* Palaeolithic: The presence of human in the Sobrarbe region has been traced to the period c. 40000-10000 BCE. The most important discoveries are very basic artistic depictions known as 'maccaroni' scrawled by hand on the damp clay surface of the cave of Forcón located in the Sierra Ferrara and the remains of a deer antler in the Canyon of Añisclo that bears the marks of human carving.
* Neolithic: There are remains that bear witness to the existence of Neolithic human settlements in the Sobrarbe. Half of the most important finds in Huesca related to this period are located in the Sobrarbe: Huerto Raso in Lecina, Espluga de Puyascada, Forcón in San Juan de Toledo and la Miranda in Palo.
* The Bronze and Copper Ages: Vestiges found dating back to this period indicate the existence of permanent human settlements.
* Upper Palaeolithic Art, also known as Naturalistic Art, is also present; the best examples are to be found on the eastern side of the Sierra de Guara where the River Vero Cultural Park is located.
* Megalithic monuments: the dolmen of Tella or Losa de la Campa and the 'Capilleta' (little chapel) located in Paules de Sarsa.
The Romanesque heritage of the Sobrarbe is comprised of its cultural sites, country walks and landscapes redolent with history. Its architecture – both religious and civil – is austere in its forms and decorations that harmoniously fit into the surrounding landscape. The Sobrarbe region offers the most austere expression of the Romanesque aesthetic to be found in all of Upper Aragon.
* Abizanda Castle: Abidanza is home to a Romanesque fortress built on a square plan that incorporates a small watchtower on each of its faces. The northernmost section contains a tower about 24 m in height that features a door placed at a strategic height on its southwestern corner that improved its defence. The trabeated door surmounted by a semicircular arch and the three large geminated windows in the upper sections reflect the traditions of 11th century Lombard architecture. Its builders made use of the foundation of a more complex pre-Romanesque tower built in the Arab style that was almost destroyed during the incursion of Abd Al-Malik in 1006. In the Museum of Beliefs and Popular Religion of the Central Pyrenees, located in the adjacent abbey house, you can see a primitive relief sculpture that features part of a Christogram held up by a small animal on one side and a five-pointed star on the other side that might have once decorated the tympanum of the small church door.
* Boltaña Castle: On a hilltop situated to the north of the town centre one can visit the ruins of a Romanesque castle that was built by local artists and craftsmen during the reign of Sancho the Great and completed in 1045. It was constructed using ashlar set out in regular rows and features an irregular keep and an interior water cistern protected by a barrel vault.
One enters by means of a stairway located on the southern flank of the installations. This site is enclosed on all six sides by 1.5-metre-thick walls that reach a height of 6 metres.
* Troncedo Castle: This castle is located in La Fueva. Of the original walled enclosure, only part of the castle keep and one other tower still survive. The exterior pentagonal structure of the keep encloses a square interior. Entirely in ruins today, it may date back to the 11th century.
On the southern side of the site is the Hermitage of San Miguel, currently devoted to the cult of San Victorian, which could also possibly date back to the 11th century. It is a simple, rectangular ashlar building with an apse that faces the east.
The parish church of Troncedo also still conserves a few Romanesque features, including a hemicylindrical apse and two modillions that support the eaves.
* The religious-military complex at Samitier: Samitier Castle, also known as the Castle of Monclús, sits on a hilltop that overlooks the waters of the Mediano Reservoir, which makes it one of the most extraordinary sites to visit in the Upper Aragon region. Its strategic situation is a clear indication of the military function of this fortification. The complex includes the aforementioned castle and a church.
* The hermitages of Tella: These are Romanesque hermitages nestled in a beautiful setting at the entrance point to the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park: the hermitages devoted to the cults of Saint Juan and Saint Pablo, Nuestra Señora de Fajanillas and the Virgen de la Peña.
* The Church of the Saviour (el Salvador) in Guaso: This building has been designated an Aragonese cultural heritage site. The original Romanesque structure has undergone various later modifications and been enlarged.
* The Church of San Esteban d’Almazorre: This church was originally constructed in the Romanesque style of the 12th century and was later enlarged. It is located in Almazorre, which pertains to the township of Bárcabo.
On November 30, 2010, the Government of Aragon approved a proposition put forward by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports to declare the church, the nearby abbey house and the 'esconjuradero' (a small temple used by priests to bless harvests and invoke divine intervention to save the local populace from calamities such as the plague, severe storms and drought) as cultural heritage sites.
* The Church of San Juan de Toledo: Located in San Juan de Toledo, this church is one of the oldest dependencies of the Monastery of San Victorián. It was declared to be an official monument of cultural interest as an example of the Lombard style.
* Church of San Lorién: This church located 3 km from the centre of the village dates back to the 12th century.
* Church of San Martín in Sta. María de Buil: Recognised as a national monument since 1977, this church is one of the most important and most unusual examples of Romanesque architecture and one of the oldest in Aragon.
