Plan of the fortified church bastida between the 16th-17th centuries. Located, for the first time, inside the town centre and outside the castle enclosure. This sacred space, where the dead were also buried, protected the population from the periodic raids of pirates and deltaic corsairs and the Ebro River.
As part of the urban reorganization of Carrer Major and the Plaça d’Espanya, implemented in 2014, a series of archaeological tasks were carried out. These allowed different furniture elements that illustrate the occupation of the space belonging to the old town of Amposta between the Iberian period and the present. Specifically, materials from the Iberian, Roman, medieval Andalusian, medieval Christian, modern and contemporary periods were found. Beyond these materials, the intervention allowed documenting the plan of the old church of the village, as well as the cemetery that existed around it.
AMPOSTA IN THE LOW MIDDLE AGES
In 1148 Ramon Berenguer IV conquered Tortosa. From that moment, the castle of Amposta and its territories were in the hands of the Order of the Hospital Sant Joan de Jerusalem, who installed in that castle the highest entity of government of the order in the territories of the Crown of Aragon, thus creating the figure of the Castilian of Amposta.
Later on, in the year 1280, the King Pere el Gran will exchange with the Hospitalers the territory of Amposta and its castle for other territories, passing to royal domain this strategic point of the mouth of the Ebro River. Six years later, the population charter of Amposta was established. The preserved documentation of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries brings us closer to an urban nucleus of small dimensions in which dwellings alternate with orchards and courtyards, with a slow development that is stalled in the wake of the Catalan Civil War (1462-1472) which caused the destruction of the castle.
THE CHURCH OF AMPOSTA IN THE MIDDLE AGES
The first document mentioning a church in Amposta dates from 1097, when Ramon Berenguer III made a donation to the abbot of Sant Cugat of a series of lands located in the south of the Ebro that had not yet been conquered. This document mentions the church of the Holy Sepulchre of Amposta, which corresponds to a church founded in the Visigoth period, but that the latest research shows that it is a non-existent church.
At the end of the 13th century, coinciding with the beginning of the town, a first church was erected to serve the inhabitants of Amposta. This church existed in 1314, since Bishop Paholac visited this town during his pastoral visit and already appears under the title of Saint Mary. In the 15th century, pastoral visits were repeated, without any description of their architectural characteristics.
During the siege of the castle of Amposta between 1465 and 1466, the church suffered various damages as a result of the bombings, along with other buildings of the town, such as the molí of Miralles. This medieval church could be what is later known as the Chapel of Saint Suzanne.
Despite the lack of documentation that allows it to refute, the situation of the old chapel near the river, as well as the way in which it is represented within the ancient cartography, bring us closer to the plan of a building built in the medieval period.
AMPOSTA IN THE MODERN ERA
After the destruction of the castle, a period of decadence opened for Amposta that was not reversed until the end of the 18th century. As a result of this destruction, the village became an easy and weak point against pirate attacks, with particularly violent attacks in the years 1513-1540, which led to its depopulation and reduction to a few dozen inhabitants. The fire of 1553 counted only 16 fires, equivalent to about 60 inhabitants.
THE CHURCH OF AMPOSTA IN THE MODERN ERA
It is possible that the damages caused in the church during the Catalan conflict were so serious that they forced the construction of a new church. This construction would also serve as a shelter for the residents of the village against a possible pirate attack. Some documents from the 16th and 17th centuries explain that the church fulfilled this function for days and that even the valuable objects of the neighbors were kept in the church.
This strong and safe church corresponds to the one discovered in the underground of the square. The building occupied most of the space, bordering to the north with the current street Nou, to the west with the Major street, to the east with the cemetery and to the south with a street today disappeared. The state of conservation of the remains, of almost total devastation, only allows us to observe the plant of the building: a church of single nave with the apse oriented to the northeast and with perimeter walls of more than two meters thick made with lime mortar.
Despite the lack of documentation, the technique used and the typology of the church’s floor plan bring us closer to a building built at the end of the 16th or 17th century. A building that, by the characteristics of its foundations, could have been fortified, thus responding to the security needs of the population.
The excavations have allowed documenting a series of burials carried out inside the building, which occupy the entire available space and correspond to both adults and children. The oldest burials have a more or less regular pit cut into the same rock. In most cases, the burials are affected by subsequent ones, which shows the high density of burials that occurred in this space.
All the burials located in this space were made with a shroud, in other words, the deceased covered with a sheet or other technical object. This fact is deduced by the absence of iron keys corresponding to the coffins.
Around the church was the cemetery, occupying the space of the current streets Nou, Àfrica and surely the space where the church of the Assumpció is erected. In this cemetery there is also a high density of burials, the result of the prolonged use of space.
After the construction of the new church of the Assumpció, and the health laws of the eighteenth century that prohibit burials inside religious buildings and urban helmets, the cemetery was moved to the area of the Quintanes, where it remained until the end of the 19th century.