Vigilance against  piracy at seas

In the Ribera de Cabanes (Castellón) lies a network of fortified towers: Torre de la Sal, Torre del Carmen, the Fortified church of Albalat and Torre dels Gats and Torre Carmelet, built between the 14th and 16th centuries. These towers are a cultural and touristic incentive for the municipality of Cabanes, promoted in the Ruta de las Torres or Route of the Towers, and clearly signposted throughout.

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Torre de la Sal is located in the coastal town of Torre la Sal, near the Natural Park of Prat de Cabanes-Torreblanca.

Human occupation around the coastal town of Torre la Sal dates back to the Neolithic era, as can be seen from the silos found in el Prat and Costamar, with a high number of excavated structures and handmade ceramics with printed and almagra decoration.

The Iberian oppidum of Torre la Sal was discovered in the early 20th century. In 1922, Peris Fuentes described how the water had taken over the coast and where “... frente a la Torre la Sal... en un día que esté tranquilo y haga sol, en el centro de una extensión de aguas diáfanas se observa un manchón obscuro; entrando en un bote se ve que lo producen los cimientos de una población...” 2

Its location right on the coast, with a strong maritime projection, made it a powerful commercial hub, initially for Phoenician imports. Its importance became evident later in the Iberian period for trade with Italy, especially between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE. A great landing area has been observed, with abundant remains of Dressel 1 and Lamboglia 2 wine amphorae. The abandonment was dated to the Late Iberian period, 1st-2nd centuries BCE, and remains of buildings, two kilns and open spaces have been discovered, along with a necropolis dating from 5th to 1st centuries BCE.

Major archaeological remains are to be found in the underwater surroundings of Torre la Sal: Cuartel de la Guardia Civil, an underwater area in which Late Roman era amphorae have been found, as well as the Pecio Francés shipwreck, which sank opposite the coast in 1844 and lies 3 m deep.

The area was occupied in the Islamic era, in the 10th and 11th centuries, and a necropolis and possible industrial area with hydraulic structures and silos have been documented.

The area was occupied in the Islamic era, in the 10th and 11th centuries, and a necropolis and possible industrial area with hydraulic structures and silos have been documented3.

Following the Christian conquest, the surroundings of Torre la Sal appear to have been unoccupied, as supported by local archaeological research.

In the 16th century the watchtower for the defence of the coast of Torre la Sal was built on the promontory of the Iberian site of the same name. The tower, declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2002, is part of the network of defensive towers in the district of Peñíscola on the coast of Castellón.

A coast inhabited since the Neolithic era

The function of these so-called Coast Towers was to prevent attacks from pirates at sea. The term Towers for the surveillance and defence of the coast is understood as a set of fortified constructions on the Valencian coast. This name was specifically applied from 1552, when the work to reinforce the coast followed the guidelines set by the Generalitat of the Regne.

A key function of these military constructions was the surveillance and defence of the Valencian coast. However, they were also used for communication, between the different towers and between these and the closest nuclei of population, which were warned of dangers from the sea by lights, smoke or sounds.

The name of the tower is a nod to its relationship to the salt of the salt flats found there and their possible connection to the salt tax4 for Peñíscola, which was its southern border.

The Torre de la Sal is mentioned by Catalá de Valeriola as early as 1597: “… en averoyt misa a la torre de la Sal y a dinar a Alcalá de Gisvert. Aon paguí dita torre…” [sic].

On his visit to the tower on 10 November 1607 the Viceroy and General Captain of the Kingdom of Valencia, Carrillo de Toledo, stated: “Torre la Sal. En diez del dicho se visito esta torre una pieça de Artillería que tira tres libras de bala hanse reparar los parapetos y alçar las paredes donde fuere necesario y levantar la chimenea que esta caída hace de entablar una cubierta que ay en dicha Torre que no esta de ningún servicio y recorrer la cubierta questa encima de la Artilleria” [sic]5.

In 1610 Escolano also mentioned the tower: “De Oropesa corre la costa por espacio de una legua a la torre de la Sal y por otro nombre de Cabanes, que se guarda con un hombre a caballo”.


