“The ancient one”
Located at the point where the Jalón River meets the Manubles River and the Mesa-Piedra River, the historically strategic placement of this site has led people to settle here since the Copper Age, and findings have been documented in numerous locations within the municipality.
The Islamic legacy of Ateca is revealed in its original Arabic place name, which means “the ancient one”, and it is also reflected in the beautifully built homes erected on an Islamic-style urban layout featuring steep hills, twisting and turning streets, dead ends and covered passageways, above which large homes with thick, high walls stand. The ensemble creates a dialogue with the landscape, which bears the marks of exploitation of the area’s water resources, and its irrigation canals, particularly the Canal del Val aqueduct, draw one’s attention.
But the town’s main feature is its towers. The Mudejar tower of the Santa Maria church, which, according to Professor Gonzalo M. Borrás Gualis, dates to the second half of the 13th century, is the oldest part of this ensemble, built prior to the Mudejar church as a free-standing structure located at its west end, off center from its axis. Both its structure and its decorative elements, somewhat archaic for their time, follow the Almohad Islamic tradition and were built by Moorish Aragonese master craftsmen, perhaps following the local tradition of the minarets of the region, but certainly constructed as a Christian bell tower. In 1560 the town council commissioned master craftsmen Domingo and Ameçot to build the tower that would house the new clock destined to regulate life in the city.
On the “Camino del Cid”, the Way of El Cid
Ateca is located at a strategic point where the Manubles and Jalón Rivers converge, dominated by a fortress of unknown origins mentioned in documents dating back to the 10th century. At that time, the castle belonged to the Banu Timlat family, although it was occupied by El Cid during his exile, as stated in El Cantar del Mío Cid (The Song of My Cid), and finally incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon by Alfonso I the Battler in 1120, following the battle of Cutanda.
These ruins of the ancient castle keep watch over the town of Ateca, which, besides the Santa Maria church and the clock tower, features a number of highly characteristic homes and other architectural monuments such as the Baroque church of San Francisco and the Renaissance style town hall. It also preserves three of the four gates to the medieval walled city: The Fraguas, Arial and San Miguel gates. The fourth gate, known as the gate of Almazán, has been lost.