I am now, whether I like it, pretty much a full year behind with reporting again, and this is not going to get better quickly because the last part of April 2015 was pretty dense for me in terms of things to report here. As you will deduce from the title, this is because I was then back in Catalonia for a week or so, so stand by for photos!
On this trip I had the very welcome assistance and companionship of another academic who could drive, and this let us do some quite silly things. In particular, we split the trip between Vic and Barcelona, with Barcelona in the middle between two stays in Vic. We spent the first day in the country getting to Vic, finding food and wandering round by night with me introducing my companion to the city and standing on a Romanesque bridge watching bats, which was already pretty great. But the next day, we set out to try and introduce my companion to some of my places of importance, as well as adding another place I’d never been to, and the only way this all fitted into the schedule was to try and visit three Osonan castles in a single day. We managed this, somewhat to my surprise, and we started with this one, good old Gurb.
Now, long-term readers will remember that I have history with this place. I had already written about it before I was able to visit it, which was foolhardy but I got away with it I think.1 Then when I did first visit it, there was no clear way up that didn’t lead through private land, and so I couldn’t get closer than the same car-park where I took these photos. The church of Sant Andreu is itself worth a visit, but was not our great goal.2
A few months after I got back from the first trip, Ricardo Ballo helpfully put a description of the best route up on his excellent website (although it no longer seems to be there). I still, thankfully, have a print-out, but they got me up to the top for the first time when I went back some years later.
But every time I go it seems that the situation gets better: the official route up is now signposted and, moreover, leads through a quite charmingly surreal little sculpture park set up around the castle’s base by local artists.
That said, the actual route up, especially in wet weather, is still a little forbidding. Ricardo Ballo’s route was doable entirely on foot; I had to put my hand down once, as I recall. This way up was sometimes a matter of hauling oneself up muddy slopes using tree roots. It is a fairly easy climb, but it is definitely a climb, not a walk. And there were other dangers too…
It’s worth it, though.
There are by now several points I use Gurb to make on the rare occasions I get to talk about my core work to an audience. The first is: it is a long way up, and not easy to get either up to or down from, especially if you wanted to ride a horse as a knight might.
The second, however, is: you surely can see a lot from up here, including your local population foci but also things a lot further away.
Those are intervisible fortifications, my friends; I’m just saying. And the third point is simply: there isn’t a lot to go on now, but this castle, which was the centre of a seigneurial lordship in the tenth and eleventh centuries, could never have been very big, there just isn’t room.4 Having two people with cameras up there lets one make this point visually. The following two pictures were taken by us at exactly the same time, pointing at each other, standing as close to opposite edges of the castle floor as we dared.
It’s not a lot of room, really. However, a thing I had not realised, and probably never would have until someone with archæological digging experience started showing me how to look: there are also loads of potsherds up here.
In general, I get the idea that we were most definitely not the first visitors to sit and eat lunch in the foundations of the square tower of this castle. But it was really nice to be back and do that anyway (though I should assure you that we left no future archæology behind us). Hopefully you don’t mind the revisit!
1. J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 100-127; for more detail on the actual castle, see Jordi Vigué i Viñas, Albert Benet i Clarà & Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, “Castell de Gurb” in Vigué (ed.), Catalunya Romànica II: Osona I (Barcelona 1984), pp. 207-211.
2. On it see Adell, Dolors Arumí i Gómez, Antoni Pladevall i Font, Benet, María Lluïsa Cases & A. Roig i Deulofeu, “Sant Andreu de Gurb” in Vigué, Catalunya Romànica II, pp. 211-216, and Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 122-125.
3. Ibid., pp. 75-86; for more architectonic details, see Vigué, Benet & Pladevall, “Castell de Malla” in Vigué, Catalunya Romànica II, pp. 292-294, and Vigué, Benet, Pladevall, A. López i Mullor, A. González i Moreno-Navarro, Adell, J. Bracons i Clapés & Eduard Carbonell i Esteller, “Sant Vicenç de Malla”, ibid. pp. 295-313.
4. On the lordship see Benet, La família Gurb-Queralt (956-1276): senyors de Sallent, Olò, Avinyó, Manlleu, Voltregà, Queralt i Santa Coloma de Queralt (Sallent 1993), and Jarrett as in n. 1 above, as well as more broadly S. Ponce i Vivet (ed.), Gurb: un poble arrelat a la terra (Barcelona 2002).