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The entrance to Xert in the region of the Baix Maestrat, Castellon, Spain, is somewhat deceptive, as you firstly see the newer part of the town, which doesn’t give any hint of what lies ahead. Xert or Chert (in Spanish) has a generous collection of lovely, ancient stone buildings that let a story unfold of how life used to be in this Castellon inland town.
Although originally a walled town, there are very few remains to be seen today of the old wall. Back in the 1960s residents moved from the old town down to the flatter, bottom part of the village. This meant that the old quarter was neglected and uninhabited. However since the 1980s, there has been significant refurbishment to the historic quarter, mainly thanks to local people who have had ruined buildings restored. There are a number of interesting buildings that date between the 15th to 18th centuries to be seen.
Xert in Valenciano, or Chert in Spanish (Castellaño) has a tangible feeling of history and is embraced by nature, making it perfect for relaxing and rural tourism. That said it is very accessible, as it’s only 44 km (27 miles) from Castellon Airport and a relatively short drive down to the Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar). For example, a drive of between 25 to 30 minutes will take you down to the coast, to Vinaros, at a distance of 31 km (19 miles).
The landscape around Xert (Chert) is mountainous to the north of the municipality, with forested hills, whereas to the south the terrain is flatter, with an abundance of olive groves. If you take the N232-A, heading in a north westerly direction, you will end up in one of Spain’s officially most beautiful towns, Morella. The distance is 34 km (21 miles) but it takes around half an hour to drive, as there are some parts the road where you really need to take it easy. If you do spend time in this area, be sure not to miss Morella – as this would almost be a sin!
En route to Morella I stopped off at Chert, without any preconceived ideas or expectations – I think this is often the ideal way to see a place, when possible. I was cheerfully welcomed by an incredible flock of chirping birds, that were sitting happily on some branches of almond trees, near the town’s entrance. As I made my way from their joyful welcome, on a glorious January day, I entered the perfect surprise of the old quarter of Xert. Someone in one of the stone houses played a wind instrument beautifully, and from another building the aroma of delicious food wafted passed.
Park your car down in the newer part of the town, and wander by foot up into the old quarter. Make sure not to miss the symbolic stone Palace, the old square, the arch and the old Church. However there are a number of interesting buildings dotted here and there.
Remains that are evidence of an important Bronze Age town, the Mola Murada, were discovered. Surrounded by cliffs, this is a natural fortress where some of the remains of rooms and fortifications are still preserved.
Like many other towns in this area it was under Muslim rule, and was then re-captured by the Christians. In 1235 Xert was granted its town charter. Again following the same pattern of many towns and villages of this area, it also belonged to the Knights Templar and the Montesa Order.
Mola Murada is an important Bronze Age town, or more specifically an Iberian settlement. It is around 734 metres above sea level, and the settlement has a curved shaped wall, which is approximately 250 metres in length and between 2 to 3 metres in height.
It is evident that the settlement was constructed using dry stone walling techniques, using stones from nearby mountains. The living quarters were of elliptical and oval shapes. Human and animal remains have been found on the site, as have spearheads and axes.
This stone palace is not only a great symbol of the town, but also of importance in this region of Castellon. Originally built by the Feliu family in the 17th century, it passed to the Pestagua family in the second half of the 19th century. Reformation work was carried out on these impressive stone buildings from 2011, and today the Palace is a sober, yet striking piece of architecture and heritage of the town of Xert. Both buildings are of the Renaissance style, in ashlar stone.
The church was originally built in the late 13th century, and later rebuilt in the 17th century, and restoration work has been carried out since 1984.