The Pals Castle and its keep tower known as the Torre de les Hores

The Pals castle (cat. El castell de Pals) is a castle dating back to the 10th century in the old town of Pals, in the Baix Empordà. The keep tower of the old castle is known as the Torre de les Hores because of the bell tower built in the 15th century.

The castle is documented in the year 889 in a precept of the Carolingian king Odó, related to the monastery of Sant Pau de Fontclara, where it is mentioned under the name “castell de Mont Aspre”. The relation of this place with Pals is found in a document of the year 1065: “castrum de Monte Aspero quod alio nomine vocatur Pals” (lat. castrum de Monte Aspero that is called by another name Pals). In the year 994 the counts of Barcelona and Girona, Ramon Borrell and Ermessenda, donated it, with the church of Sant Pere, to the bishopric of Girona.

It is said that at the beginning of the 11th century, after the process of feudalisation, the allodial lords of this place were Quixol, heiress of the lordship and her husband Gausfred. One of their children, Bernat Gausfred, lord of Pals after 1041, sold the castle to the counts of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer I and Almodis in 1065. However, the descendants of Gausfred continued to have the castle as feudatories of the count. Oliver Bernat, the son of Bernat Gausfred, in his will left all the property that he owned in Barcelona, the monastery of Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the castle and town of Pals to his daughter Ermessenda. In 1190, by donation of Alfons el Cast, the castle passed to Ramon de Vilademuls with its privileges and customs and later to the viscount Ramon de Turena, through a life concession of King Peter the Catholic. In return, the viscount paid homage with a traditional oath and became a vassal of the king.

At the times of James the Conqueror, in 1230, the lordship of Pals passed to the lord of Torroella de Montgrí, Bernat de Santaeugènia. The daughter of Bernat, Sança de Santa Eugenia, married to the viscount Guerau VI de Cabrera, bought the castle of Pals from the sovereigns. It seems that as of that moment it followed the same changes of ownership as the barony of Torroella until in 1311, James II incorporated it into the crown. In 1321 Pals was bought by the bishop and the cathedral chapter of Girona, but King James II regained its ownership, which he then gave to his wife, Elisenda de Montcada, for a lifetime. One of the documents of the time sais that the rent from the Pals castle was worth about 5,000 sous.

In 1338, Peter the Ceremonious confirmed the incorporation of Pals to the crown with the possession of the mer i mixto imperi (two-degree jurisdiction). In the hearth tax of 1359, 43 households in the town of Pals were counted, 30 of which belonged to the king. In 1380 Peter the Ceremonious temporarily ceded the town and the castle to the Lord of Cruïlles, but seven years later it appears again as a royal possession. During the war against John II, in the 15th century, the castle was in a very bad state. For this reason, in 1478, King John II granted permission to reuse the stones to rebuild the curtain walls and the church of San Pedro, respecting the keep tower, which has survived till today and is known popularly as the Torre de les Hores.

The keep tower of the castle, dated to the 12th century, with a circular floor plan measuring 7m in diameter, rises on a podium of natural rock. It has about 15 m in height and almost 2m thick walls. Inside it is divided into two floors, the lower part is about 5.5 meters high and covered by a false dome with a central access opening, while the upper floor is 6.5 m high and also covered with a dome. It is one of the best-preserved towers in the Empordà region.

At about 7 m of the height of the tower, that is, on the upper floor, there is the entryway facing east. Finished with a semicircular voussoir arch formed by ten voussoirs. On each side of the threshold it conserves two holes for the beams of a wooden platform that allowed access to the door through a wooden staircase or a rope. The ashlars of the tower are slightly squared and of medium size. The small bell tower that crowns it was added in the 15th century and it is the one that gives it its name as a clock was placed there.

Although the castle was destroyed in the 15th century, in the lower part of the walls of some houses located at the south end of Carrer de la Torre, you can distinguish rows of ashlars from the old castle. Some elements of the castle were also identified in a house located to the west of the tower, the most outstanding of which is a chamber covered with a barrel vault.

Coordinates: 41°58′18″N 3°08′40″E

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