In Marca Hispanica XXIX: three castles in one day, part two – Taradell

Returning to fortifications in higher places, you may remember that my reporting backlog was left hanging on the way down from the Castell de Gurb on the 20th April 2015, when I and my esteemed driver managed to visit three castles in one day. The second was the one I’d not seen before, Taradell, and this is the post about it.

View from the Serra de Taradell

Obviously it involved a fairly lengthy climb up a hill

Taradell is a place I meant to study in my thesis, or the book of it, and never did. There’s a castle documented there from 893, and quite a few charters relating to property in the area, but as far as my very scant soundings of those documents revealed, we are never shown who was in charge there; there’s no obvious vicar in the tenth-century documentation, yet the castle jurisdiction was obviously being managed as next-door jurisdictions lost places along their borders which became part of Taradell.1 I don’t imagine this as some kind of hostile takeover, just a matter of where people in those places were going to church or to meet other people for other reasons. It became Taradell for several communities that had once looked somewhere else, but I don’t know why. It may well be that I just didn’t go far enough, as a rapid search tells me that the vicarial family who took their name from the place (or according to some optimistic commentators, the other way round) are attested shortly before 1033, and I have tended to stop at 1000 in my research.2 In any case, for the tenth century what was going on here socially, or indeed architecturally, is not yet clear.

View along the Serra de Taradell

Approach along the ridge

Anyway, you can get a certain distance up the hill by car, and there’s actually a concreted route for farm vehicles from the castle down to Can Boix, the local mas after which the castle is also sometimes known. For the normal visitor, though, the approach is made along a very long ridge with some spectacular views. But after a while the endpoint emerges.

The Castell de Taradell seen from along the Serra

The Castell de Taradell seen from afar

I love recording these moments of first sighting, but it is nice to have a zoom again so that one can see what it is one’s seen.

The Castell de Taradell

The Castell at a more obvious magnification

As you can see there, the Castell as it was at its greatest occupied the full surface of its platform, but what actually is that platform? You have to duck under some hillside…

Path around the Turó del Castell de Taradell

The path around the side of the Turó, plus one smiling medievalist

to get there and find out and then suddenly it becomes dramatically clear.

The Turó del Castell de Taradell from immediately below

Oh. Goodness.

A bit of investigation reveals two levels of building here, one which I was willing foolhardily to call pre-Romanesque and then a fourteenth-century rebuild over the top. The earlier one is visibly built down into the Turó, filling in its gaps. I have now, I should say, actually dug up some references and so write with the very limited authority that one can acquire from reading about a mid-1980s dig done without radio-carbon dating.3 Very often, though, despite the many finds, their technique for dating things was the same as mine: looking at the walls…

Pre-Romanesque fabric of the Castell de Taradell, perhaps a dungeon, rebuilt above in later stonework

Mixed fabric in the building of the Castell

Anyway, this makes the two stages of building very evident but I’m not sure what it actually is down at the bottom. The excavators note it as one of two cisterns set into the gap in the platform, but they don’t seem actually to have been in to look and it has holes in.4 Can it be an actual dungeon? Unpleasant if so, and surprisingly early!

Torre del Castell de Gurb

The tower seen from beyond the end of the platform

The platform levels up sharply to meet ground level at the other end, meaning that you can actually enter the castle without the need of ladders or steps. I should admit, reluctantly, that even without the modern vehicle track you could probably get up here on horseback, too, though the remaining entrance-way certainly wouldn’t have let you get them in the building. But you could have stabled them in the overhang of the rock or in something wooden against the walls. Now, as I figured it the architectural narrative went something like this.

