The Recovery of the Castillo de Almenar

This is a transcription of a conference given by Don Juan Jose Jimenez Moreno in a symposium organized by the Asociacion de Amigos del Castillo de Marcilla (Friends of the Marcilla Castle) the 17 March 2002 at Marcilla (Navarra). We present it here as a document of exceptional interest.

Location map of Almenar, a small town in the Soria province. It was an important defensive location innthe access to he Castllian planes.

Mapa.JPG (80108 bytes)

"...My family owns the “Castillo de Almenar”, a Medieval castle located in the Spanish province of Soria. My great grandparents, Celedonio Jiménez and Luisa Ledesma acquired the castle from the former owner, the Count of Gomara. They moved from their nearby hometown of Buberos, to live in the upper floor.

The lower floor was then leased to the local Guardia Civil, who used it as a garrison and also as a residence for their people and the families until 1940. My grandparents also lived there, and there was where my father, Jose Jimenez Borobia, was born.

The history of the Castillo de Almenar dates from the early Middle Ages, when the castle was an important strategic spot to secure the control of the area, but for us it has become a true challenge and a family project to which we have dedicated our summer holidays for the past thirty three years.

My great granparents and my grandparents only did basid maintainance works, but still a very courageous attitude taking into account the hard times of scarcity they had to go through. It was in 1969, when one of the corners of the inner precinct collapsed and tumbled down leaving the interior wide open, that my parents and my uncles had to act.

The collapse was the result of a general state of decay, with some areas truly ruined. The original fortress was disfigured after so many centuries of peaceful use, different buildings had been built inside the precincts, and the original spaces had been subdivided. Hundreds of pidgeons had been nesting in this ancient war machine; even though they were delicious when marinated by my grandma, the nests had greatly collaborated to the overall runoff of roofs and walls.

We works started with the closing of the great hole in the wall created by the collapse. It ws a rough work, but it was a first step to reverse the state of abadonement. After that we centered our efforts on the exterior precincts, restoring the fallen walls, rebuilding the top of the towers, and re-roofing them to avoid the decay. The next stage was to demolish the constructions that had been built on the central court, and to restore it to its original aspect.

The roofs were also restored with most of the original main beams, most of them in very good shape, although we had to replace the minor rolls and boards. The old ceramic roofing tiles were also reused for the most part.

All the interiors also had to be restored, eliminating “modern” partitions and low roofs. All he windows and doors also had to be replaced, and the plumbing and wiring was made totally anew, with present standard of comfort in bathrooms, and even wood heating in one room.

It has been a real tough job that has required much perseverance and dedication, and it has used our summer holidays and a lot of money. We have not travelled to Cancun, but we are very proud that we have been up to the task of restoring and preserving our family heritage.

There are a few clues that are worth mentionning. In the first place, all the members of the family have been personally involved in the works. We have acquired the necessary tools and machines, the cranes, the scaffoldings, the mixers…

But more important than the machines, we have found the right people, like Fructuoso Delgado, the mason who always considered himself as part of the project, and also warned in advance his other year-round employers that August was sacred, because he reserved this month to work with us at Almenara. From this kind of people we have learned to be masons, electricians, carpenters, painters, and whatever was necessary, even salvaging and recycling materials foung in dumpsites. We have always ready to work with austere bearing to manage our always scarce economic and personal resources.

There has been a bit of everything in such a long lasting project, and there even was a summer when we did notwork in the castle due to small family dissents. The town people were very skeptical about us in the beginning, and they considered us eccentric. We had to fight against the inveterate abit of using the castle’s moat as the public dumpsite. Later on the City decided to create a park in the land suroounding the castle –which belongs to us — including a motor road passing under the moat´s bridge… But everything has changed in the long term; our effort is very much appreciated and the local people are very proud of “their” castle, and we receive many disinterested collaborations, normally in old and useful material like stones, rooftiles, doors, etc.

The Central Government we depended on for the initial years gave us many promises of help, and they even announced the visit of an architect who never appeared. At least we had the help of a local architect from Soria who gave us technichal advise in exchange for just one rooftile, that he considered good enogh payment.

We are now under the Castilla-Leon local Government, and we have received an important grant to fix the roofings. At the present there still are some official help programs, but we do not apply for them anymore because it is too complicated, there is too much red tape involved, and becomes too slow. The timing and procedures, the works and the documentation to be presented are designed for the standard project, something that you do with construction companies and large budgets. The grants cover a certain percentage of the total expenses, but we cannot justify our costs or the material we salvage, so at the end the grants would no even cover the costs of the technical project that the Government requires..."

Two views of the Almenar castle dominating the town and the surrounding fields. The castle has two different ramparts and a round tower in every corner.

alm1.JPG (23598 bytes)

alm2.JPG (14597 bytes)

The roofs during and after the rehabilitation. It is noticeable the difference between the old and the new tiles, although even the new ones are still handmade (or better, legmade?) of the same clay.

An ample view allows the detection of unwanted visitors well ahead of time.

alm7.JPG (30698 bytes)

alm3.JPG (23717 bytes)

This picture of the beginningof the works gives a good idea of the scale of the works  "...a real tough job that has required much perseverance and dedication..." alm6.JPG (33087 bytes)

LHere are the mason that is mentioned in the communication, and Don Juan Jose's mother, also an active participant, all of them with their hands on the job.

alm5.JPG (21638 bytes)
A good photo of the interior central court as it looks after the rehabilitation, with the typical woodframe shown. Patio interior (26902 bytes)

We appreciate any comments. Also some edition would be helpful.