The Requesens castle is one of the best examples of neo medieval architecture that are preserved in Catalonia

The castle of Requesens (cat. El castell de Requesens) is located on a hill, which dominates all the southern valleys of the Puig Neulós mountain, about 7 km east of the neighborhood of Requesens. Its territory corresponds to the old town of Requesens in the municipality of La Jonquera (Alt Empordà).

To mention the memorial of grievances (or rancures meaning complaints in medieval catalan) addressed by Count Ponç d’Empúries to his cousin, Count Gausfred II of Rosselló and to the son of Gausfred, Guislabert (dated around 1040-1071), in which the first protested the surely recent construction of this castle (castrum de Recosin) held by the latter in allod that they had in the lands of the county of Empúries.

The construction of this first castle documented in Requesens is part of the dispute between the two counties, as of their separation at the end of the 10th century. The counts of Rosselló maintained their dominion inside the county of Empúries, until its disappearance. The lordship of Requesens (dominicaturam de Rechesen) was recognized in the contract between the respective counts from the year 1075 and the dominion of the castle (castrum Rechosindo) is cited again in the renewal of 1085 and in another contract of 1121. The Rossellian counts, or the person to whom they lend it in fief, had a castellan in the castle who during the first half of the 12th century was a member of the same counts family, an indicator of clear interest.

All these people owed loyalty to the count of Empúries and also to the viscount of Peralada, between whose territories the fortress was located. During the 12th century, the confrontation between them, because of the alliances between the Rocabertí, Viscounts of Peralada, and the counts of Rosselló, made the castle of Requesens a factor of living conflict. One of these confrontations, known precisely as the War of Requesens (1047-1072), began with the capture of the castle by Count Ponç II of Empúries. He watched with unease, how his dominions were becoming isolated and encircled by territories of a single man, the count of Barcelona, who also took power of the county of Rosselló in 1172. To pacify the area, the new lord of Rosselló, Count King Alfonso the Chaste renounced all the rights that he had to Requesens in favor of the count of Empúries, so he could obtain its full dominion.

From the castle that bore witness to those events, only very few remains are left , located in the area of the upper enclosure, which in the 13th century is known as a fortalesa major or de dalt (cat. principal or upper fortress) as a new outer enclosure was built.

At the end of the 12th century and during the 13th century, different individuals appeared with a surname Requesens, who were apparently castellans or lords of the castle by the Count of Empúries. Thus, Arnau de Requesens (who died after 1256) is documented in Girona in 1181 and Guillem de Requesens (who died after 1262) appears as a lord of the castle. It is supposed, although it was impossible to find prove, that from the lineage of these lords of the castle, who on the other hand were not documented again, comes the lineage of the Requesens.

It was a lineage of merchants and citizens, later nobles (counts of Palamós) documented in Tarragona from 1272. This lineage gave important figures to the history of Catalonia during the 15th and 16th centuries. The mentioned Guillem de Requesens acquired, by marriage, the tower or the force of Cabrera in the city of Girona, called castle of Cabrera and later Requesens, which was held in fief from the Montcada. The inheritance of Guillem passed to Botancs and later (at the beginning of the 14th century) to Castellnous, a Rossellonian nobility who at times also held the surname Requesens.

During the Crusade against the Crown of Aragon, the castle and his eminent lord, the Count of Empúries, stayed loyal to Peter the Great during the invasion, according to the records of Bernat Desclot in his Chronicle. In this war the castle was besieged by the French (summer 1285) but they did not manage to take it over. However in 1288 it was fleetingly occupied by a French army at the service of James II of Majorca, who invaded the Empordà.

Pere I d’Empúries (1325-1341) acquired from the Castellnou the lordship of the castle of Requesens, thus completing the county control. The command of the counts of Empúries remained until the reversion of the county to the crown in 1402, when the will of the last count, Pere II d’Empúries, was declared invalid, in favor of his wife Joana de Rocabertí and subsidiarily his brother-in-law, the viscount Jofre VI de Rocabertí.

With all this, this testament was successfully invoked by the viscount Dalmau VIII Rocabertí to obtain of the new kings Trastàmara some properties in the territory of the former county of Empúries, among which the castle of Requesens (1418), by donation of Alfonso the Magnanimous. The viscounts of Rocabertí (later counts of Peralada) maintained possession of the castle until the end of the 19th century.

