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near Vilafranca del Penedès, Catalunya (España)
This hike explores the area around Vilafranca del Penedès; we head out of town along open country roads surrounded by vineyards and then climb the Olèrdola mountain. This low peak is a strategic site that humans have inhabited sporadically since the Bronze Age. It was settled successively by the Iberians, the Romans and then later, amidst territorial battles between Christians and Muslims, it played a vital role in controlling and defending the County of Barcelona’s southern March.
What remains is an impressive collection of ruins from its various inhabitants, including a large number of anthropomorphic tombs (or Olerdolana) carved into the rock. (Remember to bring a little extra cash for the entry fee of €3.50 for the park.) After taking the opportunity to visit this historic site, we return to Vilafranca del Penedès via a rocky footpath that descends to the hill's base and leads us through forest.
The history of the area details settlements belonging to several tribes during the Bronze Age (2000-1800 B.C.), the construction of a primitive wall during the Iron Age (8th-7th centuries B.C.) and the arrival of the Cosetanos (5th-4th century B.C.), an Iberian tribe that built a whole settlement, which was later replaced by a Roman military camp that controlled the Augusta road. During the Christian conquest (929), Count Sunyer built the first castle on the ruins of a Roman watchtower, as well as Sant Miquel church. The 10th century Muslim incursions significantly destroyed the area and the church had to be rebuilt during the following centuries, once it became the property of Mir Geribert, self-proclaimed prince of Olèrdola.
Tel. 93 890 14 20
La taquilla i l'entrada es tanquen 30 minuts abans del límit horari.
De dimarts a diumenge, inclosos els festius
16 de desembre a 28 de febrer: de 10.00 a 16 h.
1 de març a 31 de maig: de 10.00 a 17.30 h
1 de juny a 30 de setembre: de 10.00 a 20.00 h
1 d’octubre a 15 de desembre: de 10.00 a 17.30 h
Tancat els dilluns no festius , el 25 i 26 de desembre i l'1 i 6 de gener.
The Olèrdola mountain is a strategic enclave that humans have inhabited in a sporadic fashion, establishing settlements of varied intensity from the Bronze Age (around 4,000 years ago) through to the 20th century.
Little remains from the earliest settlers, testimony to the site’s numerous human occupations. Remains of a burial mound situated near the current entrance constitute the most noteworthy find from this period. The first walled settlement dates to the Early Iron Age (between the 8th and the start of the 6th century BC). The enclosing wall sealed off the mountain’s sole means of access and protected the spring. Between the 5th-4th and 1st centuries BC, Olèrdola was occupied by the Cessetans, one of the Iberian tribes that inhabited the Catalan coastline. Their fortified town, or oppidum, covered considerable ground (3.5 hectares), and its numerous inhabitants settled into the lower reaches of the rocky platform, adapting the pre-urban structures to the terrain’s orography and taking full advantage of the pre-existing wall. To the right of the walled area’s entranceway, one could find various craftsman workshops used between the 4th and the end of the 3rd century BC, among them a documented dyeworks and/or tannery, a unique example in the Iberian world.
The Romans chose this site at the beginning of the 1st century BC and established a military stronghold to control both the territory and, in particular, the road leading to the capital of Hispana Citerior, Tarraco, which cut across the Penedès Plain. Three major works survive from the period of Roman occupation: the perimeter wall, the cistern (360 m2 capacity) and the watchtower on the summit, as well as two quarries. The settlement was abandoned circa 25 BC, when the territory had become completely Romanized.
Sant Miquel’s Church remained active from the 12th century onward, despite the village’s rapid depopulation, and was the parish church until the Bishopric of Barcelona sold it in 1884, along with the surrounding land. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Sant Miquel’s rector lived on the settlement. From 1884 onward, the land was used for agricultural farming and was inhabited and tended to by farmers; the croplands are still visible today.
Almost 1,000 years later, during the Early Middle Ages, the fortified enclosure was once again inhabited, its new residents making use of the old Roman defences and strategic location. According to documents, Olèrdola was “founded” in the year 929 by Sunyer, the Count of Barcelona. The Count would build up the enclosure, constructing a perimeter wall, the Sant Miquel (within the walls) and Santa María (outside the walls) Churches and the castle. Throughout the 10th century AD, amidst territorial battles between Christians and Muslims, the Olèrdola castrum would play a vital role in controlling and defending the County of Barcelona’s southern March. Around 1050 AD, entrenched in a feudal rebellion against the Count’s power, the self-proclaimed Prince of Olèrdola, Mir Geribert, gained particular protagonism as the uprising’s principal leader.
The zone’s best-known locale is Pla dels Albats (Newborn Flats), where we find Santa Maria’s Church and Necropolis, home to anthropomorphic tombs.