The Castle (El Castell) is located at the top of Carrer Major, the Main Street. Built between the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, it was a seat of feudal power for over six hundred years. Its function was as the residence of the paborde – the Archbishop’s administrator – and it stored the delmes or tithes gathered from the population for the Archbishop.
Keywords: Middle Ages, castle, paborde.
The early tower
In 1165, the town was granted its Carta de Població (Municipal Charter), placing it under the Tarragona Archbishop’s dominion. At this time, a rectangular tower was erected at the town’s highest point. As well as the Castle’s defensive function, its storeroom was used to store the tithes gathered from the townspeople and the Castle was a symbol of feudal dominion over the population. Apart from the storeroom, cellar, granary and a water cistern, it also contained a chamber that was used as a prison. Surrounding the tower was a courtyard that adjoined the early church.
The paborde was a vassal of the Archbishop. He administrated the collection of tithes, represented his lord in civil and criminal jurisdiction and nominated the town’s batlle or mayor. Since he was a member of the Tarragona curia, he appeared in La Selva infrequently. This figure disappeared in 1410 with the death of the last paborde, Guillem de Gramatge, and from then on the Archbishop retained direct control over the town.
The manorial castle
Within the castle are spaces having different functions: from cellars where the delmes (tithes), primícies (first harvests) and lleudes (tolls) were stored, to the silos, cells and residential quarters, known as the Casa de l’arquebisbe (Archbishop’s house). All of these spaces, in different periods, allow us to see the castle’s evolution over eight hundred years of history.
The end of the archbishop’s reign
With the suppression of feudal rights in 1823 and the ecclesiastical confiscations of 1835, the Archbishop lost control of the town. In 1867, the Castle was purchased by the Baiget family, who declared it to be in ruins. A few years later, in 1876, it became the provisional quarters of the town’s Civil Guard contingent, which remained there until 1927. During the 1930s, it was used as a warehouse and as a municipal school for girls. Then in the 1960s, it housed the Taller de Natzaret (Natzaret workshop) and the local scouts’ group den.
The castle in the twenty-first century
After numerous restoration projects due to the building’s ruinous state, the first phase of a reform began in 2004. Once the second phase was completed in 2011, the Castle became a multi-use municipal space and a shared symbol of the town’s social cohesion.