Internal view of the Torre del Castell de Gurb

Inside the tower

Whoever built here first basically built this round tower and a small supporting rectilinear structure behind it, leaving the main part of the platform clear, perhaps for a wooden watchman’s stance such as is imagined at l’Esquerda. The excavators confirm that without suggesting the stance, identify the rectilinear structure as the Capella de Santa Creu del Castell, and one of them dates the tower to the late tenth or early eleventh century; the other dates it to the same time as the chapel, in the later eleventh or twelfth.5

Surviving wall of the Capella de Santa Creu del Castell de Taradell

Surviving wall of the Capella

That makes it sound as if the tower might have been put up by the newly-apparent castellan family. In which case, what was here beforehand? The ‘cistern’ looks to me like the same sort of stone as the tower, and yet it’s hard to imagine anyone building something here that didn’t involve covering up the big gaps in the floor… But there was a ‘castle’ here to be documented in 893. I’m now imagining something basic and uninhabitable like the Castell de Tona, and any actual jurisdiction being done elsewhere.6

Window in the Capella de Santa Creu del Castell de Taradell

Window and variations of masonry in the chapel wall

Then someone came along, in I thought maybe the fourteenth century, and extended the walls, including what was left of the original, outwards to occupy the whole platform. The picture below makes it a bit clearer, but sorry about the angle. Anyway, to my considerable smugness that also turns out to have been correct, though apparently by then the eleventh-century structure was basically ruinous.

Internal view of arrangements in the Castell de Taradell

I’m here standing on the natural rock at the ridge end of the platform, looking down fourteenth-century internal walls towards the tower, in the upper right-hand corner, with the wall previously noted at far right

What confused me about all this is that obviously these big lumps of natural rock at the ridge end were inside this structure; they must have been because they’re still there. That dolmen-like thing I was standing on to take the photo above would have been in their living room, I thought. But it turns out that beyond the chapel and one, maybe two other buildings, one that whose internal walls we’re seeing here and another further down towards the tower end, the castle space was probably largely open to the air, so perhaps it has always been here to stand upon.7

Internal view of the Castell de Taradell with medievalist for scale

This shot makes it rather clearer; the rock my companion is standing on is the same one I took the earlier photograph from.

That also makes some of the internal arrangements clearer than they were while I was there; as long as I had the impression that it had all at some point been covered, I couldn’t but think of the below as a kind of enforced mezzanine. But the estate agent probably called it split-level…

View down the ridge from the Castell de Taradell

Looking the other way, with modern concrete topping-out on all surfaces, presumably to prevent erosion

And obviously, at some point—I guessed in one of the fifteenth-century civil wars here that also did for the village at l’Esquerda—it was all pretty much demolished. In fact, it turns out that the jurisdictional role of the place elapsed in the fifteenth century and it’s just been slowly falling down since then, the tower soon afterwards and the rest surviving to be used by shepherds until the seventeenth century.8 But much remains to be seen!

View across Osona from the Castell de Taradell

One of the views across Osona from the ridge end of the Castell

For example, to revisit a previous point, I’m pretty sure that the sticky-out lump at the left end of that massive ridge is the Turó de Tona. The archæologists confirm that you can see ten other castles from here on most days, including Gurb, right across Vic from here, and twelve on good ones.9 So there’s that. Also, as I mentioned before, once you’ve started to see it…

Ceramics among ground scatter at the Castell de Taradell

Can you see it?

… you can’t not see ceramic scatter at these sites. Taradell wasn’t quite as busy with it as Gurb, but there was still plenty, almost all down on the floor below the platform, probably because the mid-1980s dig cleared out about five hundred sherds from the actual castle.10 This is presumably from the days as a early modern shepherd’s den, which suggests similar possibilities for the Gurb stuff of the same sort of colour and fabric.

Ceramic remains from below the platform of the Castell de Taradell

It was mostly that same pale-orange stuff we found at Gurb, but there was lots of variation

But, of course, you must take nothing away of what you find! Tempting though it may seem, you are being watched

Lizard in the Castell de Taradell

It is said by some that we are all unknowingly ruled by lizard men. Here, however, actual lizards…

1. Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 90-91. Antoni Pladevall i Font, “El castillo de Taradell y su primitivo territorio” in Ausa Vol. 2 (Vic 1956), pp. 492-501, online here, says at p. 493 that there is a Vicar Sesmon mentioned for the place in 990 (in what is now Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. no. 1565), but Adam J. Kosto, Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: power, order and the written word, 1000-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 51 (Cambridge 2001), p. 238, links him instead to Oló in Manresa.

