Requesens castle, an abandoned fortress that blends into the landscape

From the top of a hill located in the Serra de l’Albera, in Girona, an imposing fortress watches over the surroundings. The passage of time and the abandonment to which it has been subjected have caused weeds to grow in its facilities. This improvised greenery blends in perfectly with the valleys surrounding the castle, which in turn belongs to the municipality of La Junquera, bordering the French border. This fortress is called Requesens and was built at the end of the 10th century. Since then, the property has passed through many hands and more than one remodeling.

The history of Requesens: a constant change of owners


Path to the Requesens castle, which can be reached on foot from Cantallops, Requesens or from near Font del Ferro. | Shutterstock

At first, the castle was built as a consequence of the permanent disputes between the counties of Empúries (Ampurias in Spanish) and Roselló (Rossellón in Spanish). Gausfred II of Rosselló inaugurated the castle of Requesens on an internal property in the county of Peralada, which in turn belonged to his cousin, Count of Empúries. This fact obviously brought a series of conflicts that dragged on for centuries until in the 12th century King Alfonso II renounced the fortress in favor of the Counts of Empúries.

From this moment on, the property changed hands on numerous occasions and even suffered a couple of assaults at the hands of the French, one of which was both fruitful and fleeting. In the 15th century, Requesens became part of the Viscounts of Rocabertí, who would maintain its possession until the end of the 19th century. However, during most of these centuries the fortress remained abandoned. Specifically, from the 16th century onwards, when it lost its strategic value with the appearance of artillery.

A fortress between abandonment and remembrance

At the end of the 19th century, its then owner Tomás de Rocabertí, Count of Peralada, decided to convert the castle into a summer residence. At that time, little was left of the original fortress. The architect Alexandre Comalat did, however, a good job and managed to re-erect the castle. But Tomás de Rocabertí died before he could see his wish come true. His sister, Joana Adelaida, inherited the fortress and continued the work. On June 24, 1899, a feast put an end to the reconstruction of Requesens. However, she also died just five days after the event. From then on, the castle passed from one hand to another.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the castle was looted by members of the CNT. Later, once the war was over, a Francoist military detachment in charge of fighting the Maquis occupied the facilities. In those years, the military set up kitchens and a hospital. From 1955 to the present, the property has been in the hands of an industrial company. However, Requesens has been plundered and looted ever since, until 2014, when a series of activities were undertaken with the intention of restoring the castle’s dignity. Incidentally, Dalí also tried to get his hands on the building before acquiring the castle of Púbol.

What to see in Requesens

Castle of Requesens

Castle of Requesens. | Shutterstock

Today, the fortress presents a rather deteriorated state due to all that has been exposed. However, its facilities still evoke what the building could have been and continue to offer a spectacular stamp that has become part of the landscape itself.

Requesens consists of three fortified enclosures, dotted with towers, gates and battlements. In the lower part stands out the chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Providence. For its reconstruction some of the Romanesque elements of other buildings in the area were used. On the other hand, in some of the grilles of the enclosure, it is clear the inspiration in the cathedral of Barcelona. It is also in this area where the kitchens and the hospital built in the post-war period were set up.

The noble or upper enclosure is where some motifs of the medieval castle are still preserved. The access door of then has been converted into a window and also highlights the old tower known as the old tower, square. The highest point of the complex is a round watchtower. Also, the courtyard located in the first enclosure, the plant decorations and landscaped spaces are characteristic details of the 19th century, when Tomás de Rocabertí began the remodeling.

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