Riba-roja d’Ebre, water in every sense
The raison d’être of Riba-roja d’Ebre is water, the Ebro, the Hiberus Flumen as the Romans called it, or the Ibruh to the Arabs. It is the biggest river in Spain by discharge volume and the only one that is accessible from and that flows into the Mediterranean.
The people that live in the town appreciate the surrounding water in every sense: as a precious commodity for agriculture and drinking, for recreation, for contemplation, for quietly listening to the sound it makes, for the smell of water and the gallery forest and for the impact that it has had on the economy since ancient times. Whatever your activity, we welcome you and invite you to open your mind to pure nature in liquid form!
THE REMOTE PAST...
With Neolithic sites, Iberian communities and Roman settlements, this area has been host to many different peoples, of which Saracens were the most important. Around 714, Musa bin Nusayr sailed up the Ebro to occupy Zaragoza, leaving a new culture and organization along its banks. This is the case of Riba-roja and the origin of its castle, the layout of its historic town centre, its farming techniques and the use of irrigation with wells (saniya in Arabic). It was a very prosperous time for all of the areas alongside the river and for Riba-roja, where the Muslim population remained a majority until the sixteenth century when they were forced to convert to Catholicism.
The reconquest of this land by Ramon Berenguer IV in the 12th century resulted in Riba-roja being governed by the Knights Templar. After the reprehensible papal bull of Clement V, the order was permanently disbanded and its abundant possessions were taken over by the Knights Hospitaller or the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem in the 14th century.
The Knights Hospitaller controlled Riba-roja until the 19th century, including the time during the Reapers’ War (1640 and 1646) when the castle was destroyed and then rebuilt. In the 16th and 17th centuries, all of the Muslim residents were converted to Catholicism, and records show the existence of a mosque and an Islamic cemetery.
In the 18th century the parish church of Sant Bartomeu was built in a late Baroque style with a dramatic facade and a square bell tower.
The selling off of religious land and assets by public auction in 1836 created a new scenario in the area of Ribera d’Ebre in general, despite the restrictions and manipulations which meant that the local farmers were not allowed to make bids. The century ended with the Carlist Wars and the occupation of Riba-roja. These conflicts resulted in the countryside being abandoned, the arrival of banditry, and widespread poverty .
The 20th century started with the construction of the current town hall and schools. The town was rocked again by the Civil War in 1936 when it was on the front line in the Battle of the Ebro and was occupied by Franco’s troops in 1938. The main reminder of that period is the trenches near the Berrús hermitage.
Economic activity in those days was limited to working in the fields and the coal mines until the construction of the hydroelectric plant and the Riba-roja reservoir. This had a revitalizing effect, resulting in the expansion of Riba-roja in every sense.
Today, Riba-roja is a town with a bright future, with pending public and private initiatives. It is a town that has confidence in the potential of its natural resources and tourism and that is supported by an environment that offers great possibilities and beauty in a natural setting.
SURROUNDED BY NATURE...
The municipality of Riba-roja covers 99.14 km2 with the Ebro as its backbone, land on the right bank, where the town is located, and cliffs on the left bank that end in the green waters of the river. The vegetation in this area consists of pine trees, white and red oak trees, and various shrubs such as juniper or savin, thyme, rosemary, gorse and broom. The gallery forest contains poplars, grey willows and many other shrubs that take advantage of the proximity to water.
The rich fauna in the area includes foxes, wild boars, common badgers, serval cats, squirrels, rabbits, hares, partridges, pigeons, starlings, owls, hawks, owls, hoopoe, herons, blackbirds and buzzards…
This wealth of flora and fauna means that trips to specific attractions such as the hermitages of Santa Madrona and Santa Maria Magdalena de Berrús are places where you can completely surround yourself with nature. It is especially worth noting the importance and diversity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of Riba-roja which occupies a large area on both banks of the river in the area of the reservoir.
THE KINGDOM OF WATER...
Riba-roja, forty metres above the Ebro, has its raison d’être in the river. The town faces the river and finds a source of life in its course, a life filled with all kinds of river activities and impressive structures.
One must visit the Cami de Sirga (towpath) that runs along the left bank in the Pla de la Barca almost all the way to the sea in order to understand the richness that the river has always offered riverside towns such as Riba-roja.
