The moment when you push open the creaking door of an abandoned Medieval church on a quiet mountain peak in the Pyrénées is not one you’ll quickly forget.
First the tentative push at the heavy wooden door, the surety that you can’t get in, and then the creaking movement inwards and the dank, cold air that rushes out of the darkness like a cloud of bats. As your eyes adjust, stairs leading downwards, a chapel, small pinpricks of light pushing through the thick stone walls. An undiscovered beauty. That rare, exhilarating sense of discovery.
The Spanish Pyrénées is full of beautiful Medieval castles, churches and houses, including a number of entire villages left to waste away quietly amongst the trees and cliffs, thanks to the construction of a dam some decades ago which left them cut off. The area surrounding Ainsa is the perfect destination for ‘ruin hunters’ like myself.
Sadly, access to the abandoned Medieval town of La Clamosa has recently been barred with large locked gates at every entry point. It can be viewed at various angles from the hills, though always at a distance. The smaller abandoned village of La Penilla is accessible, and worth a look. We found an entire herd of cattle living inside the most spectacular of the buildings (pictured below). It appears the tiny ruined village has been taken over by an enterprising farmer. The sign warning visitors not to enter the dangerous site has been covered in graffiti.
Other ruins at Samiter, Troncedo, Pano and Mondot are worth exploring. Though none are fully abandoned villages, each display some charming ruins. None, however, beat the sheer wonder of Muro de Roda, with its abandoned chapel, bell tower, spectacular 360 views of the Pyrénées, and graveyard, which due to centuries of erosion is literally scattered with sun bleached bones. Those with small vehicles, GPS and a keen eye for fading signs can find a narrow gravel road to the top, and for the adventurous among us, the ruins at Muro de Roda (sometimes called Mura de Roda) can be reached by hiking. The bell tower can also be scaled from the inside, albeit with a moderate level of risk.
As always, if you are going to investigate ruins, travel with a companion and proceed with caution.
I hope you enjoy our photos, below.
Above, the abandoned medieval church at Muro de Roda, and below, the remains of the bell tower.
Above, view from the bell tower at Muro de Roda. Below, the ruins at La Penilla, now inhabited by cows.
* Photographs copyright of Tara Moss & Berndt Sellheim, 2013.