Between 1893 and 1899, it was completely rebuilt by its owners, the last counts of Peralada resident in the territory, Tomàs de Rocabertí-Boixadors Dameto and Verí and his sister Joana-Adelaida. They intended on turning it into a summer residence, in accordance with the neo medieval criteria then in fashion, as they had also done in the castle of Peralada.

However, unlike other examples of nearby neo medieval reconstructions (Carcassonne), the chosen style does not dishonor the one of the Mediterranean areas. The works were led by the master of construction Alexandre Comalat, who reconstructed the still visible remains of the medieval building with the same layout and the same granite stone of the mountain with which it was built, so that it is currently difficult to distinguish the original part from the reconstruction.

Of the medieval building, it seems that there are little more than some bastion locks, the north square tower and a part of the door of the upper enclosure dating from the 12th-14th centuries. Exceptional photographs of before and during the reconstruction process are conserved, some of which were taken by the same Count Tomàs de Rocabertí, one of the first amateur photographers in the region.

In the midst of a natural setting of great beauty, the reconstructed fortress has an impressive and highly evocative aspect. The new factory has been described with some contemptuous purity of scenery, although through its location it does resemble the Wagnerian creations, which in Catalonia of the time were raging.

The current building has three fortified enclosures, with round and square towers, portals, battlements and machicolations of spectacular appearance. In the lower part of the site there is a large chapel dedicated to Mare de Deu de la Providencia (formerly to Sant Romà), in which advantage was taken of the Romanesque elements of other buildings in the area (the arches of the portalada de Santa Maria de Requesens> see below) and of French origin (the tympanum and the reliefs on the door), the stables and different iron bars that imitate the motifs of medieval grills of the cathedral of Barcelona.

There are also some service buildings, among which there are kitchens and what during the last postwar period served as a military hospital. The second enclosure, more limited, has an attractive fortified door. The noble or upper complex includes various rooms (with the pavement decorated with the Rocabertí heraldic rock, which is partly conserved), the great hall (currently closed) with a stone fireplace and large windows with shutters, that can be seen from far, very theatrical and characteristic, and a round watchtower (also inaccessible), which is the highest point of the monument. Both the large courtyard of the first enclosure and the surroundings of the castle were lined with autochthonous and foreign plant species designed to emphasize the complex, in which they acclimatised and naturalised.

The initiative of Tomàs de Rocabertí had a great impact throughout Catalonia and was celebrated by many visitors. But the counts could not enjoy their new residence. Tomàs died in January 1898 and Joana-Adelaida, who succeeded him, in 1899, in the same castle, just after the great opening day of Saint John’s Day (that did not escape the press of the time). Joana-Adelaida died suddenly in unclear circumstances and without direct heirs. After a noisy dispute, the titles of nobility, in accordance with the nobility rights, were inherited by their carnal nephews (the Sureda marquesses of Vivot, in 1912 succeeded by the Fortuny and in 1973 by Montaner), and the heritage by Ferran Truyols i Despuig, marquis of Torre, nephew of her husband, all of them were Majorcan.

In 1923 the castle with all its immense property (more than 2000 ha) were acquired by the brothers Pere and Joan Rosselló, Mallorcan industrialists who intensely exploited the forest of the area. A few years later (1927), they would return to sell it, now to Joaquín de Arteaga, Duke of the Infantado and businessman, who conserved it and lived there sporadically, but who let go all the inhabitants, farmers and other people related to the estate.

In 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, it was brutally looted by activists of the CNT-FAI. After the war, in 1942, the Duke sold all the property and the castle to the company Borés S.A., a firm interested only in the exploitation of the forest. The castle was occupied by a military detachment during all these years with the aim of controlling the activity of the Maquis (guerillas). The military modified some dependencies (they installed kitchens and a military hospital) and damaged the interiors and some battlements.

In 1955 it was sold to members Ramon Esteba Colomer (industrialist from Anglès) and Josep Pijoan, whose descendants still own it. Before buying Púbol Castle, Salvador Dalí unsuccessfully attempted to acquire it. Although the castle has not been inhabited again, its interior, which is characteristic of a 19th century mansion, is completely dismantled and has recently suffered a vandalism that has forced the closure of access to a part of the upper enclosure for safety reasons, visits are allowed.

