Cervera del Maestre: a beautiful inspiration to artists
Perched on a hilltop of the Cervera mountain range complete with a Moorish castle to greet visitors as they arrive is the hidden gem of Cervera del Maestre. Out of a population of around 600 inhabitants, around 25% are foreigners from a range of twenty or so different countries. With its steep narrow winding streets, whitewashed and terracotta houses and a feeling of being in a maze that even the GPS can’t navigate, Cervera del Maestre has something special about it that you can feel even as you approach it.
My name is Fred de Souza and I have been living here since 2004. In 2020, inspired by the area and some of the artists living here, I set up the Fred De Souza Gallery. In conjunction with Casa del Drac, we have regular exhibitions and artists in residence here in Cervera del Maestre. Let me introduce you to this gorgeous village.
Cervera del Maestre location
The region is relatively unspoilt with an economy based on agriculture, mainly orange, almond and olive groves and carob trees.
Development has been restricted by the coast and thus Cervera sits unspoilt 18km inland, in the foothills of the Maestrazgo ( Baix Maestrazgo) mountain range. The name means ’masters’ and is derived from the Grand Masters of the military orders of the Knights Templar who administered this region.
The mountains of the Maestrazgo rise to over 1800 metres and now form the Maestrazgo Cultural Park which covers 2700km2.
Half an hour to the north of the village, on the border with Cataluña is the Ebro River and its journey ends in the Mediterranean Sea where it forms the vast Ebro Delta. To the south are the regional and provincial capitals of Castellon and Valencia.
Cervera del Maestre …where the people are shaped by the land
Cervera del Maestre is one of three historic locations in the region on a line stretching some 55km NW from the coast at Peniscola to the fortified town of Morella at 1200 metres above sea level. All three towns boast a castle and those of Peniscola and Morella were featured in the film El Cid. The houses of Cervera huddle beneath the walls of the Moorish castle, 313 metres above sea level.
The municipality of Cervera is one of the largest in the Castellon region measuring 93 km2, but in terms of population, it is the smallest (575 inhabitants).
It’s location, people and their heritage have been shaped by the land. The Iberians and later the Moors created thousands of terraced parcels of land for the growing of Olives, Almonds, Carobs, Oranges & Lemons. These terraced plots provided the means to exist.
Fiestas and traditions
Traditions still run parallel with modern life. Fiestas and the running of the bulls through the streets still continue. Numerous parades through the narrow streets and dances in the village square, to celebrate the saints or La Faram (the Dragon).
La Faram (the Dragon) was a mythical dragon which lived in the castle and would devour small children. An annual play is enacted to celebrate the slaying of the dragon which breaths fireworks which are somewhat of a fire hazard for the gathered crowd in the main square, Fortunately, the bomberos (firemen) are on standby.
Alternatively, one can pass the time sitting outside in the street or in the village square with friendly fun-loving neighbours and a nice bottle of wine.