Any visitor is deeply impacted when he contemplates the broken and overwhelming landscape of the Canyons of the Sierra de Guara, the most outstanding and emblematic geomorphological trait of its renowned natural park. But this flash highlights the erosive work of the rivers of the Sierra is specialized especially in the canyons of the Vero River, where the beauty and vistosity of their fluvial precipices joins the human presence from prehistory.
Rock paintings and megaliths
In caves, small caves and mountain walls, that adorn the walls of the Vero Gorges and their tributaries are numerous manifestations of parietal art that make up the River Vero Cultural Park https://parqueculturalriovero.com/es
This figure of Aragonese cultural heritage (http://www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es/parque-cultural-del-rio-vero) has one of the best sets of cave paintings, almost 60 enclaves that collect the first artistic, magic and ritual awareness of our ancestors. Vero River Cultural Park: Aragon Tourism Parque Cultural Río Vero : Turismo de Aragón (turismodearagon.com)
In the Vero there are three pictorial styles of European prehistoric art: Paleolithic, Levantino and schematic. A walk through the history that starts with human groups of hunters and collectors – in the cave of the Fountain of the Trucho is the only Paleolithic demonstration of Aragon, dated 24,000 years ago – to end in agricultural and livestock societies of the Neolithic and the Age of metals – the thickness of the park’s small caves present upstream and schematic demonstrations, including between 6,000 and 1,500 years before our era – which had the great sensitivity to paint naturalistic icons that have given world fame to the Vero, as the Deer of chimiachhas caves and Arpán, among many other paintings. This cultural legacy is part of the so-called “rock art of the Mediterranean arch of the Iberian Peninsula”, declared a World Heritage with UNESCO in 1998.
The Vero River Cultural Park has a Visitor Center of Cave Art, in the town of Colungo, where you can get all the information on the subject, the organization of guided tours of the caves and coats, as well as different activities (Animation events, workshops for school children and the whole family), a lot of resources to enjoy the unique experience of prehistory in the Sierra de Guara.
The Sierra also retains other elements characteristic of prehistoric heritage, megalithic constructions, dolmens or funeral cists raised and roofed with large blocks of stone, erected to contain the bodies of the dead and their trousse. They are constructions carried out between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, representative of a European cultural phenomenon that portrays the spirituality and transcendence of those human beings. In Guara it is worth visiting the dolmens of Ibirque, Belsué, the Losa Mora de Rodellar and the set between Almazorre and Paúles de Sarsa.
Romanization, Holy Hermitaries and Cave Sanctuaries
The Roman footprint is also perfectly documented. There are archaeological testimonies of the Roman road or road that ran at the foot of the Sierra de Guara, uniting Osca (Huesca) and Ilerda (Lérida), with important remains in Pertusa and Berbegal, or in the place names that baptize localities such as Neno, Tierz , Syjemo, Quicena or Laborzano. After the Roman Empire, the slow Christianization points to the adventures of different characters, saints and hermits, deeply linked to the territory where their beliefs and traditions conform. Ancious foundations of monasteries and hermitages are hidden in the canyons and gorges of Guara, sometimes seeking refuge of the Muslims. They are usually simple buildings, whose sonorous name takes us, after a long walk, to enclaves of great natural beauty: San Martín de la Bal d’Onsera, San Chinés, San Cosme and San Damián in Vadiello, San Martín de Rodeellar, el Alcandre, or San Martín de Lecina, along with the Vero, all of them important spots of popular pilgrimages.
From 2020, a hiking trail follows the steps of Pastor San Úrbez, one of the most venerated saints of the Alto Aragon, closely related to livestock and agriculture – like a talisman that invoked the rain. The GR 268 O Road de San Úrbez, Link San Pedro El Viejo de Huesca with the Hermitage of San Úrbez de Añisclo, with an itinerary that crosses two of the most extraordinary enclaves of Guara Heritage: the aforementioned Eremitorio de San Martín de La Bal D’Onsera and the Sanctuary of San Úrbez de Nocito, former Cenobio of the northern valleys of the Sierra and place where the scarce remains of the Saint rest.