The structure of this tower consists of a square floor plan with a straight prism-shaped body and an off-centre ashlar doorway on the south façade. The masonry construction also incorporated ashlar brackets and semicircular ashlar arches. Two of its three floors are on diametrically opposed barrel vaults. The ground floor staircase adjoins the interior wall, with two mangers used for stables and a skylight to the north. The first floor originally included four defensive devices, while the top one also incorporated a single machicolation above the doorway, and at the side, a garrison for the better defence of the walls, as well as a watchpoint. Finally, different openings for artillery were incorporated at the northwest, northeast and southeast to better defend the surroundings.

In the reign of Felipe II a network was created for the surveillance of the coast of Castellón

In the 1970s the Villalonga family from Valencia, owners of the tower (which is now under municipal ownership) carried out some restoration work and added a balcony with doors on one of the walls.

It is likely that this watchtower led to the location of the current maritime town.

The coastguard services reached their apogee in the 16th and 17th centuries although population in the area had decreased due to the lack of salubriousness caused by the swamps of the estany and pirate attacks, and its residents went on to settle around the castle of Miravet and the new fortified nucleus of Albalat7.

Torre la Sal is documented in cartography from the 16th century. The map by Jerónimo Muñoz (1520-1591), in the 1584 edition of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius, considered to be the first atlas in history, includes a map of the Kingdom of Valencia, where the watchtower is marked.

En la cartografía del Reino de Valencia de los siglos XVII y XVIII vemos representada la Torre de la Sal en los mapas de Florida Blanca (1788), Cabanilles (1795) y Carbonell (1812).

According to Cabanes historian Guillermo Andreu Valls, Torre de la Sal was first mentioned in the 17th century, when on 9 December 1606 a man by the name of Antonio Ferruz died there. Shortly afterwards, in 1611, it was described as Torre la Sal or Cabañas (according to Escolano) and had a guard on horseback. Subsequently, on 3 August 1817, Guillermo Andreu reported how in a document signed in the presence of notary Fernando Bonegar de Pitarch: “Luis Pelechà atajador de la mencionada torre, otorga el cargo a Josef Montferrer, alpargatero, por el plazo de un año a partir de esa fecha, en cuyo convenio Pelechà le cede el sueldo y demás emolumentos y el otro hará los servicios”8.

Una torre cuadrada declarada Monumento Histórico

This coastal town has been linked since its origins (probably in the late 18th century) to fishermen and the sea. According to Mestre there are reports that from the 19th century seafarers from Burriana, Grao de Castellón and occasionally Valencia came to rent the houses near the sea from spring to autumn. Their presence was seasonal as during the orange harvest the fishermen of Burriana transported boxes of oranges from the coast to the ships of Grau de Burriana or nearby ports. In winter els canareus from the houses of Alcanar came to fish cuttlefish in the waters of Torre la Sal.

1 Flors, E. (coord.). 2010. Torre la Sal (Ribera de Cabanes, Castellón). Evolución del paisaje antrópico desde la prehistoria hasta el medioevo. Monografies de Prehistòria i Arqueologia Castellonenques, 8, 606 pp. Castelló de la Plana: SIAP. Diputació de Castelló.

2 Translator’s note: “... opposite the Torre la Sal... on a calm sunny day, at the centre of wide open water a dark stain can be seen, and upon approach by boat the foundations of a town can be seen...”.

3  Op. cit. (1).

4  The gabela was a tax paid to landowners in the Middle Ages

5 TN: “Torre la Sal. On the 10th of this month a visit was conducted to this tower with a single piece of Artillery which shoots three pounds of bullets. The parapets should be repaired and the walls built up where necessary; the chimney should be built up and boards placed on the roof of the Tower which is not currently usable, along the roof which covers the Artillery” [sic].





6 TN: “The coast runs from Oropesa for a distance of a league to the Torre de la Sal, also known as de Cabanes, with a guard on horseback”.
Op. cit. (1).
8  TN: “Luis Pelechà, the guard of the aforementioned tower, awards the post to Josef Montferrer, maker of espadrilles, for a year from the date stated, and Pelechà agrees to cede his salary and other emoluments in exchange for the services to be carried out by the other party”.

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