was, remains accessible.


It is a strategically located castle, from its position the narrow valley of the Turia can be perfectly watched as it passes through the town. The oldest part of the town is located around the crag and its castle, and the hamlet surrounds it as if it were a ring.

Due to its topography, its surface area is irregular and the ground plan resembles a quadrilateral. Before it was restored, the remains of the wall were visible, made of masonry and rubble as usual. Inside the enclosure, the remains of several outbuildings can be seen, which from the mid-14th century until the 19th century were the silos or granaries of the Hospitaller Order. It had a cistern for storing water in case of siege.

On its western side stands the proud keep, which has two vaulted floors with half-barrel vaults and a spiral staircase leading to the first floor, the Commander’s headquarters, and the first floor, which was accessed from the outside and where the guard was located.

The castle saw its heyday between the 9th and 16th centuries. With the end of the Reconquest and the unification of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, it slowly but inexorably lost its raison d’être, although it remained in good condition while it belonged to the Order of San Juan del Hospital. In 1840, when it ceased to have a specific owner, which is why the usual repairs ceased, this, together with the passage of time and the inclement weather, not to mention the damage caused by the Civil War, turned it into ruins.

The first references to the castle of Villel are from Muslim historians who, from the 11th century, mention that it belonged to the Banu Gazlum, vassals of the lords of the Sahla (Plain), the Berber Banu Razín.

Then came the Reconquest and the Cid who, in 1093, spent some time in the castle to heal from a wound inflicted by the Muslims when he fell into an ambush in the lands of Albarracín.

Villel was reconquered from the Muslims in 1179 by troops of Alfonso II, King of Aragon, whose captain Martín Pérez de Arándiga became Martín Pérez de Villel, as the new Lieutenant of the town and its surroundings, although the King reserved the castle, the oven and the mill for himself.

Later the military orders would come: Templars, Sanjuanistas,… who would give it its definitive form, this was a border area with Levante and Castile, it was not known where the danger could come from; but the castle was also a safe place of refuge for those fleeing and displaced from wars, such was the case of the War of the two Pedros in the 14th century, when the King of Aragon, the King of Aragon, took the castle as a place of refuge. The King of Aragon, faced with the imminent attacks of the Castilian, ordered Gonzalo Fernández de Heredia that the frontier people should be forced to gather in the following castles (…): citing Villel among them, already well reinforced with a new garrison.

The last cruel trace of the wars was the Civil War of 1936-1939, when a castle in ruins served as a Republican anti-aircraft observatory.

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