The episcopal Castle d’Artés (cat. El castell bisbal d’Artés) in the municipality of Artés (Bages), Barcelona province, Catalonia, Spain, is a declared asset of national interest. It is built on top of a hill in the northern part of the village. At the summit of the hill, there is an old town that was protected by the castle, which now serves as a farmhouse. The Artés Castle used to belong to the county of Manresa, and the castle territory included the current municipality of Artés, as well as the territories of the parish of Santa Maria d’Horta (today part of the municipality of Avinyó). The place name is considered to be derived from the Latin “arx-arcis”, meaning strength.
The castle was documented in 1078.
The bishops of Vic held the dominion of the Art Valley and the castle since the 9th century. In the year 889, the French king Odo confirmed this dominion in a precept, most likely advised by Count Guifré. The castle had a territory that occupied the current municipal area of Artés and also the parish of Santa Maria d’Horta, the latter today forms part of Avinyó.
The bishops of Vic gave the castle in fealty to the noble families in order to organise a defense system, Until in 13th century they decided to create a barony together with the castle of Sallent and Castellnou de Bages, thus recovering the castlany. Until the 19th century it was under an episcopal domain, but from the 16th century it was occupied by a family of peasants and had lost its castle functions.
The bishops of Vic dominated the Art Valley and the castle from the 9th century to the confiscation of the 19th century. The castle terrains included the current municipality of Artés and the parish of Santa Maria d’Horta.
The bishops gave the castle in fief to the nobles to organize its defense and exploitation. Until in the 13th century, when they decided to create a larger barony together with the castle of Sallent and Castellnou de Bages, thus recovering the castlania. Probably at this time the enclosure was also strongly fortified, with the remodeling of the old walls and the construction of new ones.
The origins of the castle can be related to a Roman or visigothic castle, that must have still been partly standing at the place, when the territory was repopulated by Guifré. The Roman presence was confirmed with the discovery of the Romanesque tombstones, from the 2nd or 3rd century BC, embedded in the walls of a building next to the castle, and also by the necropolis and the church, recently discovered.
Count Guifré gave the eminent domain of the castle to the bishops of Vic, together with the whole valley of Artés, and its villages and villagers. He confirmed his donation in 889. Thus, the territory of the Artés Castle belonged to the bishops of Vic until the disappearance of the jurisdictional lordship in the confiscation of the 19th century.
In order to create defense of the castle, the bishop of Vic passed it in fealty to a nobleman, Ramon Guifré de Manresa, castellan of Manresa, at the end of the 11th century (1090 to 1099). The castellany remained in the hands of the direct branch of the Manresa family until in the year 1199 it passed to its lateral branch, to Guillem de Guàrdia, who left it to his nephew Berenguer de Guardiola.
In 1246, the bishopric of Vic acquired the castle of Sallent and castle of Castellnou de Bages. He was going to form a great barony, from which he wanted to remove feudal rights, as well as expand its allodial heritage. For example, it is documented that in 1253 the castellany was bought from Berenguer de Guardiola together with the rights owned by the heir of Guillem de Guàrdia. In 1264 the jurisdiction of the terrain was acquired and in two subsequent purchases of 1287 and 1309 the diocese acquired the property of Torres d’Artés.
Currently, the various parts that formed the old castle are embedded in the farmhouse, making it is difficult to identify this peasantry with the castle with towers, that it used to be. Several constructive periods can be observed within the building.
The parts from the early middle ages occupy the ground floor of the building, and the remaining parts, erected in the late middle ages, are located in the courtyard and on the first floor. The central and highest part of the complex is a room located on the east side, with a rectangular floor plan, 7.5 m long and 3.4 m wide, covered with a slightly pointed barrel vault. Later, four buildings were added to the first construction and together they formed a single and closed building. There are three access doors, two romanesque, crowned with semicircular arches, and third one from 18th century.
The constructive body is made of midsize ashlars layed out in horizontal rows, united by mortar of sand and lime. The hall displays clear signs of having previously been fully plastered. It seems very likely that this room had another room on top of it, and together they had a prismatic tower shape, probably around the 10th century. Of the four early medieval period constructions mentioned, two are located in the west, the third in the northwest and the fourth to the north. The first three are covered with a barrel vault and the fourth has two intermediate pointed arches with voussoirs.
On the first floor remain two well-built towers, erected in the 14th century, that surly occupy the same place where the Romanesque towers stood previously. The wall that encloses the courtyard of the farm to the south, with a door within it, belongs to the 14th century castle body. To specify some dates, we can mention the years 1195 to 1199, in which the palace and the smaller tower were built.
It is an episcopal palace castle located at one end of the old fortified town of Artés, which now forms a part of the masia known as “El Castellot”. It has Romanesque elements including two towers erected in 1195, Gothic extensions, remains of walls and an entry portal of the ancient fortified town of Artés.
Initially, the current Castellot farmhouse was an ancient early medieval period castle that was extended considerably in the 13th century. The initial military structure of this building is today completely obliterated by later constructions that have given it the appearance of a pretty irregular farmhouse. The upper part of “el Castellot” has a double façade with a perpendicular, sloping roof, it is partially plastered and built on a first floor that corresponds to the ancient fortress walls. To the west, the farmhouse has the same irregular character with a series of windows from the 20th century. Part of a hall is conserved on the ground floor of the building, from which the other rooms are distributed and it has 1,25 m thick walls. The naves are covered with slightly pointed barrel vaults. The oldest body is made of medium size and well cut stones arranged in horizontal rows joined with sand and lime mortar. The younger, gothic parts of the construction, follow the same model.
The old walls fortified the castle, the church and the town of Artés, that was raised on top of a hill which dominated the whole valley of the same name. The current work is quite a successful remodeling of the old wall conditioning the space for public square and taking advantage of the unevenness of the terrain.
Church of Santa Maria d’Artés
The church was located on the castle grounds and was documented for the first time in 972, as a parish. In the 13th century it was known as Santa Maria del Puig d’Artés. The primitive construction was probably from the 11th century, it was modified in the 12th century and again in the 15th and 17th centuries when the bell tower (1684) was constructed, which is square in shape, has two floors, the upper one has two openings per face, and is finished with a balustrade. The nave was 20 m long, 6 m wide and 9 m high. At the beginning of the 18th century, two side naves 15 m long and 5 m wide were added.
The only parts remaining from the first temple are the apse and a fragment of the nave’s wall, they are both romanesque elements dating from the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century.
The apse floor plan is a five-sided polygon. In the center there is a window with a double asymmetric notch, crowned on the inside with a semicircular arch made with two series of voussoirs. A fragment of frieze decorated with vegetal themes is seen on the window. On the inner side of the arch, a monolithic half arch is sculpted with plant motifs of palm trees and stems. In the lateral sections, the apse presents series of three blind arcades while in the center there are only two arcades. Over the intersection of the two central arcades, stands out a carved figure of a feline inscribed in a circle.
In the pavement of the church the foundations of an earlier temple and several tombs were found. Two may be of roman origins, from the Roman Empire or from the early christian era, the others are medieval.