Castellfollit de la Roca is a town of approximately 1,000 inhabitants in an area of less than a square kilometre, making it one of the smallest towns in Catalonia. This small urban area is bordered by the confluence of the Fluvià and Toronell rivers, between which the town's spectacular basalt cliff rises.
The sight of the church and the houses high on the edge of the basalt precipice has become one of the most photographed and painted images in Catalonia; it is also however a magnificent natural viewpoint overlooking the valleys of the two rivers.
THE BASALT CLIFF
The basalt crag where the town is situated is over 50 m high and almost a kilometre long and is the direct result of the erosive action of the rivers Fluvià and Toronell on the remains of the lava flows from the volcanic eruptions which took place thousands of years ago.
The lava, once solidified, became basalt, a hard rock which takes on different forms, depending on the cooling, contraction and splitting processes of the lava. The cliff is the result of two lava flows; the first took place 217,000 years ago, and originated in the area of the village of Batet, and has formed slabs, the second, a more recent formation from the volcanoes of Begudà is 192,000 years old, and has formed into prismatic shapes.
Castellfollit has the only working basalt quarry in the entire country. The quarry has been worked by the Ortiz family since 1929 although the quarry dates back to 1887.
The basalt extracted has two basic applications: one is industrial (as an antiacid rock) and the other is domestic and decorative (fireplaces, pavements, floorings, etc.) A good example of the use of the rock is the pavement of the old town.
THE OLD TOWN
The old town of Castellfollit de la Roca, has its origins in mediaeval times, and is formed by squares and dark, narrow streets. The houses are mostly made from volcanic rock.
At the end of the cliff, the site of the old cemetery until 1961, the year in which it was formally closed, and moved to its present day location, lies the Josep Pla viewpoint-square. This balcony offers a spectacular panorama, from which the town's strategic location, and its naturally advantageous position for defence can be fully appreciated.
On one side of the cliff stands the old church of Sant Salvador, which dates back to the 13th century. The present building, rebuilt on numerous occasions, is of a late Renaissance style, with a square clock tower, open on all four sides and crowned by a dome-like roof, adorned with small pilasters. The building has kept a late Romanesque window as well as numerous re-utilised basalt freestones.
The church was used as a place of worship until it was destroyed during the Civil War. The poor state of the church after the end of the Civil War led to the decision to construct a new church in the new area of the town, and abandon the old building. In the mid 80's, the old church was restored into a cultural centre thanks to a neighbourhood project. The restoration of the church has been remarkable as glass and iron have been used together with the original stone.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
A few yards from the old town, where the Fluvià and the Toronell meet, lies an area of small allotments, farmed by the townspeople, and separated by stone walls. The walk alongside the allotments forms part of a hiking route in the Natural Park which facilitates views not only of the precipice, but also sites of archaeological industry, canals and dykes which today divert water to the factories of Can Mulleras and Can Xaudiera (Montagut) to produce hydroelectric energy.
Leaving the area of the old town one arrives at the bell tower of Sant Roc, whose clock marks the passing of time for the whole town.
The town has many squares and open spaces where children can play, and where the not so young can rest a while. The Plaça de Catalunya is one such area, a modern construction which has become a habitual meeting place.
In summer the swimming pool, open to everyone, is the perfect place for visitors to cool off on a hot day, as well as being a leisure area for young and old alike