Views of the town of Caracena

©Fernando Caracena 2013

It was a hazy day when we went to the town of Caracena, a condition called calima, which comes out of the dust storms in Africa. The whole town is visible from the highway that ends at the town (Fig. 1), except that the church of Santa Maria is left out of Fig. 1 on the left. At the center of the figure is the church of San Pedro, which is a national monument, and at the top of the hill the ruins of the castle are visible.

Fig. 1. Approaching the Town of Caracena along the valley carved by the Caracena river. (C) Fernando Caracena


Fig. 2. A view of the town of Caracena from the hill leading up to the castle. Two churches bracket the town: San Pedro, a national monument, and Santa Maria del barrio de Gormaz. (C) Fernando Caracena

The area around Caracena is stark and denuded. I was told that ancient Spain was heavily forested; a squirrel could travel from one side of Iberia to the other without touching the ground. The forests perhaps fell victims to mining and ship building, victims of Spain's rise to glory after the reconquista (retaking of the land after the Muslim invasion). Sheep grazing insures that the forests do not come back, also the heavy demand for wood is the second blow.

Fig. 3. The barranca de Gargantes as seen from the road. Note that the church on top is that of San Pedro.

The Town of Caracena is built on a large slab of limestone that is cut on both sides by two deep gullies (Barranco de las Gargantas and Barranco de Pilones) that rendered the area a natural fortress. In medieval times the town and castle were surrounded by a large wall that further fortified the area. For many years after the reconquest of this area, fortifications such as Caracena served to secure the frontier between Christian Spain and Muslim Spain.

After the area around Caracena was retaken from the Muslims, the land vacated by the Arabs was resettled by people from the Basque country and France. During the period of consolidation of conquered territories, knights from other parts of Europe arrived in this area to help in the reconquest of Christian territory.

Fig. 4. This is the town rollo de justicia (or picote) where justice was dealt out by the lord of the town.

The town had dwindled almost to a ghost town in the 20th Century, but now is witnessing a rebirth as the inhabitants of Madrid seek out weekend getaways in their ancestral homelands. As the reader can see (Fig. 4) someone has renovated an ancient house on the plaza(square) of Caracena.

I did not see a single tree growing inside the town. The shady, narrow streets paved from wall to wall do not offer any opportunity for trees to get established. Only the most persistent weeds appear.

I did see flowers on potted plants hanging on some of the balconies. Perhaps some of the houses in the area have patios where private gardens flourish.


The trunk of a elm that died long ago at one end of the plaza mayor.

Fig.5. The trunk of a elm that died long ago at one end of the plaza mayor.

A narrow street leads up from the plaza to the historic church of San Pedro (Fig. 5). The dead trunk of an elm marks an end to the plaza where there was enough soil for the tree to survive.

There is something hauntingly familiar with the landscaped of Soria, which is perhaps the Spanish character itself.








Fig. 6. A friendly pup at the Church of San Pedro.

At the end of town is the historic church of San Pedro. When we arrived there, we were accosted by a friendly puppy that followed me around. From there, I climbed the hill up to the castle.

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