Belmonte de Gracián
Iglesia de Torralba de Ribota
Castillo-Palacio del Papa Luna (Illueca)
Puerta de Terrer (Calatayud)
Aranda, Jalón and Jiloca
The Jalon and its tributaries form the
arteries of a territory with a great variety of landscapes. Throughout
history, peoples have grouped together on its banks attracted by the
gift of water, taking full advantage of it with their market gardens
brimming with fruit and vegetables, as well as a wine of justified
renown. Acting as a gateway between the Ebro Valley and the Plateau
since the Olden Times, during the Early Middle Ages the area was
scattered with impregnable castles and fortified churches, reaffirming
the stance of Aragon in its disputes with Castile. The toponymy
discloses the Islamic past of some of its villages (Moros, Mores,
Morata), confirmed by a stack of Mudejar monuments of incomparable
The northwest of these lands is located in mid Iberian System, with steep mountain ranges and rocky land where several river courses tenaciously make their way. The abundance of stone on the banks of the Isuela permitted the construction of stone temples and defence bastions in Calcena and Trasobares, although Mudejar is not absent altogether, as certified by the bell towers of Tierga and Mesones de Isuela. The combination of styles can best be seen in the castle of Mesones. In one of the towers of its powerful walls, Lope Fernandez de Heredia, the archbishop of Zaragoza, ordered a chapel to be built in the 14th century, with a wooden ceiling of Sevillian influence, which he decorated with delicate Gothic paintings, one of the most seductive jewels of Aragonese Mudejar.
In the Aranda river basin, a production centre for the footwear industry, that alternation between stone, brick, wood and plaster is redoubled. Made of stone are the fortresses of Aranda del Moncayo, Jarque and Sestrica, as well as the Dominican convent of the Consolacion in Gotor. In Illueca, the four materials mentioned are harmoniously combined in the splendid castle-palace of the Martinez de Luna family, the birthplace of Pope Benedict XIII, whilst the vaults of the church of San Juan Bautista are lined with plasterwork of Mudejar tradition in the 17th century. And the same occurs in nearby Brea de Aragon, whose parish church of Santa Ana, made of stone, is lined on the interior with a decorative plaster blanket of similar characteristics.
The middle low-lying plains of the Jalon river are articulated by Calatayud. The ruins of its predecessor, the Roman Bilbilis, rise defiant a few kilometres away. After its definite decline, the current settlement took on great importance. The fortresses that dominate the town date back to Islamic times. But the Moslem presence did not conclude with the Christian conquest, remaining visible for centuries thanks to the Mudejar art. The pointed towers of San Andres and Santa Maria, a temple with a regal Renaissance porch are two of the many buildings of this style in the town that still survive, as well as parts of churches such as the collegiate church of Santo Sepulcro or Nuestra Señora de la Peña, reformed during Baroque times. The buildings of San Juan el Real, with paintings by Goya and of San Benito are also Baroque, contrasting with the Gothic shapes of San Pedro de los Francos or with the simplicity of the monumental gateways that lead to Zaragoza and Terrer.
To the north of Calatayud, on the way to Soria, the Manubles and the Ribota run parallel. Villages appear along the Manubles, such as Torrijo de la Cañada, with singular Gothic churches and stately homes, and Torrelapaja¸ with a gothic temple and a Renaissance palace of Castilian aromas, known as the hospital of San Millan. The course of the Ribota, on the other hand, is the kingdom of Mudejar, with such spectacular examples as the churches of Torralba de Ribota, Cervera de la Cañada or Aniñon, where the sun’s rays and the profusion of ornamental elements make both their interiors and exteriors look ethereal, converting them into mirrors of light and colour.
This explosion of luminosity has considerable parallelisms to the south of the Bilbilitan capital, on the banks of the Jiloca, the Perjiles and the Grio. Enclaves such as Maluenda, Velilla de Jiloca, Morata de Jiloca, Belmonte de Gracian, called thus in honour of Baltasar Gracian, who was born at that place, and Tobed are found there, all with renewed evidence of Mudejar originality. But, the area has many charms, the ruins of the Celtiberian Segeda, near Mara, for example, can also be visited, or the old ceramics and gunpowder factories of Villafeliche.
Not very far away, next to the Monasterio de Piedra, a majestic Cistercian monastery founded at the end of the 12th century, an exuberant nature reserve spreads out with pathways for visitors that make their way between waterfalls, grottos and ponds. And after the narrow passes of the Mesa river, the spas of Jaraba open their doors, as well as those of Alhama de Aragon and Paracuellos de Jiloca, in the region, too.
Returning to the valley of Jalon, crossed by a stretch of the El Cid Road in Aragon, the omnipresent Mudejar towers in Terrer and Ateca, which has one of the oldest, are of special interest, as are the remains of the Roman Arcobriga, in Monreal de Ariza, the grandiose late Gothic church of Santa Ana of Ariza and the fortresses of Godojos and Cetina, where Francisco de Quevedo was married and under whose attentive gaze a contredanse of ancestral origins, starred by the devil and death, is performed in mid May.
And further to the north, the Jalon bathes the fertile plains of Chodes, with a personal urban fabric around an eight-sided square, Morata de Jalon, which houses an archetypical Baroque palace, with a sculptural gallery and H-shaped ground plan that integrate a square, the church and some gardens, Ricla, famous for its willowy Mudejar tower, La Almunia de Doña Godina, whose most prized jewel is the Romanesque hermitage of Cabañas, with a sumptuous interior livened by colourist paintings, Calatorao¸ the capital of black limestone, and Epila, where the palace of the Count of Aranda and the neoclassical church of Santa Maria la Mayor are found, at the top of a scenographic staircase.
Office of tourism
• Oficina de Turismo de Alhama (solo verano)
Plaza Joaquín Costa 4, bajo • T. 976 840 136
Alhama de Aragón
• Oficina de Turismo de Ateca
Ayuntamiento de Ateca. Plaza de España 5, bajos • T. 976 842 705
• Departamento de Información de Calatayud
Pza Santa Teresa • T. 976 886 322
• Departamento de Información de Illueca
Pza. de Peñíscola, 15 • T. 976 548 090
• Oficina de Turismo de Jaraba
Plaza Afán de Rivera, 3 • T. 976 87 28 23
• Oficina de Turismo de Mesones de Isuela
Castillo de Mesones • T. 976 605 734
Mesones de Isuela