2. Things I should have looked at before writing this but couldn’t: Antoni Pladevall, El Castell de Taradell, conegut avui dia pel castell de Can Boix, Taradell 131-133 (Taradell 1959); Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, Pladevall, Albert Benet i Clarà, Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer & Antoni Caballé i Crivillers, “Castell de Taradell” in Jordi Vigué i Viñas (ed.), Catalunya Romànica III: Osona II. ed. Jordi Vigué i Viñas (Barcelona 1987), pp. 603-607.

3. Most importantly Antoni Caballé Crivillès & Imma Ollich Castanyer, “Memòria i estudi arqueológic del Castell de Taradell”, unpublished report online here, last modified 3rd March 2010 as of 4th April 2016, but I wouldn’t have looked for that without the prompt of Antoni Caballé i Crivillés, “L’excavació estratigràfica de la torre rodona del Castell de Taradell” in Manuel Riu (ed.), Castells, guaites i torres medievals de la Catalunya medieval, Acta Mediævalia Annex 3 (Barcelona 1986), pp. 25-39, or at least the parts of it visible on Google Books. And yes, Caballé’s name really is spelt differently in every one of these occurrences.

4. Caballé & Ollich, “Memòria”, p. 73, without discussion.

5. It seems to be Caballé who favours the early date, as it appears in his “Excavació estratigràfica” and in the section of Caballé & Ollich, “Memòria”, based on that (pp. 38-46) but is nuanced later in the conclusion (p. 85). The chapel is discussed ibid. pp. 42-53 with an early dating rejected at p. 52.

6. Ibid., p. 62, note one posthole in the open section of the castle near the chapel and wonder if it indicates a wooden structure that might have been the ninth- and tenth-century castle. Not even Tona’s standard, if so!

7. This is the essential message of ibid. pp. 53-62: there’s nothing else there but the building at the end whose internal walls I’ve photographed, presumably the domestic quarters. Pp. 62-71 discuss a paved area which was probably the castle courtyard but then seems to have been used as a floor for lean-to structures for the sixteenth-century shepherds.

8. Ibid. p. 8; pp. 42-43 note that since there was no modern pottery in the tower’s ruins, it must have been ruined by this point.

9. Ibid. p. 26: “Des del castell es divisa perfectament els castells de Tagamanent, Centelles, el Brull, Tona, Malla, Munter, Torroella, Sentfores, Gurb, Voltregà, i en dies molts clars Orís i Cabrera.”

10. Listed ibid. pp. 179-214, and illustrated pp. 162-178 indeed, though frustratingly you have to go to the individual sector write-ups to get any dates for the sherds there listed and drawn.

7 responses to “In Marca Hispanica XXIX: three castles in one day, part two – Taradell

  1. The available C9th evidence is scanty, but imo, relevant. If I had to choose a name for the man in charge of the 890s’ castle of Taradell it would be Gaudila

    • Not unreasonable, I suppose! But the same logic would place Agelà in charge of Gurb in the 940s because of Vilagelans, and there we have enough information to see the people who actually were in charge.

      I do suspect, however, that with the tenth-century material now fully available thanks to the Catalunya Carolíngia, it might be possible to identify plausible officers of the castle at the other end of the tenth century. If I only had time and reason, or something else I wanted to do less!

  2. Maybe, but note that Vilagelans has his own castle, and it’s quite afar from Gurb. What I had in mind was that what was then the Gaudila’s villa is now the city of Taradell…?

    • Tricky! In the 898 document you have both names together, ‘in terminio Taradelense, in ipso villare de Gaudila’, and the castle being referred to as Taradell in 893, even though the villare was still a reference point in 898…

  3. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXX: three castles in one day, part 3 – Tona | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  4. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXXI: contacts, changes of plan and a main-street hermitage | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  5. Pingback: In Marca Hispanica XXXII: my questions answered | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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