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Alforja is a municipality and town in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. Belonging to the Bajo Campo region, it has a population of 1,799 inhabitants (INE 2017) and is located at the foot of a mountainous area.

The origin of the town was an ancient farmhouse or Arab hamlet that exploited old silver mines. 

The first written documents about Alforja date back to 1152, where it is mentioned in a parchment of Ramón Berenguer IV. Arrowheads for cooking and Neolithic tombs have been found at the end of the Huertas road, along with remains of an ancient Roman settlement at Barqueres. A Roman fortification was likely the origin of the future castle.

In 1154, the town and church of Alforja were mentioned in the bull that Pope Anastasius IV directed to the Archbishop of Tarragona, Bernat de Tort. According to references, since the original document is not preserved, Ramón Berenguer IV gave the place to Ramon de Ganagot, except for the tithe and the first fruits of the town, which were divided between the county house and the Archbishop of Tarragona. The population charter is from June 27, 1158, granted by the count and bishop Bernat Tort. Ramon de Ganagot (or Gavagou or Gavalgald) was an early companion of Robert de Aguiló, prince of Tarragona. The town had to secure control of the Prades and Ciurana mountain ranges, barely recovered from the Saracens. It would be part of the Prades term but with a reservation by the bishop of tithes and first fruits, deducting the royal part. The town was called Santa Maria del Valle de Alforja (but before there was already a church and some settlements), and it would be held by Ramon de Ganagot and his heirs in perpetual alodio.

In 1170, Ramon de Ganagot granted a charter to the inhabitants confirming their possessions and granting them the customs of Ciurana de Tarragona established in 1153. In 1173, Archbishop Guillemos de Torroja, to strengthen ecclesiastical rights, granted a new charter to the Ganagot but reserved ecclesiastical rights, the castle of Alforja, and a dominial property. In 1194, Ramon ceded half of the term to his daughter Romeva on the occasion of her marriage to Bertran de Castellet, who soon became a widow. Romeva married Bernat de Arcs in 1200, combining the two lordships (Alforja and els Arcs), passing to the common son Pere de Arcs; he did not recognize the loyalty owed to the archbishop, made several acts of war and pillage in the region, and squandered his heritage. He died in 1243.

The lordly government ceased at the death of Pere de los Arcs, who left his lordships to the abbess, probably his daughter, and to the community of the Bonrepòs monastery. A year later, in 1244, they decided to sell the lordship to Archbishop Pere de Albalat, who then became the lord of the so-called Barony of Alforja, and the castle often became the residence of the archbishops. Originally, the term of Alforja reached the limit with Cambrils, including Alforja, Las Borjas, Riudecols, Irles, Los Baños, Los Diumenges or Domenys, Cortiella, Viñols, Arcs, Las Benas, Las Voltes, and Tascals. Pere de Albalat also acquired the royal rights of the term in exchange for the forgiveness of a debt.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, Alforja had an active Jewish community (documented between 1283 and 1393), and in 1393, the town had to buy royal forgiveness from Joan I for excesses against the Jews that occurred in the pogroms of 1391. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, it seems to have experienced considerable economic prosperity. In 1314, Alforja was attacked by men from the barony of Entenza who thought it had imprisoned a man from the village of Samuntá, and the attackers, repelled, went on to devastate the term and were excommunicated by Archbishop Guillemos de Rocabertí.

Alforja was a member of the Commune of the Campo de Tarragona, at least since 1322. In 1464, under the command of Pere Conangles, it rebelled against King Joan II, which led to a siege by the people of the barony of Escornalbou. It had to surrender due to a lack of provisions.

During the Reapers’ War, it actively participated in the struggle, along with all the towns of the Commune del Camp. Also during the War of Spanish Succession, against Philip V, like the rest of the places in the field, it sided with Archduke Charles and contributed soldiers to the fight.

The War of Independence or the French War caused a severe economic crisis, and the town was forced several times to supply food to the troops. In 1810, a group of townspeople attacked the French in Las Borges, but they fell into a trap, resulting in several deaths.

During the Liberal Triennium, in the conflicts between liberals and absolutists, Alforja declared itself in favor of the absolutists, leading to frequent clashes between the two sides. Three thousand absolutists gathered in the town, but with only 18 soldiers and 25 militiamen from Reus, they were defeated by surprise in September 1822. It was also during the War of the Offended (1827) that Alforja became the capital of the insurgents in the Campo de Tarragona, under the command of Joan Rafí Vidal, who established his regimental board there until he could enter Reus. In 1834, the Carlist leader known as the Vicar of Alforja was executed in the town.

In January 1837, liberal military leader Iriarte defeated the Carlists between Las Borjas and Alforja, taking 50 prisoners, of whom 39 were executed on the spot. In 1840, Carlist groups killed 29 Isabelino volunteers from the town in Las Borjas. In the 1869 elections, the monarchists won, and in 1872, in Alforja, Josep Antoni Mestre was one of the first to rise up for the Carlists in southern Catalonia. In 1874, the priest of Flix, with 150 Carlists, besieged liberal forces in the town; the besieged resisted in the church until the arrival of liberal troops led by Moore, with 1000 men, and then they had to surrender; they were promised to spare their lives, but when they came out, they were shot.

Between 1836 and 1851, a sect of illuminated individuals led by the farmer Miquel Ribas flourished. In 1842, the population reached its peak with 2,231 inhabitants. By the end of the century, there were only 956.


Mas de Mestre

The urban nucleus developed around the parish church dedicated to San Miguel. It is a 17th-century building. The bell tower is Neoclassical in style and was built later. Inside the church, there was a altarpiece of San Miguel that is now preserved in the Museum of Reus.

Very few remains are left of what was the ancient castle of Alforja; only parts of its walls remain. It was situated on a small hill overlooking the city.

Alforja celebrates its main festival on September 29, coinciding with the feast of San Miguel. In July, various popular activities take place, such as a gathering of Sardana dances or a Castilian festival.


The toponym Alforja likely comes from Moorish origin (from the Arabic Alfurg or al-hurga, meaning “opening” or “separation,” neck or mountain pass), due to its location in the mountain pass that connects Reus and the Campo de Tarragona with the Priorat and the Prades mountains), about 3 km in a straight line.

Puigcerver Sanctuary

The hermitage is a religious building in the municipality of Alforja. Built not far from Mount Puigcerver (835 meters high), it is located on the border with the term of Riudecols. Due to its location, there has always been some rivalry between Riudecols and Alforja over its possession.


Originally, agriculture marked the economic life of the area. The main crops are dryland crops, with hazelnuts being a prominent focus. Currently, local small industries and proximity to urban centers of greater economic and industrial relevance have shifted the economic base of Alforja away from agriculture.

This historical overview provides a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Alforja’s past, from its medieval origins and involvement in regional conflicts to its cultural celebrations and religious landmarks. The town’s evolution reflects the broader historical currents and transitions that have shaped the Catalonia region over the centuries.