White gypsum stone
Belmonte de Gracián, perched on white gypsum hills, bears profound traces of its Muslim past. The San Miguel church, a temple with a polygonal apse featuring exquisite Mudejar decoration, is located there.
It is worth looking up to admire how the brick patterns at the top form a grid of diamond shapes and crosses separated by angled brick friezes. On the south side stands the tower, also in Mudejar style, decorated with honey-colored ceramic disks and shafts. The views as one strolls past the farmyards and threshing floors surrounding this temple are lovely.
The town is sheltered by a hill that once was crowned by a Muslim castle. On its ruins stands the present-day church of Nuestra Señora del Castillo, a Baroque temple to which a bell tower in the Mudejar tradition was added, affording exceptional views over the banks of the Perejiles River.
The ancient Secaisa
Belmonte de Gracián, previously known as Secaisa, dates back to ancient times, the Muslims having built fortifications there, probably in the 10th century, before it fell into Christian hands in the early 12th century. The town was built under the refuge of a craggy hill, a bello monte or beautiful mountain, to which it owes its name, and it was the birthplace of one of the most illustrious writers of the Spanish Golden Age: Baltasar Gracián. This philosopher and writer was born here on January 8, 1601, and his surname was added to the town’s name in 1985, having been known as Belmonte de Calatayud prior to that time.
The town extends toward the bottom of the hill between the road and its two churches: the Virgen del Castillo church, the original parish church whose dome emerges above the surrounding rooftops, and the San Miguel church, which boasts an apse with extraordinary Mudejar decoration and a Mudejar tower featuring beautiful glass work. Uphill from this church and at the foot of the escarpment presiding over the other, there are abandoned dwellings, farmyards, threshing floors, storerooms and haylofts: a world of gypsum rock, a lost, dreamlike white and gray landscape where gypsum is all that is left. A city carved from this soft stone material.