With only 1,000 inhabitants, UNESCO has nominated this town to be a World Heritage Site.
By J.M. Towers
Albarracin is situated on a steep hill
Albarracín is a small Spanish town of just over 1,000 inhabitants, part of the Autonomous Community of Aragon. It is nestled on a steep hill called Montes Universales and is considered one of the unique and best preserved medieval towns in Europe.
Its beauty and authenticity surprise the traveler because its constructions hang over majestic mountains surrounded by the Guadalaviar River Canyon, protected by a belt of medieval walls that end in Andador Castle.
In 2015, in the prestigious Spanish Repsol Guide, Albarracín held the first place in the list of the most beautiful villages in Spain. The award was undoubtedly deserved for thetown's architectural heritage, characterized by an intense reddish-earthy color typical of the terroir. It reveals a purely medieval, variegated, and intense landscape, which invites you to wander through the winding cobbled streets that converge on the Plaza Mayor.
Street views of the charming city.
The town dates back to the Muslim Middle Ages, under the rule of the Moorish Al Banu-Razin family. In the 11th century, it became an Islamic Taifa, and then independent Christian dominion with the sovereignty of Azagra until 1300, when the city was officially incorporated in the Kingdom of Aragon.
The creation of a bishopric at this time is reflected in the rich heritage of Albarracín. Many of its famous monuments such as the Church of Santa Maria, the Cathedral, and the Episcopal Palace were built during this period, as well as some stately mansions. Some of them are particularly beautiful, including Monterde family house, the Julianeta house, the house on Azagra street, the Community Square, and the small and evocative Plaza Mayor.
Albarracín also shows a perfect harmony with its natural surroundings. It is considered a model of landscape integration because--from any viewpoint--you can be amazed by the rugged beauty of the environment, its broad rocky slopes dotted with small junipers adapted to survive in the cold, and snowy Aragon winters.
The city coexists in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings
The most significant traces of the town's conversion date back to the 16th and 18th centuries. It started with the construction of the cathedral and most of the churches, which were remodeled two centuries later thanks to the economic strength of the educated class, linked to the vibrant livestock business of these lands.
Albarracín stays relevant thanks to private and institutional commitments that allow it to maintain its history and charm. The Santa María de Albarracín Foundation—established over 15 years ago—is responsible for much of this miracle. The Foundation built a school workshop and restored the old episcopal palace to turned it into the Foundations's headquarters. This building also houses the Palace of Meetings and Conferences, as well as the diocesan museum.
And if all this were not enough, since 1961 Albarracín is a National Monument. It holds the 1996 Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts, and Unesco has plans to declare it a World Heritage Site.
Albarracín is a magical place where visitors can travel in time to learn about an old lifestyle that still permeates its monuments and the soul of the local population. ■
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