I meant to go to Tarragona on the train this morning, but didn't have enough energy to make an early start, so I did some shopping and cooking, then finally broke out my my lethargy mid-afternoon with a drive up the N232, all the way over the Querol pass (1080m) to visit Morella. I stopped at the Carlos VII hotel and restaurant at the top. It was closed, but the gates were open so I went in and took some photos.
From the escarpment behind the restaurant I got my first glimpse of Morella, illuminated by afternoon sun on the western horizon.
The convent buildings and huge chapel will be renovated and converted to offer hospitality, modern style, as a business like the Hotel Restaurant Carols VII down on the Querol pass. There was another old church building in the town, and it has been converted into health centre. How appropriate. I'd wager there was a time when the church authorities and town council would have worried over these buildings, no longer sustainable in use by a population which has more than halved in a century - especially as they began to show signs of neglect. It's good to see their re-purposing reflects their original values and use. There's a large empty 18-19th century school or college building on the hillside adjacent to the basilica. I wonder what use will eventually be found for it?
The basilica, named after one of the main Curial churches in Rome, is big enough to serve the town's present population, and is interesting in its own right, with a huge stone choir loft supported by gothic vaulting in the western penultimate bay of the nave.
It has a decorated spiral staircase, perfect for processions up and down. In the next bay along on the north side at loft level is a remarkable organ case. The organ console is in the choir loft. I couldn't find out anything about the church's music programme, but such a superb environment must be an inspiration to musicians. The apsidal sanctuary is covered in gold baroque ornamentation from floor to ceiling, in contrast to the thirteenth century gothic of the rest of the building. The church isn't well served for natural light, but its tranquility makes it more numinous than gloomy. I noticed rice underfoot in the plaza outside. There'd been a wedding earlier in the day.
Humans have occupied this mountain since the bronze age. Greek, Romans, Visigoths and Moors in turn occupied this mountain and built on it. On the north side are the remains of an aqueduct. In its present form it's a fourteenth century construction, but who first had the idea and built the prototype? It appears the Moors named the town Maurela, after conquering it in 714. There's so much to understand and absorb about this place, it really merits a stopover visit. Perhaps we can do that when the Parador opens.
You'll find more photos here