Olèrdola

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Introduction

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.

Presentació

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 romanised.

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 12th century began with the Christian border drifting southward, bringing peace to the Penedès region. However, Olèrdola was destroyed by an Almoravid raid in 1108, triggering its decline and the dispersal of its inhabitants across the Plain. The urban structure corresponding to the early medieval village (civitas, urbs or castrum depending on the text) faithfully reflects the social structure of the time. There exist two clearly distinguishable nuclei: the area inside the walls (infra muros) and the area outside the walls (extra muros). Within the fortified medieval enclosure, the area is divided into four zones. The upper zone corresponds to military purposes and houses the castle. Further down we reach the sacred zone, which houses both the church and necropolis. Occupying the middle part of the rocky platform, we find an area devoted to economic activity: among others, a wine press and cellar, the Roman cistern once again in use, the re-opened Roman quarry and a granary. The lower part of the hill was occupied by the houses of wealthy farmers and craftsmen’s workshops, among them a blacksmith’s, which opened onto the main road near the village entrance. The civitas extended outside the periphery wall. 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.

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.

In 1963, the Diputació de Barcelona (Barcelona Regional Council) bought the spread. In November 1971, following reformations to the church and the construction of a new building on the site of the old rectory-farm, the monumental complex of Olèrdola was opened to the public. In 1995, the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya absorbed the historical site of Olèrdola. Olèrdola was declared a Cultural Asset of National Interest in 1931 and a Cultural Asset of Interest (BIC).

The Monumental Complex of Olèrdola forms part of the Iberian Route.

 

MAC Olèrdola

Castle of Olèrdola
08734 Olèrdola (Alt Penedès)
Tel. +34 93 890 14 20 | +34 675 78 29 36

Information
Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya
Passeig de Santa Madrona, 39-41
08038 Barcelona
Tel. +34 93 423 21 49
Fax +34 93 424 56 30
difusiomac.cultura@gencat.cat

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