The Requesens castle is one of the best examples of neo medieval architecture that are preserved in Catalonia.

Unfortunately, neither the resources of their current owners nor the interest of the institutions are concerned by its importance.

The castle and its surroundings have been a source of inspiration in different fields, from literature to commerce, as well as photography, music and cinema.

In literature, apart from some minor works (such as L’anada a Requesens (cat. The trip to Requesens), by Bonaventura Bassegoda, 1882), Verdaguer did not forget it in ‘Canigó’ (1886) and the name (not real location) has been used in other works (Manuel Maristany, La infermera de Brunete, 2007).

The photographs taken by the Count Tomàs de Rocabertí in 1886 are among the first ones taken in the Alt Empordà, and with those kept by Comalat, they are the only witness to the state of the building before reconstruction.
In music, Francesc Basil won the Barcino prize with the sardana El castell de Requesens (1956). Regarding the world of cinema, part of the movie The Dragon Knight (Fernando Colomo, 1985) was filmed there.

On the other hand, there is oil and a cava named Castillo de Recasens.

Legend

On the occasion, when the castle was suffering a furious siege of its enemies, who hoped to force it to surrender through hunger, the defenders faced the adversity with a delicious feast of fresh fish caught in an underground river that runs under the Pyrenees and ends at the head de Creus, the enemies unaware of it were completely discouraged and raise the siege.

It is said that a large underground corridor communicates the castle with the north slope of the Alberta range, its entrance would still have been visible from the lower part of the fortress, although the duct would have been obstructed.

Legend has it that the castle of Requesens was inhabited by the wife and daughters of a giant, who was seven times taller than the tallest tower of the fortress and was the master and lord of the whole Pyrenees.

Protection

The castle of Requesens is affected by the Spanish provisions on the protection of the historical heritage of 1949 and 1988, and as all the castles of Catalonia, cataloged as a Cultural Asset of National Interest in accordance with the laws of the Catalan Cultural Heritage of 1993.

Coordinates: 42° 26′ 47″ N, 2° 56′ 41″ E

Bibliography

Joan Badia i Homs, L’arquitectura medieval a l’Empordà, 2a ed., 2 vols., Girona, Diputació Provincial de Girona, 1985, vol. II-A, pp. 210–211, i II-B, pp. 562–563.
Ferran del Campo i Jordà, El Castell de Requesens, Figueres, Brau, 1993.
Pere Català i Roca, Miquel Oliva i Prat i Miquel Brasó i Vaqués, “Castell de Requesens”, dins Els castells catalans, 7 vols., Barcelona, Rafael Dalmau, 1967-1979, vol. 2, pp. 421–434.
Pere Català i Roca, Legendes de castells catalans, Barcelona, Rafael Dalmau, 1983.
Catalunya Romànica, 27 vols., Barcelona, Enciclopèdia Catalana, 1984-1998, vol. 9, p. 505.
Antoni Egea i Codina, “El mestre d’obres Alexandre Comalat i la restauració del Castell de Requesens”, Annals de l’Institut d’Estudis Empordanesos, 18 (1985), 343-358.
Lluís Monreal i Martí de Riquer, Els castells medievals de Catalunya, 3 vols., Barcelona, Falcó, 1955-1965, vol. 1, pp. 161–167.
Pelai Negre i Pastell “El castillo de Requesens”, Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses, 9 (1954), 171-232.
Pelai Negre i Pastell “El linaje de los Requesens”, Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses, 10 (1955), 25-148.
Pelai Negre i Pastell, “El castillo y el linaje de Requesens”, Revista de Gerona, 33 (1965), 7-14, i 34 (1966), 7-17.
Inés Padrosa i Gorgot, “Don Tomàs de Rocabertí, el primer fotògraf amateur de la comarca”, Annals de l’Institut d’Estudis Empordanesos, 36 (2003), 243-264.
Lluís M. Vidal, “Excursió al castell de Requesens, Agullana, Besalú, Olot y Collsacabra”, Butlletí del Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, 9/54 (1899), 161-176, i 9/55 (1899), 177-201.
Més referències a la Bibliografia interdisciplinària de l’Alt Empordà, d’Inés Padrosa Gorgot


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