Castell Formós.

ANCIENT ARABIC ZUDA (CASTLE)

FROM  IXth TO XIVth CENTURY.

Castle and Surroundings Map. Click to enlarge.  Situation.

For arriving to the castle we can walk through Torrent (Torrent) street , that carries us to one of the entry Doors to the city, next to the castle, or by the so called "viacrucis", near Sant Miquel's (San Michael) bridge. Traveling by any vehicle you can arrive there through a diversion in Tremp Road, that will carry you to the Sant Crist's (Holy Christ) Sanctuary and to the Castell Formós. The castle is open all the festive and weekend days. For collective visits between week you must contact the Tourism Office on the Town Hall, Mercadal Square, 1 or through the telephone number (34)973-446-606.

The archeological excavation effected in the Castell Formós have demonstrated that, down to date  it is the earlier place where people settled in Balaguer. The hill was occupied continuously, over all because of its strategic situation.

The first written mention referred to the Castle is an Arabic document that informs us of a campaign against the Count of Barcelona and of the beginning of the construction of the Castle. It was in the years 897 / 898 when Lubb b. Muhammad defeated Guifrè el Pilós (Hairy Guifrè) and began to raise the fortification. Under Abd al-Raman III, the Balaguer Castle, was converted in an important border stronghold.

Across the XIth. century the Castle will be transformed from defensive stronghold into a noble residence. The name of Zuda, appellative that will take till now, indicates clearly this double function. The archeological remains also confirm this fact: the plaster-works kept today in the Museum of the Noguera are the maximum exponent of the andalusian palace that, about years 1.046/1.047, will raise Ysuf al-Muzaffar.

With the conquest of Balaguer (1.105) by the troops of Ermengol VI, the Castle enters the Christian phase, and becomes temporary residence of the successive Counts of Urgel until the year 1.314, moment in which Alfonso of Aragon converts Balaguer into the capital of the county and the castle into permanent headquarters. This will mean that the castle will be submitted to large constructive reforms of palatial character. This will be the origin of the name of "Castell Formós", Beautiful Castle.

Unfortunately a political matter, the Commitment of Caspe, was the responsible of the disappearance of the castle (1.413 siege) in hands of the troops of Fernando of Antequera, and also the disappearance of the County of Urgel with its last count, Jaime II, the Unhappy.

The enclosure of the castle has a more or less rectangular plant (140 m. x 70 m. approximately). This plant is adapted to the terrain, with strong pending sides toward the ravine and the river.

In the north facade there are five towers, remains of the fortification of the late IXth. century, built on a pit digged in the natural quaternary terrace. The opening of a door through the central tower corresponds to the XII - XIIIth. centuries.

In the East Facade there is part of the wall, thoroughly restored, from where we can see, ascending some staircases, a beautiful panoramic. From this point on, the perimeter was thoroughly reconstructed in the year 1967. To the end of this side we can see the remains of a tower built or reconstructed in the XIth. century.

In the southwest facade nearly all the wall is destroyed. In this zone, very probably, was the original entry to the castle.

In the west facade there is a square tower projecting from the wall linen.

In the interior we can find samples of the different archeological interventions as a pool from half of the XIth. century, that formed part of the palatial buildings in this sector. Beside of the pool, we can see remains of a great rectangular chamber, certainly an important room, judging by the recovered materials. We can also visit an underground chamber where were found interesting remains.

Currently they have been practiced restorations and improvements in the external part and in the accesses. Inside, in addition to the ruins we can see the drinking water deposits of the city, built in the year 1905.

We recommend you to visit the Comarcal Museum Comarcal of the Noguera, (near Mercadal Square, in the middle of the Jewish Neighborhood) where you will be able know much better the Islamic and Countal patrimony was found in Balaguer, emphasizing an important plaster-works collection and other remains of this taifal palace

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Church of "Sta. Maria" (St. Mary). Art at St. Mary's. Walls and Gates.
Ancient Neighborhood."Mercadal" (Market) Square. Jewish Neighborhood.
"Castell Formós" ( Beautiful Castle). Sanctuary of the "Sant Crist" (Holy Christ).
Convent of  "Sant Domènec" (St. Dominic). "Davant Balaguer" ( Modern Neighborhood).

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