It is a small town in the province of Soria that, in the foothills of the Sierra de Pela, sits on a rocky hill overlooking the vertical walls of the canyon that the river Caracena or Adante, has carved in this area. In the place where Caracena is located there were already population settlements in the Bronze Age, between the years 1500 and 1200 before Christ, as testified by the Los Tolmos archaeological site, in the Caracena Canyon between this town and Tarancueña. The Celtiberian tribes, specifically the Arevacos, also settled in the area. The present town of Caracena was an integral part of the municipality of Tiermes in Roman times. Being strategically located on the route between the fortresses of Gormaz and Atienza and being a border area between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms, Caracena played a fundamental role during the Reconquest. In 1061, after many battles against those of Al-Andalus, the troops of Fernando I, King of Castilla, León and Galicia took the square and castle of Caracena for good and the town was repopulated at the end of the 11th century.
The 12th century was a time of splendour in which it became the head of the Community of Villa and Tierra de Caracena, integrating more than thirty villages and depending directly on the crown. It was a lordship since the 14th century, firstly of the Tovar family and later of the Carrillo family. In the 15th century, according to Judaizing Inquisitorial documents, there were synagogues in the town and when Tiermes was depopulated in the 16th century, Caracena became the capital of the region. In the 1789 census, ordered by the Count of Floridablanca, it was listed as the head town of the district of Caracena in the Soria City Hall, with lordship jurisdiction and under the authority of the Mayor, appointed by the Duke of Uceda. At the fall of the Old Regime, Caracena became a constitutional municipality in the region of Castilla la Vieja, a district of El Burgo de Osma. Currently, Caracena has its own council and has as a dependency the depopulation of Pozuelo, in addition in 2009 was declared a Cultural Property in the category of Historic Site.
The beautiful medieval town of Caracena, Soria, seems to be facing the inexorable passage of time, resisting to forget and lose its intrinsic past. Every stone in its hamlet, in its streets, evokes a living and experienced medieval, even the wailing of the wind seems to bring sounds of those times. Around it, a rocky landscape delights the griffon vultures that nest in the canyon walls that open up at the foot of the town, such as the Caracena Canyon, whose narrow route, along which the GR 86 runs, is also an attractive destination for the enthusiasts trekking. Caracena welcomes us with the vestiges of what was its 12th century wall, but before that a sign leads us to the bridge that gave access to the town, the Bridge Cantos, Romanesque from the same period as the walls, and very close to it a spring and watering place whose waters supplied the town and that shows a curious and well structured water complex. In the Main square of Caracena, where its streets meet, the Baroque roll, which according to the inscription dates from 1738, is a reminder, along with the prison building, of the village's former jurisdictional character.
The prison building, which resembles a tower and is known as the Palace, with the assumption that it could well have been part of a larger construction, with the change in the country's prison system in the first decades of the 20th century, ceased to function as a prison. On San Pedro Street there is a façade with a late Gothic window, which is what remains of the House of the Earth, where the neighbourhood meetings were held and where the representatives of the different villages who attended these meetings slept. It seems that it also served as a hospital as well as providing shelter for the poor, pilgrims and passers-by. Almost opposite, the Romanesque church of San Pedro, dating from the 12th century and a National Monument since 1935, underwent various reforms between the 17th and 19th centuries that partly modified its structure. Being a reference of the Soria Romanesque, from this period you can admire the head and a magnificent gallery with seven arches. In one of them, the access, one of the most outstanding elements of the gallery can be seen, the beam of four twisted shafts, which does not take away from the beautiful capitals that show a profuse repertoire of animals, harpies, an apocalyptic beast with seven heads, scenes of fight between knights, hunting of a wild boar with dogs, the representation of the Resurrection, the twelve apostles....at the foot of the temple, in its interior, one can see some of the elements of its medieval era which lend themselves to legends.
But Caracena does not have a single Romanesque church, it has two, the other, that of Santa Maria or the Virgen del Casado, is likewise from the 12th century, it has two access doors and a square tower; near this church are the remains of what was a 12th century fortress up to which the fence that walled the entire farmhouse reached. Like all fortresses that are worthy of the importance that Caracena had, it could not fail to have a magnificent and strategically placed fortress. The castle is located between the Barranco de los Pilones and the Barranco de las Gargantas, a little less than a kilometre from the town and on a hill. The first references to it are from the 12th century and speak of a lawsuit between the bishops of Osma and Sigüenza, although it is believed to have originated earlier. During the second half of the fifteenth century, Juan Tovar, lord of the town, taking advantage of the defensive system of this primitive medieval fortification, built a citadel where he became strong in his confrontations with the Catholic Monarchs, despite everything was surrendered and forced to demolish it. What today can be seen is what remains of the reconstruction of end of century XV carried out by Alfonso Carrillo de Acuña. A double enclosure with artificial moat, circular towers in which the loopholes for the artillery are outlined, canvases of wall that unite them, the tower of the homage, as well as the rest of vaulted rooms, cisterns and sentry boxes. The walled enclosure, of which some ruins remain, began from here. Together with the canyon formed by the River Caracena, it made the village impregnable and even today it seems to try from its ruined shadow to protect this idyllic and silent village of Caracena.
Caracena celebrates its patron saint festivities in honour of the Virgen del Casado on the first weekend in August.
On the third Sunday in June the Caraceneros take the carving of the Virgen del Monte out of the church of San Pedro, where it is kept, and in a procession they begin a pilgrimage to the Nuestra Señora del Monte hermitage, which is on the outskirts of the village. This pilgrimage is one of the most important and traditional in the area, where, in addition to the devotion to the Virgen del Monte, they spend a country day , with lunch included, of holiday and brotherhood.
Towards the middle of the canyon of the Caracena River, between the river and two large tolmos, "raised rocks that look like two large landmarks" is the archaeological site of Los Tolmos. Although nothing can be seen in situ today, at this Bronze Age site, with graves carved into the rock, two graves have been exhumed, one single and one triple, in which there were the remains of two adults and a child. The settlements found seem to have used them stationarily and did so in the existing natural caves in the area or outdoors where they built huts dug into the ground covered by a roof supported by wooden posts. Most of the tools found at the site, Neolithic axes, a small bronze axe belonging to the Bronze Age, an iron axe, daggers, spatulas, needles, arrows, trousseau, pottery..., can be seen at the Numantino Museum.
Caracena and specifically its church of San Pedro is a magical and mysterious enclave related, according to scholars, to the Templars. In the beautiful and famous portico of the church of San Pedro, in addition to its torsal columns, tombs of Templar knights were found, buried naked, face down and with coins. On the corbels of the apse, one can see the imperturbable face of the Baphomet, an idol with three faces, which the Templars, when they lost importance and power, were accused of worshipping in their secret meetings. And the tombstone, whose pieces adorn the walls of the church, has the inscription "pertenebat ad malam sectam". What enigmas, what hidden stories does Caracena keep?
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To get to Caracena we have to do it either from El Burgo de Osma or from San Esteban de Gormaz, both on the national road that links Soria and Valladolid. In the town of La Rasa, these two routes converge to go together to Caracena, passing first through Fresno de Caracena, where they are joined by the road from Gormaz to Recuerda. You have to be careful because many of the navigators take the road that passes by the castle of Caracena and joins it with Cañicera. Another option that for the moment does not appear on many maps is the road that from Caracena itself connects it with Valderromán, Tarancueña, Montejo de Tiermes, Retortillo de Soria among other towns.
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