13- ROMAN AND VISIGOTHIC REMAINS

Geoparque Villuercas > CULTURAL SITES > 13- ROMAN AND VISIGOTHIC REMAINS

Both Romans and Visigoths also left their mark on the territory of the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Global Geopark of the UNESCO. Although no major remains are present, it is however true that the proximity to the ancient Roman town of Augustóbriga in the adjacent district of the Campo Arañuelo and its strategic location on the road between Emérita Augusta and Caesarobriga (the current Mérida and Talavera de la Reina) have left us some traces of their presence. In common with its mining richness which also continues to be visible, this was another of the reasons why population has been attracted to the sierras of the Geopark from antiquity.

The land making up the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Global Geopark of the UNESCO did not have the same Roman presence as other nearby territories, although its landscape is studded with remains from that period. Most of these are agricultural or mining settlements in addition to roads linking important towns.

The route which joined Emérita Augusta (Mérida) to Caesarobriga (Talavera de la Reina) was in use for many centuries and was known during the Middle Ages as the Seville Road. The nearby Roman town of Augustobriga (later to be known as Talavera la Vieja until in 1963 it was submerged under the waters of the Valdecañas Reservoir) to the north no doubt had an influence on the inhabitants of the area.

Numerous Roman inscriptions have been found in these territories and those discovered in Villar del Pedroso are particularly relevant. Alongside the façade of the church of this village there is a plaque in an exceptional state of repair on which the following inscription can be read: «Here lies Duelia, the daughter of Camalo, of 25 years of age. Camalo, son of Avelio, and Duelia, daughter of Armonio, took care of erecting (this tombstone) for their daughter. May the land be gentle with you».

There is another magnificent granite stela on the façade of a house in Calle de la Pasión which is dedicated to Caesio of 70 years of age. Furthermore, on the same façade there is another although its inscription is practically illegible. Within the village there is also a verraco (stone animal) of Vetton origin albeit with a Latin inscription which is possibly of a funeral nature. It is a curious example of how the same piece was used for different purposes after an interval of several centuries. In the nearby village of Valdelacasa de Tajo two fine examples of these stelae were also found, one of marble dedicated to several deceased people and another of slate in worse condition. Unfortunately neither of them can be seen by the visitor as they were moved to the National Museum of Roman Art (Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, MNAR) of Mérida where they remain without being exhibited. It can be supposed that the origin of many of these Roman materials is that of the ruins of Augustóbriga, later Talavera la Vieja as has been mentioned.

After the Roman domination, as from the 4th century small groups of Barbarians from Europe began to arrive in the Iberian Peninsula. Christian beliefs began to take root among the population as the Roman cosmogony started to dissolve together with its division of the territory. The Visigothic period did not leave many traces in this land although these are sufficient to deduce that settlement was maintained without interruption. One of the roads which crossed this territory in Visgothic times is that from Logrosán to Guadalupe, which was used as one of the pilgrim routes to the Marian sanctuary. Today it is one of the itineraries which we can follow to reach the monastery with the name of the Visigothic Way.

One of the most representative Visigothic sites of the Geopark is the necropolis of Miguel Pérez in Berzocana. It is alongside the River Valvellío and occupies a large surface area. What has been discovered up to now suggests that there was a large town related to this necropolis. Almost all the tombs have been excavated in the rock itself; many of them are anthropomorphous (human) in shape and a good number closed with lids of slate. Some of the niches are intended for remains of incinerations, which proves that the site was used by people practising different rites. It must have been linked to a mine; on its surface can be seen remains of pottery, tiles, and the odd building.

Another of the important finds of the Visigothic period is the alabaster sarcophagus discovered in Berzocana. According to legend a farmer found it in the 13th century while he was tilling an olive grove. Inside it lay the remains of San Fulgencio and Santa Florentina which are currently kept in the parish church of San Juan Bautista. One theory affirms that this example originates from Seville and that after the Moslem invasion it was buried by priests in these parts.