The Middle Ages Forts, castles, churches and bridges
Islamic domination is clearly manifested in Alquézar, where Muslims founded a fortress that would later be reused by Christians after the conquest of the town in the eleventh century. The border between Christians and Muslims along the pre-piranean sierra has become an important patrimony in Guara, made up of a succession of small defensive and towers-watchman who assured the limits of conquests and enabled the Christian advance to the south: The remnants of Salto de Roldán (in the Peña de Sen or San Miguel), the Tower of Santa Eulalia la Mayor, Arraro, the Castle of Azaba, close to Almazorre, or the Saints of Sebil, are the best examples. Sometimes accompanied by small Romanesque churches such as Sescún, the Fabana or the Virgin of Rodellar Castle, located in almost inaccessible places that combine the natural landscape with the human footprint.
For information on all the patrimonial elements that are cited here, you can use search engines from http://www.patrimonioculturaldearagon.es/bienes-culturales and http://www.romanicoaragones.com/
Throughout the Middle Ages, most of the villages that we know today appear in the Sierra de Guara. Many of them treasure ,in their interesting temples, patrimonial elements linked to Romanesque art – Fashion in Western Europe during the Xi-XII-I- centuries, as you can see in the parish churches and hermitages of Alberuela de Laliena, Panzano, Santa Cilia de Panzano, Santa Eulalia la Mayor, San Julián de Banzo, Chiblouco, Belsué, Santa María de Belsué (depopulated), Nocito, Bentué de Nocito, Bara, Nasarre (depopulated), the Belilos, Sarsa de Surta and Almazorre. The Romanesque of the area has its two most important pieces jewellery in the Collegiate of Santa María La Mayor, in Alquézar http://www.alquezar.es/, and in which was Female Monastery of Our Lady of Glory, in Casbas de Huesca.
Some towns saw their neighbors leave not many years ago, during the rural exodus of the twentieth century. But some nuclei depopulated many centuries ago and there are just vestiges or perseverance of them, except for some legends and traditions that remain in the memory of the inhabitants of the Sierra, as the medieval depopulation of the houses, close to the Sebil Messon, Recounted in Adahuesca with the pilgrimage to Crucellós and the legend of “The Grandmothers of Sebil“, last survivors of that location after a plague and that, after being rejected in the neighboring towns, were welcomed in Adahuesca. You will find all the information at the Interpretation Center of the Legends and Traditions of Adahuesca.
If you are looking for fascinating interiors, San Miguel de Barluenga, Santa María del Monte de Liesa, San Miguel de Foces in Ibieca, San Fructuoso de Bierge or Our Lady of Treviño in Adahuesca, will allow you to taste outstanding sets of French mural painting, from the thirteenth centuries -XIV, a linear gothic decoration of French influence, of very lively chromatism and marked drawings. Guided tours at https://turismo.hoyadehuesca.es/parque-natural-de-guara/turismo-cultural and at https://somontano.org/cultura-y-patrimonio/visitas-guiadas-a-nuestro-patrimonio-y-talleres
And another thing you can not miss in the vicinity of Guara are the medieval bridges, erected at the end of the Middle Ages or principles of modern, to save the waters of the rivers and ravines of the Sierra. In the Vero River there is a magnificent one, with two medieval bridges in Sarsa de Surta (Ainsana-Sobrarbe) and three beautiful viaducts in the area of Alquézar (Villacantal, El del Molino or Sundebaños and the L’Albarda or Campanachal) https://www.huescalamagia.es/blog/ruta-por-los-puentes-mas-impresionantes-de-la-sierra-de-de-guara/. In the Mascún, the Bridge Coda or Las Cabras (Rodellar) stands out, very close to Pedruel, already on the River Alcanadre. And in this same river, in the Somontano, is that of Famiñosa in Abiego. Without forgetting that of Sipán over the waters of the Guatizalema or that of the Devil (Colungo) on the Gorges that descend from the Fornocal.
