Dry stone architecture is the other permanent element in the rural landscape of these highlands. Kilometers of stone walls furrow the whole Maestrazgo, since nature was prodigal in this constructive element that man had at his disposal as raw material. But it is the dry stone huts that are the most singular manifestations, particularly those located in the municipality of La Iglesuela del Cidbuilt without mortar and covered with a vault or false dome. They are simple constructions, but of great functionality in past times, linked to ways of life based on agriculture and livestock.
The agricultural landscape of Maestrazgo must be understood within the Mediterranean geographical area. In addition to low and irregular rainfall and extreme temperatures, limestone banks are often added as the main geological constituent of the terrain. The result is a stony and arid landscape that at first glance seems impossible to cultivate.
In order to cultivate these lands, the farmer sometimes has to remove the most superficial calcareous layers of the soil, remove the stones, transport and store them, build walls and provide soil to create terracesThe remaining stone is used for the construction of banks, shelters, water tanks and the infinite ingenuity that this dry stone architecture allows and demands. The farmer thus becomes a true farmer-architect. And the result of his work, in Maestrazgo, is a humanized and transformed landscape with an immense density of work deposited in it.
The basic function of most of the walls we see today on the slopes of our mountains is to prevent landslides of the fertile layer of soil and to create staggered strips of arable land in the form of terraces. Although in Maestrazgo it is not difficult to find older margins, most of those that now exist were built during the XVIII and XIX centuries. This coincided with a demographic expansion that demanded the clearing of new farmland, even in places that were difficult to access and of poor quality.
In addition, the walls, which define the built landscape of the Maestrazgo, solve other needs: to store the stone from stoning the fields (an activity traditionally carried out on Maundy Thursday), to separate properties, or to prevent livestock from entering the new cultivated areas.
Within this dry stone landscape, it is worth mentioning the dry stone of the environment of La Iglesuela del CidIts profusion, singularity and importance earned it the status of Site of Ethnographic Interest on January 22, 2002.
Distributed throughout the municipality of La Iglesuela, it is a group of buildings linked to traditional ways of life, culture and activities of the Aragonese people.
“The marked characteristics of this landscape are, on the one hand, an unusual network of dry walls of limestone slabs that, with interesting constructive peculiarities, have been used to keep livestock away from the fields and to delimit farms and roads; and, on the other hand, hundreds of rounded huts, called “Iberian houses”, which, made with the same material, served as shelter for farmers, small stables and storage of agricultural equipment. Moreover, the existence of the latter is limited exclusively to the Maestrazgo region.“.
To get to know this heritage you can follow the Dry Stone Route.