Today we will introduce you to one amazing medieval town, located in the northeastern part of Spain and included in the list of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
Morella (pronounced “Moreia” in Spanish) is a little town or rather village (judging by its size and population density) that few have heard of, much less experienced but very worthwhile visiting. Located up in the mountains (about 1 km above sea level) in the province of Castellón which is part of the autonomous community of Valencia. Catalan is the official language.
The town’s history
The first settlements in this area date back to the Eneolithic or Copper Age (from 2500 BC to 200 BC). In the nearby settlement of Morella-la-Vella (about 6 km from Morella itself), prehistoric rock art has been found, which clearly indicates the presence of prehistoric settlements in the area.
The entire town of Morella breathes history. You will not find annoying ads here, entry by cars is forbidden, the streets are paved with medieval stones, and the castle on the hill crowns the city. Along the perimeter, Morella is enclosed by 14th-century fortifications (2.5 km in length), guard towers with wide portals and the convent of St. Francis (Convento de San Francisco) with frescoes dating back to the 15th century are preserved. The city also houses one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals of the region – the church of Santa María la Mayor. On the town’s outskirts, you will find the powerful arcades of aqueducts built in the 13/14th century, which have been properly functioning well into the 20th century, supplying the town with water.
The Punic wars, the visigoths, the vandals, the moors – Morella has seen them all…Up until the 8th century the city was under the Roman Empire and formed part of the province of Tarragona until taken by the Berbers in 714 AD. The Berbers gave it a new name, Maurela. Then according to the legend, Morella has been conquered by Cid Campeador (a famous military leader and a Castilian nobleman) in the 11th century. Cid has rebuilt the castle and strengthened the defense of Morella. In the 12th century, the city was again occupied by the Moors, and only in 1232, Jaime I (James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon) has finally established the power of the Catholic kings in Morella.
You need to visit Morella just for its gastronomic delicacies: goat and sheep cheese, flaons (sweet pastries in the shape of a half-circle filled with cottage cheese) and sesina (is a type of Spanish jamon or ham but made from beef, similar to beef jerky). The region is also known for its black truffles, the locals call them black gold.
Once every 6 years, a grand festival called Sexenni is held in honor of Virgin of Vallivana to commemorate the recovery from the plague in 1672. The streets are lined with carpets and adorned with tapestries and flowers made of corrugated paper. The decorations are carefully prepared one year before the celebration by the residents. The festivities last as long as 9 days, where every day the guilds of craftsmen (weavers, farmers, gypsies, pilgrims, etc.) perform their special dance. These dances are a very colorful sight, accompanied by juggling and jumping in the air. The “giants” are also participating in the celebration – giant costumed figures made of papier-mâché on a wooden frame, into which a person climbs and shakes them, forcing them to “dance.”
Medieval Music Festival
For several years in a row, the Early Music Morella Association has been organizing an annual international festival of medieval and Renaissance music. Music school students, musicians and specialists in medieval music come here from all over Europe. The program includes daily concerts performed in ancient cathedrals and Gothic halls, conferences and workshops. The next festival will be held in July 2019 and dedicated to the family of Borch, one of the most influential noble families of the Renaissance epoch.
Come and visit Morella to immerse yourself into a medieval magical fairy tale!