PONDER PROVINCIAL PRIDE FROM MEDIEVAL TO MODERN IN MURLA



Castle fortress and architecture aficionados will truly enjoy a trip into the mountains of the Marina Alta for a closeup look at a proudly preserved parish church that speaks to a precarious medieval past. Documents state that this castle/fort became a Christian parish church in 1317.

Murla's architectural structures range from medieval to modern and its historical past has been plagued with cultural and structural grievances. This all combines to make Mural a very interesting place to visit.




* Report by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (SpainLifestyle.com)
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2018*

The castle fort church of San Miguel Arcángel is located in the middle of town. It has been preserved to maintain the original castle, which in its day was Arab built on Roman ruins and called the "Castle of the Pop Valley".

A solid facade of stone, brick and rammed earth is without much embellishment. It does sport a Christian cross and a large visual tribute to the medieval military archangel Saint Michael painted on glazed tiles and framed in stone

Above the door is a niche with a tiny statue of the same archangel, however in earlier times this would have been the "murder hole", which was an opening in the wall over an entrance used to drop projectiles or other things onto the besiegers.

The fortified metal door has been rebuilt, because it is not medieval bronze hence oxidized green, but tin and dull silver. It is surrounded with ashlar blocks of smooth square stone held together by an ancient technique of closely joining them together. A 21st c. wooden panel door has been inserted for easier access. 

I was not there when the church was open, so getting inside will have to wait for another time. 

The bastion west tower has been well preserved however you can see that the upper half has been rebuilt along with the merlons on the parapet, which have been reconstructed in the Mudejar style of stacked flat clay bricks.

There are very few arrow loop windows, one on each tower level. These are a great medieval reminder to the type of warfare that was waged in this historical area.


The south side of the fort church has the east tower with a deep base. Archive notes suggest that the castle fort had an external wall and the main structure was surrounded by a moat. The primary purpose of the moat wasn't to stop attackers but it was to stop tunnelers. Tunneling under a castle was an effective means of collapsing the walls or infiltrating it. A moat would cause any tunnel to collapse.


(photo: http://www.cult.gva.es/svi/Imagenes/03.30.091/001/F0004.JPG)

The west side was actually the main entrance in medieval times and still visible in the ancient fortification are the holes that held the receptacle for the drawbridge counterweight, which was attached to the bridge’s lifting chains, allowing the platform to be raised via a windlass type winch.





BRIEF HISTORY OF MURLA

The town of Murla has a big benchmark in the pages of Muslim and Christian history. For centuries, this area was the home to hundreds of Arab farmers who served under a famous warrior/vassal named Al Azraq. From his father, he inherited control of a vast spread of mountain territory, covering the Val de Gallinera and the Val de Pop as well as the valleys of Alcalá and Ebo.

Under this Arab vassal, Murla was a well-ordered and prosperous domain with a good irrigation system, progressive stock raising and land management.

Murla was also strategically vital in the collection of forts and castles within the taifa of Denia that controlled the key passages that connected the coast to the inland towns of Xátiva, Cocentaina and Alcoi.

However in 1244, with the signing of the "Jovada pact", Al-Azraq handed over Murla and the lands to the Aragon Prince Alfonso, among other possessions. 

In 1262, the municipality of Murla was created. Its first Christian lord was the son of Alfonso, Don Pedro, making Murla part of the Aragon Royal Patrimony.

Throughout the continued history of Murla, it was the subject of numerous owners. Subsequently it became part of the duchy of the Count of Gandia, the Count-Dukes of Benavente and the Dukes of Osuna. 

THE EXPULSION

Murla was a mixed population of old and Moorish Christians (Moriscos)  who up until 1601 were generating a decent living and income for their lords. 

From 1609 through 1614, the Spanish government systematically expelled Moriscos through a number of decrees affecting Spain's various kingdoms, meeting varying levels of success. Historians differ, but somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 Moriscos (4% of the total Spanish population) were exiled.

Defenders of the Moriscos were the Valencian and Aragonese nobility who benefited the most from the poor Moriscos and the cheap workforce that they provided.

With the removal of 33% of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Valencia, the Marina Alta lost virtually its entire population. The infrastructure decayed, and the Christian nobles and landlords fell into arrears. Strapped for cash, many of the Valencian nobles increased rents on their Christian tenants to get even close to their previous income. The increase in rents drove off any new tenants from coming to replace them, and as a result agricultural output in Valencia dropped tremendously.

In only three months, 116,000 Moriscos had been transported to North Africa from Valencia.

Expulsion of the Moriscos at the port of Dénia, by Vincente Mostre.

Murla and the surrounding area was repopulated with 150 Mallorcan families and invitations were sent out to Christian families from Altea, Barcelona, Benissa, Bocairent, Calpe, Finestrat, Murla, Mutxamel, Polop and Valencia in order to repopulate the Marina Alta region. 

THE TOWER TRAGEDY

9.30 in the morning, on the fateful day of May 1, 1990, would become yet another date forever marked in the history of Murla.

On that day, the 19th century bell tower of the parish fortified church of San Miguel Arcángel collapsed. The bell tower, octagon shaped, 30 meters high, had been built and mounted on the 13th century west bastion.

The bell tower and its foundation had been cracking for many years and in this advanced state of deterioration, it could not withstand the force of the horrific torrential rain the previous night.

The true horror of this story was that the entire bell tower crashed down on top of two adjoining homes. In one of them lived two single sisters, Rosa and Consolación Sala Giner, 81 and 84 years old, who died. In the other house, a woman save her own life by running to the street when she heard the noise and wanted to see what had happened. 

A nephew of the sisters, helped by other neighbors, tried to enter the house to save his aunts, but could not. Then to the gaze and astonishment of all the townspeople, these two houses crumpled and disappeared under the ruins of the bell tower.


IN THE END...

The town of Murla finally got a new bell tower built and finished in 2014. It is of modern design and stands 36 meters high. It is the tallest structure in Murla. It houses the four bells from the old bell tower, which were restored. However, the townspeople are not very thrilled with their new tower... and here is a newspaper article that I found that sums it all up.