The castle of Balsareny (cat. El castell de Balsareny) is a fortress of a Catalan civil Gothic style, located on top of a hill, over the municipality of Balsareny, and dated to 951. It is declared cultural asset of national interest.
It has always been linked to the Balsareny lineage and it is in an excellent state of conservation. Raised on a hill at 420 m, on the right bank of the Llobregat river. It is well visible from the Eix del Llobregat (C-16 highway), from where the castle stands out with its outstanding battlements. The view over the river and the village of Balsareny is excellent. You can also see the towers of Castellnou and Castelladrall. The current well preserved structure has elements from the 14th and 15th centuries and it was reformed in the 19th century. Next to the castle you can visit the Romanesque chapel of the Mare de Déu del Castell, from the 12th century, with later modifications.
The Balsareny Castle is located on a hill at 420 m, above the right bank of the Llobregat. It is a 14th century Gothic building, a type of fortified palace, with a large pentagonal floor plan, and an inner courtyard crowned with battlements. Around the courtyard there are several functional areas: the cellar, the cistern, the stables, the dungeon etc. Uncovered stairs of a single section located in the north-western corner lead to the upper floor, where there are: the chambers, the halls and the kitchen. Above this floor there is the wall walkway protected by battlements with merlots. On the roof there is the system of water channeling made with stone pipes through which the water passed to the cistern located under the patio.
Several authors point to the presence of some Romanesque vestiges in the castle (like the lower part of the northern wall, arches of the first floor of the courtyard, or fragments of the walls), although it is difficult to specify the date of construction of these and they might have just as well been built during the Gothic era. During the Carlist War (1837) the castle was surrounded by an outer wall with round defense towers on the corners.
The central courtyard is of rectangular floor plan with arches on both sides, around, and at the back, all semicircular.
Those of the bottom floor are low-rise and perhaps from Romanesque period; those on the upper floor are slimmer, well built with smooth imposts at the base, from later period, perhaps from the 16th century. The noble floor is reached by an open staircase of a straight run, to the left of the entrance. On the other side there is a simple well, over the indispensable cistern.
This patio determines the four galleries from which the rooms of the house are distributed. On the ground floor they have pointed transversal arches, spaced at very little distance from each other, which must have supported beams ceilings, substituted later by tiled vaults. The ceilings of the main floor halls were enclosed (L. Monreal and M. de Riquer).
Church of Santa Maria
The church of Santa Maria is located at a short distance from the main body of the castle, to the south end of the hills summit. It is a single-nave building with a semicircular apse smooth on the east side. At the south wall there is the original door, currently in a pitiful state, with a semicircular arch highlighted by another degraded arch and finished by an archivolt. The current access door is located in the west corner. Above it there is a loophole window.
The west facade culminates with a bell-gable. At the center of the apse opens a loophole window with an outward splay decorated with a simple voussiered archivolt. On the north wall there is the sacristy and a square-shaped chapel covered by a dome. The church is covered with pointed barrel vault. The building is made of small and regular ashlars joined with lime. This church presents the characteristics of a small stately chapel dedicated to the lords of the castle. It is of a late romanesque style, from the mid-12th century. It was dedicated to the saints Iscle and Victoria. It has been restored in modern times by the Provincial Council of Barcelona.
The temple is a work from the 12th century, with reconstructions made to the façade in the 13th century. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it was enlarged with a sacristy and a Baroque chapel, covered with a dome. Which was undoubtedly intended to be turned into a family pantheon, since a tomb was placed there, inside which, according to a late inscription, there are the remains of a Martín “primus dominus castri baroniae de Balcereni” (Montreal-De Riquer).
The castle is mentioned in the year 951, in documents of the Carolingian period from the monastery of Sant Benet de Bages and from the diocese of Vic. In a document from 966 and another from 990 it is mentioned as Castrum Balciarenno. The reference document of 951 is a diploma by Lluís el Piadós. This documents issued at the request of Queen Gerberga and the count Odlaric, is the confirmation of the assets of the abbot Cesari from Santa Cecília de Montserrat, among which listed is the church of Santa Cecilia, belonging to the territory of Balsareny (Balceringia), which Longobard had given to Santa Cecilia de Montserrat. In the same year (951) there is a second document, in this case, a papal bull of Pope Agapit II to abbot Arnulf de Ripoll, confirming the properties of the monastery, including the place of Serra Sanç, “in pago Balzaraniensi”.
In these first two documents there is no explicit mention of the castle, but of a church and a place of the territory. But from the existence of a territory with churches and farmhouses the existence of a castle is deducted. For that reason the year 951 is considered the oldest known reference to the castle. Although the castle could obviously be older, however not by much, since it would be unusual that in the same year there are two documents (one of the king of France and another from the Pope of Rome) which speak of it while before there was none (that are known). The first document that refers expressly to the castle is from 966, and there are others from 967, 977, 987, 990 (a bull of Pope John XV) and parsim.
Owners and reforms
Following the rebellion of the Aisson in the years 826 and 827, the whole of Bages was depopulated, until Guifré el Pilós repopulated it in the years 877 to 883, building churches, monasteries and rebuiding castles near the Llobregat, from Balsareny to Manresa. In the 10th and 11th centuries, a family that had the last name of Balsareny settled there and helped with the reconquest of the land that was in the hands of the Saracens. The first person who appears in records with this name is a county vicar, Guifred de Balsareny, who in 1009 bought a houses in the village of Balsareny. His son Guillem replaced the famous Abbot Oliba as bishop of Vic, and his granddaughter Guisla married the Count of Barcelona Berenguer Ramon I. Who gave the castle in fief to Bernat and Miró Riculf, members of the Balsareny family, in 1063. However, the descendants do not seem to continue with the possession of the castle. Between 1143 and 1281 there is a family called Balsareny or Vilallonga in the castle.
In 1281, Ramon de Peguera bought the castle. In the 16th century by various marriage links it passed to the Oliver family, then the Corbera, the Martin and the Marquis of Alòs. The current owner family, the Marquis of Alòs, lived there until 1976.
In 1833 the castle suffered a fire (not fortuitous) as a result of which it was badly damaged. In 1888 the restoration of the castle began, under the patronage of J.J. of Alós and Martin. Already in the 1950s, Lluís de Alós promoted more reform works. The work of the local group “Amics dels castells” (cat. friends of castles), funded by Llorenç Planes in 1959, must be acknowledged.