Region of Comunidad de Calatayud
One of the largest and most densely populated regions of Aragón, Calatayud is located in the middle of the Sistema Ibérico mountain range. The region is crossed by the river Jalón which was historically the only thoroughfare between the central part of the Ebro valley and the plain. The river has also served as a unifying element in an area with little apparent geographical cohesion. A series of small valleys fed by smaller rivers create a stretch of fertile land around which the life of the region is based. The town of Calatayud is situated in the central valley where the rivers Jalón and Jiloca join together. The presence or lack of water, different soils and altitudes provide a wide variety of ecosystems. Both the landscape and the climate are harsh with extreme temperatures in winter and summer and scarce and irregular rainfall causing water levels in the rivers to rise and fall a great deal. The region occupies some 2518,1 Km2 and has a population of about 40.564. There are 67 municipalities: Abanto, Alarba, Alconchel de Ariza, Alhama de Aragón, Aniñón, Arándiga, Ariza, Ateca, Belmonte de Gracián, Berdejo, Bijuesca, Bordalba, Bubierca, Cabolafuente, Calatayud, Calmarza, Campillo de Aragón, Carenas, Castejón de Alarba, Castejón de las Armas, Cervera de la Cañada, Cetina, Cimballa, Clarés de Ribota, Codos, Contamina, Embid de Ariza, Frasno (El), Fuentes de Jiloca, Godojos, Ibdes, Jaraba, Malanquilla, Maluenda, Mara, Miedes de Aragón, Monreal de Ariza, Montón, Monterde, Morés, Morata de Jiloca, Moros, Munébrega, Nigüella, Nuévalos, Olvés, Orera, Paracuellos de Jiloca, Paracuellos de la Ribera, Pozuel de Ariza, Ruesca, Saviñán, Sediles, Sisamón, Terrer, Tobed, Torralba de Ribota, Torrehermosa, Torrelapaja, Torrijo de la Cañada, Valtorres, Velilla de Jiloca, Villafeliche, Villalba de Perejil, Villalengua, Villarroya de la Sierra, Vilueña (La).
The economy of the region is fundamentally based on agriculture with a fairly small proportion of irrigated land. Fruit is the main product and has acquired the “C” quality mark. Almonds, olives, cherries and grapes for wine are cultivated. The latter has generated a high quality wine;Denominación de Origen Calatayud. The presence of industry is growing, especially in Calatayud and Ateca. As for services, they now represent an important percentage of the economy and are based mainly around tourism, especially in the spas present in the area in Alhama de Aragón, Jaraba and Paracuellos de Jiloca. These spas go back to Roman times and, although in the Middle Ages they were famous for their medicinal properties, it wasn’t until the 19th century that they really became popular. After several decades of crisis the spas are now back at their former levels of popularity and have lost the elitism that characterised them in former years, being open to all kinds of visitors. The first settlements in the region go back to prehistoric times. The Celtiberians left important traces of their culture in towns such as Arcóbriga and Segeda.
The Roman town of Bilbilis was founded on the site of an old Celtiberian city in the second century b.c. about 6 km from Calatayud. The size of the city increased along with the Empire, reaching its height during the times of Caesar Augustas. One of its most renowned citizens was Marco Valerio Marcial, a writer specializing in Roman epigrams. He was not however the only great writer born in this area. Several centuries later the satirical Baroque poet, Baltasar Gracián, was born in Belmonte de Gracián.
Calatayud or Qal´at Ayyub, as the Arabs who founded the city in 716 called it, was built very near to the Roman city of Bilbilis. Traces of four centuries of Arab rule are still visible in the large villages built on hills with their alleyways and pasajes. The most obvious remains of Arabic culture are the defence walls surrounding the towns, under which Christian and Jewish quarters were sheltered.
Inspite of losing some of its most emblematic churches, Calatayud still has an extensive and interesting heritage in terms of religious architecture. One of the most notable examples of Aragonese Mudejar, mentioned by the UNESCO, is the Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor. Another great example of the Mudejar heritage is the parish church at Tobed.
Apart from the Collegiate church in Calatayud, there are numerous other examples of artistic merit such as the church of St. John San Juan el Real, a Jesuit church with a vault painted by Goya; the church of St. Peter San Pedro de los Francos with its leaning tower and Mudejar interior; the church of Our Lady of Sorrow (Señora de la Peña), a collegiate church until the middle of the 17th century with some Mudejar and other Baroque features and the churches of St. Ann and St. Andrew which have both served as synagogues and mosques over the course of history Noteworthy examples of civil architecture in Calatayud are: the 18th century Seminario de Nobles which now houses the law courts, the Jesuit school whereBaltasar Gracián was a pupil which is now headquarters of the Spanish Open University and the palace of the Baron of Warsage, a hero in the war of Independence.
And, of course, there is the legendary figure of Dolores who is brought to life in an Aragonese inn, the Dolores Tavern, housed in a Renaissance building. Inside there is a museum devoted to Dolores el museo de la Dolores where visitors can see exhibits connected to this mythical figure and her times.
Calatayud is undoubtedly the most interesting town to visit in this area but there are other places of interest such as the old gunpowder mills in Villafeliche, the walking routes connecting villages like Cimballa and Calmarza, and especially the Monasterio de Piedra in the municipality of Nuévalos, with its beautiful landscapes sculpted by the river Piedra, the monastery, the numerous bars and restaurants and the wine museum devoted to local wines. Related links: