The Vicfred castle: protected monument of the Catalan Architectural Heritage

The Vicfred castle (cat. El castell de Vicfred) is located on the plateau that separates the river basins of the river Llobregós and the river Sió, Lleida province, CataloniaSpain. An excellent location to watch the enemy’s moves. Vicfred marked the boundary between the County of Urgell and Cardona. Today we see a stately home but originally it was a border castle. It is a protected monument of the Catalan Architectural Heritage of the municipality of Sant Guim de la Plana (Segarra).

The Castle of Vicfred was mentioned for the first time in 1079, under the name of Bechfred, in a testament, preserved in the bishopric of Solsona, granted by Ramon Mir (owner of the castle at the time, also known by the patronymist of Ramon Miró d’Acute) towards his wife Engelsia, before going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

In the year 1099 the name of Vicfred appears in the consecration of the church of Guissona. After belonging to the Mir family, and several other historical periods, the castle went to the Ribelles line of castilian governors. In 1179, Gombau de Ribelles appears as its owner, married to Marquesa de Cabrera, Lady de Montsonís. Gombau de Ribelles, in the testament to his daughter Sança de Llobera, changes the name of the castle and refers to it as the castrum of Becfreit. The castle remained in the hands of the Ribelles family and its descendants, who made different reforms, until the middle of the 14th century. It then went to the Cardona. In December 1375 King Peter IV of Aragon instituted the county of Cardona and the castle of Vicfred is mentioned in the royal diploma.

As the Cardona were lords of Torà, the Vicfred’s castle constituted a dignitary in the jurisdiction of Torà, in the vegueria of Cervera. In the census of 1381 it had 9 households. The Cardona, who were related to the Medinaceli, kept it until the extinction of the lordships in the nineteenth century. In 1998, the castle of Vicfred becomes a private property and is restored.

We read on a marble plate of the castle: ‘His Majesty Philip V put his royal plants in the castle in 1701. The pretender to the throne in Carles de Borbón was hosted in the castle, on June 12, 1837, the day of the Battle of Gra, accompanied by the bishop of León. His Majesty Amadeu I of Savoia, in his march into exile in 1873, spent the night here’.

There is a carpet embroidered by hand with the shield of Philip V and commemorating the stay of the King of Spain in Vicfred that hangs at the entrance.

The original Vicfred castle was much larger than what we can see today: many of the remains of the old building are found in the surrounding houses. First it was a watchtower and during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries it became a stately home. A largely modified tower is conserved, with a square floor, crowned with battlements. The remains from the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries are on the eastern facade and on the ground floor, where there is a room with beams and two large diaphragm arches.

On the other side of one of these arches there is a dungeon excavated under a rock and conceived as a true ergastulum, a hole without more ventilation than an entrance grid.

On the ground floor there is an entrance to a secret passage that still communicates the castle with the houses on the other side of the street.

Read more: Castles and fortresses of Spain and France with Mathew Kristes ...