Today, the river is a peaceful recreation and leisure destination with fishing along its banks or on boats belonging to local companies. People used to fish tenches, catfish, eels, parachondrostoma miegi (a type of carp indigenous to this region) and barbels; to increase fishing following the construction of the Riba-roja reservoir, it was decided to introduce river perch, rainbow trout, carp and, to a great extent, river pike (used in local cuisine) as well as the controversial giant bullhead catfish, the largest freshwater fish in Europe.
The municipality’s main places of interest are located in the area surrounding the river: the boating club, GR 99, companies arranging sightseeing tours of the reservoir and recreational areas.
A FISHERMAN’S PARADISE...
Riba-roja is known for all kinds of river sports, especially for offering boat trips through experienced boat rental companies. The range of boats on offer consists mainly of open and closed-deck motor boats of different sizes with an emphasis on family holidays, although it is also possible to go canoeing and power boating. During a daytrip, visitors can see sites such as the place where the Matarranya River joins the Ebro on its right bank or the remains of the bell tower of the church of San Juan Evangelista in the ancient village of Faió, emerging from the Ebro River.
In Riba-roja fishermen will find one of the world’s best locations for sport fishing. It is possible to go fishing for giant bullhead catfish, carp, pike, perch and barbels at the affordable facilities located at the river ports at the end of the Sant Francisco ravine. The banks of the Ebro also offer clean areas to go fishing in a lovely setting.
The river has great fishing year round and anglers can take part in the various competitions that are held, especially in the summer and during the events related to the town’s annual festival in August. Several establishments located in both the reservoir area and the town welcome fishermen from around the world to share the day’s experiences.
THE CHARM OF A VILLAGE...
The town’s name refers to the colour of the soil. Its elevation of forty metres above the river made it a perfect vantage point upon which to build a defensive castle, first belonging to the Knights Templar and then the Knights Hospitaller, probably on top of an ancient watchtower. It had a width of seventy metres with a hospital and a prison located within its walls, which protected the current historic town centre with gateways such as those in Plaça del Portal (Gateway Square) and in Palla Street.The paintings to the sides of the main altar and the one next to the altar of Sant Enric d’Ossó may date to the 18th century.
Around the castle the old streets run parallel and perpendicular to the river, leading to the parish church of Sant Bartomeu, a remarkable late Baroque building with images of the Immaculate Conception (central) and to the left and right Saint Paul and Saint Peter. The interior is designed in the shape of a cross with a central nave and two semitransepts.
It is worth mentioning the old houses such as those of Ca Janot and Ca Moricio, which are vestiges of the town’s bygone era of splendour.
Today, Riba-roja has a fairly large core and the town, situated in a meander of the River Ebro and surrounded by nature, has all of the amenities necessary to ensure a high level of comfort and quality of life for people of all ages. Its facilities for education, health, commerce, culture, entertainment and dining, along with its festivals, make life here very pleasant. At the same time it is peaceful and far from the bustle of urban centres. The people here know each other and greet one another in the street, asking about their neighbours, whilst anonymity for those who need it can be found inside the homes of a satisfied and hospitable community.
DINING AND TRADITIONS...
Within just a few short kilometres in any direction of Riba-roja, the many different things to do and see make this area nothing short of splendid.
During the Civil War of 1936, Riba-roja was on the front line. Corbera d’Ebre is now home to the interesting Interpretation Centre of the Areas of the Battle of the Ebro, and Gandesa and other villages also have some remarkable exhibitions related to the Civil War.
SLeaving Riba-roja on the left bank of the Ebro, a wide path leads to the Nature Reserve of Sebes in Flix, a marshy area where visitors can see a variety of birds, including storks, from excellent vantage points, as well as enjoy forests of special riverside species such as tamarisks or take a stroll along the meander of the River Ebro. All the necessary information can be found in the Mas del Director.
The rest of the region of Ribera d’Ebre, through which the river flows, contains areas of outstanding natural beauty. This area is home to the castles of Flix (Carlist), Miravet (Templar) and Mora d’Ebre (Islamic), the Iberian settlement of Sant Miquel in Vinebre, the Iberian village of Castellet de Banyoles in Tivissa and the mountains of Serra de Llaberia and Vall de Cardo.
The wines of the neighbouring region of Terra Alta are of an extraordinary quality and can be sampled on wine tasting trips to visitable wineries. The Catalan modernist buildings in the cooperatives of Gandesa and Pinell de Brai should not be missed.
It is also interesting to visit the neighbouring regions of Priorat, Les Garrigues and Matarranya, which are also known for their natural beauty, traditions and high-quality products.
A BREATHTAKING SETTING...
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