Save Querroig: Catalonians On Both Sides Of Border Unite
IT'S not uncommon for the towns on the French Spanish border to get together—for parties, sometimes sports or cultural events, and for common causes. After all they are neighbours, they are all Catalonian, they are all European and they are also part of a rich history that dates back well before the Romans.
Portbou in Spain is just six kilometres from France and its nearest French neighbour, Cerbere. It’s also just 15 kilometres from Banyuls sur Mer, Cerbere’s nearest French neighbour. Among the more energetic of recent collaborations between the three coastal villages is the preservation of the ruins of Querroig, a medieval castle that dates back as far as the 10th century.
In written records, the castle of Querroig was first mentioned around 980 by Lothaire, the king of France between 954 to 987. Located about 10 kilometres to the west of Cerbere, the land on which Querroig lay straddles the border area of France and Spain and is owned by the Dona Victoria Francisca de Medina y Conradi, the Countess of Ampourias. She is also the daughter of the Duke of Medinacelli, the cousin of Spain’s king Juan Carlos. The countess has offered to donate the land on which Querroig lay to the association Save Querroig for one Euro. *
Among those involved in the project is Jacques Dalmau, a businessman in Cerbere who grew up in the area and admits he is passionate about the history and culture of the region. Dalmau recalls as a kid, he wandered all over the region, not worrying about whether he was in France or Spain. Says Dalmau, “I’m French and I’m happy to be French but my heritage is very much Catalonian”
What heritage are we talking about? The history of Catalonia, among other things, includes a Bill of Rights drawn up at least 100 years before the English Magna Carta. The region includes the northernmost part of Spain and what is often called “The Boot of France.”
This year in May the association planted a European flag at Querroig, a symbol of its desire to transcend borders to help preserve the region’s heritage. Dalmau is vice president of Save Querroig, which is now aimed at preserving the castle. “It’s true that there are castles all over France but Catalonia has a unique history," says Jacqueline Fabregas, a resident of Cerbere, and secretary of Save Querroig. She adds, "We don’t aim to restore the castle but rather to simply preserve what remains at this point in time as part of our heritage.” Adds Dalmau, “We have also been given to understand that some of the features of the castle, as an example, the gun ports and battlements that still remain, are unique to the area.”
Dalmau has other interests in the castle: Cerbere is now located directly on the Mediterranean just four miles from the Spanish border but the original village of Cerbere was likely contained within the walls of the castle.
The castle itself was destroyed toward the beginning of the 11the century and a tower Tour de Querroig was built. Such towers ring the coastal areas of Southern France. Explains Dalmau, “This was a time when there were constant threats of invasion from the Saracens. The towers were a sort of early warning system. If an invading Saracen craft was spotted, the towers sent up a flare and passed the message on to the other villages in the area."
SAVE QUERROIG DETAILS:
Attn: president Stephane Drouet
+33676624659 (from France, 0676624659)
CAPTIONS (FROM THE TOP AND L-R)
1) Save Querroig plants European flag at the site of Querroig Castle in May of 2012.
2) Right: Tower of Querroig at the site of Querroig
3) Leftt: Countess of Ampourias [Empuries]
4) Cerberean and secretary of Save Querroig Jackie Fabregas.
5) Left (bottom):- View of Spain from site of Querroig Castle.
5) Right (bottom):Battlement next to main entry of Castle, in shade.
Many thanks to Valerie Danglard, owner of Tahitian Products and enthusiastic hiker, researcher and translator for her considerable help in making this story possible. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.tahitianproducts.com