Modernity, renovation of heritage and depopulation
The economic strength of the XVI Century allows for the construction of churches of large proportions (parish of Bierge, Abiego, Azara, Peraltilla), whose masonary still retain Gothic structures – such as stub-cruised vaults, although they offer tastes of the Renaissance , following the model of the influential and close Cathedral of Barbastro https://barbastro.org/que-ver/monumentos/conjunto-de-la-catedral. Throughout the villages of Guara, numerous palatial houses demonstrate the strength and power of the owner families that raise buildings of strength culminated with the usual gallery of half-point arches, so characteristic of the Aragonese Renaissance palaces. In the successive centuries, baroque art is imposed, with infinity of examples in the southern pietemonte of the Sierra, motivated by the construction fever lived in the seventeenth centuries and, including XVIII, with important extensions and renovations in the parish buildings, such as the Loporzano, and the construction of some Marian sanctuaries that collect ancient traditions of the Sierra de Guara: Santa María de Dulcis (Buera) or Santa María de la Nuez (Bárcabo).
The great economic and social transformations of the 19th and early twentieth centuries, lead to a crisis of terrible consequences for many villages of the Sierra de Guara, especially for those located on their northern face, more inaccessible and worse communicated. Between the 1950s and 1970s, the rural exodus, including the total abandonment, are primed in Guara, one of the areas most affected by the depopulation throughout Aragon. The heritage of uninhabited places and towns (pardinas, mesons, houses, blocks, wineries, suspended ceilings, homes and fireplaces, churches, hermitages and all kinds of constructions and elements of ethnographic interest such as mills, forges, ovens, etc), will suffer the slow deterioration or, in many cases, the expoliation by some fiend. Sometimes, the toponimia is the only one that brings us to the memory the huge heritage that, unfortunately, has been lost in numerous corners of this territory. In the bulky list of depopulated villages from the vicinity of Guara, we will only mention those that are within the limits of the Natural Park: Nasarre, Otín, San Hipólito, Letosa and Bagüeste. More information at http://www.despobladosenhuesca.com/ and at https://lospueblosdeshabitados.blogspot.com/search/label
The loss of traditional uses also supposed the abandonment of fields and crops, while the cessation of grazing caused grassland to evolve towards bushes or different forest repopulations.
Rural development, humanized landscape and heritage
However, the arrival of economic funds for infrastructure and development from the European Union in the late 1980s, the declaration of the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park (1990) -or the more recent Parque Cultural del Río Vero and Geoparque Sobrarbe-Pirineos-, have corresponded with the firm impulse of the businessmen, entrepreneurs and inhabitants of the sierra, all very involved in different initiatives, among which those related to rural, cultural and sports tourism stand out. The obvious consequence is that Guara is in the objective or focus of innovation, in the enhancement of natural and cultural heritage, in short, they have made the territory an attractive benchmark of sustainable development.
Many ethnological elements of great value and interest have been saved from being forgotten and deterioration, thanks to the conservative or restorative effort of its inhabitants, local associations and different public administrations. In this way we can visit different flour and oil mills -Bara, Abellada, Almazorre, Alquézar and many others-, weirs with their canals or ditches to carry water -among them, the Pedro Buil mill in Sarsa de Surta -, washing places – highlighting the one excavated in a sandstone promontory of Azlor, known as de los Moros-, huts of fields, huts or haystacks, arnales or apiaries – spectacular are those that take advantage of the hollows of some tributary ravines of the Vero in the surroundings de Lecina–, lime kilns, snow wells –located in the highest areas of the sierra, such as those of Ballemona in the Guara and Campoluengo range, near Sebil-, wells-source –Nasarre and Adahuesca- and Hidejuraderos – small buildings to ward off storms, pests and dangers to crops-, such as the one in Almazorre or the two near the sanctuary of San Cosme and San Damián, called the Covered Cross and the White Cross.
Finally, we cannot forget the humanized landscapes that have been handed down to us, the result of the effort and intervention, since ancient times, of generations of farmers and shepherds. Labor fields reclaimed from the mountain by staggering slopes and building dry stone walls, creating terraced landscapes, so characteristic and typical of mountainous areas such as Guara. Mosaics of old crops and meadows such as those of the fascinating place of Fenales de Used, or the landscapes of the traditional paths between the villages and the cattle trails that ran through the mountains from north to south, linking the Pyrenean valleys with the flat lands of La Depression of the Ebro, such as the Cañada Real de Nocito and the Cabañera de la Sierra Sebil that runs, from end to end, its culminating divide, where its famous and strategic Mesón de Sebil was located.