It is a strategic location that was already inhabited long before the construction of the medieval town, as revealed in the excavations directed by the archaeologist Pedro Álvarez Clavijo. On the eastern side of the hill they have found evidence of a settlement dating back to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (500-1,000 BC), and have also confirmed the existence of a late Roman settlement on the top of hill dating back to the 4th or 5th century.
Today, the best-preserved medieval elements of the town are the great tower, water cistern and the southern stretch of the lower wall, although we can still clearly make out the entirety of the original perimeter, which extended for approximately 500 metres.
The oldest part is the great tower on top of the hill, which was carefully constructed from dressed stone towards the end of the 12th century by Ferrant Moro on the orders of King Sancho VI of Navarra.
During the 13th and 14th centuries the settlement was enlarged to form a complex that was criss-crossed by three tiered walls to form three separate areas: the bailey, the courtyard and the castle atop the hill. All of the structures were built while San Vicente was part of the Kingdom of Navarra and paid for by the Crown, as this location afforded control over the Ebro Bridge (built around 1280) and a point from which to defend the kingdom’s south-eastern border against incursions from Castile.
It was not until the midpoint of the 15th century that the fortifications lost their military function, when San Vicente was annexed by Castile in 1463. This led to the construction of the great church of Santa María and the conversion of the courtyard into houses, some of which remained inhabited until the late 19th century and have since been found to have contained small caves and cellars, undiscovered until now. During the 1800s the town also regained its defensive function during the Carlist Wars.
The recovery and restoration of the walled fortifications of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, which took place between 2008 and 2014, resulted in the local council being awarded the Silver Medal of the Association of the Friends of Spanish Castles. Today, you can enjoy a 90-minute guided tour of the area from Tuesday to Sunday, 12:30 to 6:30 p.m., for just one euro. For information and bookings call 609 274 488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.