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Loarre Castle

Date of Submission: 27/04/2007
Criteria: (iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 5135

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This castle, undoubtedly the best in all of Aragon, was built during the 11th century and later, at the end of the 12th century, a wall was built around it. The oldest part was built in the time of Sancho el Mayor (1020-30); Sancho Ramírez (1064-1094) established a community of the St. Augustinian order here.

Loarre Castle consists of a walled area with semi-circular and ultra semi-circular cubes, the Castle itself, plus an outside albarrana tower with a small dome. Within the Castle proper, the Church of San Pedro is well conserved with its magnificent external apses and its so-called "Queen's Chapel" which served as the Castle's old chapel. The King's Tower, the Queen's Tower and many other components are in different states of repair. The wooden flooring has been refurbished in the Queen's Tower which actually served as a guard's quarter. The structures added on at the entrance of the fortification were removed at the beginning of the 20th century to provide a better view of the building.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity is taken to mean that a work of art can be declared different from all others; in other words, it is what it is - a unique creation.

Loarre Castle can be considered a unique creation because it has changed very little from the original edifice and because of its ties with certain historical events and especially for being a superb example of a certain typology of defensive architecture and of a characteristic style. It was built by the Aragon King Sancho el Mayor in the 11th century using the Romanesque style in vogue at the time, to defend and control his territory. It managed to remain free from reforms and modifications earning the early praise of the most distinguished authors. This was the case of A. Kingsley Porter who, in his work entitled "Spanish Romanesque Sculpture" published in New York in 1928, called the Loarre Castle one of the best examples of Romanesque art in Spain from both a sculptural as well as architectural point of view. Its good state of conservation today bears witness to its authenticity and integrity.

Comparison with other similar properties

Montearagón Castle located in the Province of Huesca. This Castle was built by King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon in 1085 for defence against the siege by the moors of Huesca. Once the latter were conquered, it was presented to the St. Augustine Order which turned it into a very influential monastery which benefited from the protection of the royal family of Aragon. Alfonso I the Battler chose this Castle as his pantheon and we know that from the 15th to the 18th century it was used as a monastery. Following disentailment in 1835, it was abandoned and a fire ten years later left it in the state in which we find it today. Restoration work has been ongoing for over 25 years.

The building's floor plan is a large, irregular hexagon whose outside area is flanked by a number of towers plus an albarrana tower. Access was by means of a drawbridge located just past the aforementioned albarrana tower. To the left we find the ruins of the abbey-palace and to the right a stretch of wall extending to the church built by Pedro I in 1099 and restored in the 15th and 17th centuries. Below that is a Romanesque crypt featuring a semi-circular apse and half-barrel vault where the sarcophagus of Alfonso I the Battler was found. The homage tower is attached to the apse of the chapel and looms over the rest of the structure; some embrasures and windows remain intact. Three towers are found on the west side, one pentagonal and the other two rectangular, linked together by stretches of the surrounding wall. In the centre of the complex we find the opening to the water reservoir as well as the ruins of what were believed to be monks' quarters (cloister, library and refectory). Outside of the complex to the north we find the foundation of a square tower which may have been either a castle watchtower or another albarrana.

Given that in Spain no castle, per se, has been declared World Heritage, we must refer to the most singular one figuring on UNESCO's list in terms of its typology and period, i.e. the so-called Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd on the western coast of the north of Wales.