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A double murder during the civil war brings to light a medieval monastery in Zaragoza

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A Lourdes Malon Pueyo, aged 18, was killed on August 20, 1936. The Falangists shot them after being shot while fleeing through the mountains. Her sister Rosario, 23, died the same day in the cave where she had taken refuge with Lourdes, along with her father and brother. His crime? After embroidering a republican flag for the Socialist Youth of A castle, a municipality of Zaragoza. Five archaeological campaigns were conducted between 2013 and 2020 in search of the skeletal remains of the two young women. Rosario’s body was found in 2017 but not that of her sister, who is still missing. But this research, funded by the Charata Association for the Restoration of the Historical Memory of Uncastillowith funds from Zaragoza Provincial Council, the Comarca de las Cinco Villas and the Town Hall of Uncastillo, has provided an unexpected result: the location of the walls of the medieval monastery of San Esteban de Oraste, the discovery of a Visigoth tomb, the discovery of ceramics from the same period, the fragment of a bell that adorned with a monk in a chasuble, and even an 11th-century money set.

The study The archaeological site of the Peñas de Santo Domingo: the phases of the Hispano-Visigoth and medieval occupation, the specialists Francisco Javier Ruiz Ruiz, Tomás Hurtado Mullor, Roger Sala Bartrolí, Pedro Rodríguez Simón and José Ignacio Piedrafita Soler recall that the place where both sisters were murdered was in the Municipality of Longas, in an area in front of the Pyrenees. An 18th-century hermitage dedicated to Santo Domingo that survives gives its name to the whole area, as does a cave, the small shelter where the girls took shelter.

To find their bodies, three geophysical prospecting campaigns (georadar) were conducted, covering about 3,500 square meters. “The ultimate goal was to identify, describe and position any type of subsurface anomaly consistent with earth movements associated with burials, determine possible burial points at which action will later be taken through archaeological verification surveys to carry out such work as far as possible to optimize investigation, excavation,” recalls the report.

From left to right the brothers Rosario, Mariano and Lourdes Malón.Council of Aran

Therefore, with the results reproduced on the computer screens, it was decided to carry out 15 surveys on “those points or groups of anomalies indicated by geophysical prospecting as possible remains of pits or burials”, with the exception of two tastings, which were found in the cave were carried out if one of the bodies was buried in it. To complete the investigation, an electromagnetic survey (metal detector) was also carried out to “locate underground material elements of archaeological interest, in this case essentially ballistic evidence (casings or Civil War shells), which would allow possible location of the graves to determine or contribute to the reconstruction of the events.”

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Bell fragment found at the Peñas de Santo Domingo site.
Bell fragment found at the Peñas de Santo Domingo site.

Surprisingly, however, the works also confirmed “a hitherto unknown Spanish-Visigoth occupation”. A burial and a landfill from this period have been located. The grave corresponded to a simple grave (1.80 x 0.48 meters) in which the remains of a person were found “lying on their back with their head facing north-west, arms crossed at their hips and lower extremities stretched out”. Forensic and genetic-anthropological studies indicated that it could be a young adult male between the ages of 20 and 30 and a height of 1.57 meters. Radiocarbon testing places his death between 475 and 620. In addition to burned animal bones, 261 fragments of ceramics, glass and some metal objects were found in the landfill. The pottery pieces are of the so-called early medieval shades of gray and correspond to the 6th-7th centuries. Century.

Specialists knew that in the High Middle Ages the Monastery of San Esteban de Oraste or Orastre was founded on the top of the Peñas de Santo Domingo in the primitive Condado de Aragón between 1030 and 1059. However, their exact location was unknown. But geophysical prospecting “has now enabled us to document and define a part of the complex attributable to the ancient monastery, traces of the walls of which are still visible next to the hermitage of Santo Domingo.” This group of structures – at least 600 square meters were examined – includes “notable elements” including a main body that corresponds to a patio, a series of architectural structures up to half a meter thick and an enclosure forming “a possible discarded construction that identifiable with the head of the main cult”.

Medieval coins found in Peñas de Santo Domingo.
Medieval coins found in Peñas de Santo Domingo.

North of these structures, “possible linear elements that may be related to the central block” have also been located. A tasting was conducted in the latter, which confirmed two other lines of collapsed walls. “The data obtained through the geophysical prospection therefore allow us to confirm the existence of an important architectural complex that should be identified with the possible remains of the medieval monastery Saint Stephen of Orastre‘ says Francisco Javier Ruiz Ruiz, head of the investigation.

Medieval burial in Peñas de Santo Domingo.
Medieval burial in Peñas de Santo Domingo.

Prospecting with a metal detector at a depth of no more than 15 centimeters made it possible to discover numerous objects, including “a set of fleece coins from the 11th-13th centuries, an iron arrowhead, a fragment of a metal bell with figurative decor of a monk dressed in a chasuble with rope, carrying a bell in his hand, which would correspond to the image of a religious monk Hospitallers of San Antonio, founded in 1095, a copper earring set with a translucent blue stone and embossed with geometric decoration and an oval iron belt buckle”, which technicians believe to be between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Cueva de Peñas de Santo Domingo, where the Malón family took refuge.
Cueva de Peñas de Santo Domingo, where the Malón family took refuge.

“Following the southward advance of the borders of the Kingdom of Aragon, the monastery of San Esteban de Oraste moved to the nearby city of Luesia, perhaps towards the end of the 12th century” and became dependent on the great monastery of San Juan de la Pena (Botaya, Jaka). However, this did not lead to the disappearance of the settlement, which remained active for centuries until its final disappearance with the 1836 confiscation. Their trail was lost.

Exactly one hundred years later, two girls, her father Francisco and her brother Mariano, fled in terror – their mother Francisca Pueyo Prat had been shot dead a few days earlier – into a cave in Las Peñas de Santo Domingo. When the young women were discovered, they were shot. Only the son, who managed to escape to Huesca (he died in 1999), and the father were saved, but he could not endure so much pain and died of grief shortly after the horrific murder of his family. The walls of the monastery of San Esteban de Oraste were witnesses.

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Source elpais.com

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