* Church of San Vicente in Labuerda: The Church of San Vicente, a fine example of late 12th century Romanesque architecture, is situated 500 m from the centre of Labuerda.
* The Collegiate Church of Santa María in Aínsa: The town of Aínsa, declared to be official cultural interest for its beauty and integrity of its historic nucleus, is located in the heart of the Sobrarbe region.
Built over the 11th and 12th centuries, the Collegiate Church of Santa María stands out for its beauty and sobriety. Especially notable is its tower, unique in Aragonese Romanesque art for its dimensions, which offers spectacular views of the area.
* The Church of Sarsa de Surta: The church of Sarsa de Surta has a single nave of which the apse has not survived. Its square tower is decorated with a single germinated window that dates back to the late 11th century or early 12th century.
* Muro de Roda: The Muro de Roda is a medieval defensive construction declared to be of cultural interest. Built on a strategic site, the Muro de Roda appears in documents as early as the eleventh century.
* The arched doorway of the church of Jánovas: After the abandonment of the village of Javonas, the arched doorway of its church was moved to Fiscal where it has been preserved and can be viewed by visitors.
* Romanesque architecture in the Vio Valley: The most interesting Romanesque structure in the Vio Valley is the Church of San Vicente de Vió, which dates back to 12th century. There are also two examples of Romanesque architecture in Nerín: the 13th century Church of San Andrés and the hermitage of Santa María, which was built in the early 13th century. The Church of San Juan Bautista in Buisán also dates back to the 13th century.
* San Nicolás de Bujaruelo: The magnificent landscape on the road to San Nicolás de Bujaruelo and the nearby Roman bridge make a trip to this town worthwhile, even though the hermitage itself is in a state of ruin. Bujaruelo is a small village founded during the Middle Ages by an association made up of the towns scattered throughout the Broto Valley to provide a resting point for travellers crossing the Pyrenees by the pass of the same name. The trail to the little church there will take you over mountains, across waterfalls and streams and through lush vegetation. Just before you reach the church you will pass a stone arch bridge built during the same period as the church.
RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE HERITAGE
Larger and grander churches were built during the 16th and 17th centuries.
An outstanding example is the Church of Santa Eulalia in Olsón (1546), known as 'the Sobrarbe Cathedral', which has been declared a cultural heritage site. The church features an elegant tower, a polygonal apse and a magnificent Renaissance facade altarpiece.
The churches of Castejón de Sobrarbe, Broto, Boltaña, Puértalos and Palo also date back to this period.
The facade of Bielsa's 16th Renaissance century town hall is decorated with exceptionally fine sculptural work and the building is considered to be one of the finest examples of civil architecture in the valley. The front face of building features a series of Roman arches supported by pseudo-Ionic columns that support a triangular pediment.
In terms of decorative painting from this period, the early 16th century altarpiece of the Church of Santa Eulalia in Javierre de Bielsa is a good example.
The most important Baroque buildings in the Sobrarbe region were built during the 18th century and include the church of the Monastery of Holy Spirit in Boltaña and the church of the monastery of San Victorian. The church in Labuerda was built in the late 18th century.
The traditional houses of the region are stout and built to last a long time. Their distinctive finishing work such as doorknockers, chimneys and lintels are proof of the importance that vernacular architecture has always had for the people here.
The chimneys on the roofs of the houses in the Sorbrarbe often sport whimsical 'espantabrujas' (scare witches) and the facades of some feature vertical sundials.
One also notes manor houses that feature the principle characteristics of vernacular architecture but built on a grander scale that incorporate a range of defensive and decorative elements. The majority date back to the 16th century.
There are numerous buildings associated with the everyday chores of farming and cattle raising that are also expressions of local vernacular architecture.
RIVER VERO CULTURAL PARK
The grounds were declared an official cultural park in 2001 (decree 110/2001, of 22 May of the government of Aragon published in official government gazette nº65 of 4 June 2001).
This is a new legal category for cultural heritage created by the government of Aragon and considered an innovative concept in Europe, in that it offers recognition and protection of elements of cultural heritage located in natural settings that have an environmental value and exceptional natural beauty and which seeks to frame their value within the context of local heritage and development.
In 1998, this cultural heritage was recognised by UNESCO and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rupestrian art, monuments, urban centres and ethnographic heritage exist in harmony with nature on the banks of the River Vero over a territory that extends from the Somontano region around Barbastro to the Sobrarbe region.
Along the basin of the River Vero there are more than 60 sites that contain examples of a range of styles of rupestrian painting.
ST. VICTORIAN MONASTERY
The St. Victorian Monastery is a key landmark in the history of the Sobrarbe region. Dating back to the 6th century – the period of the Visigoths – it is considered to be one of the oldest monasteries in Spain.
According to legend, St. Victorian was born in Italy in 480. Fleeing from earthly temptations, he made his way to the Pyrenees. After living a hermetic life in the Espelunga Cave, he was made abbot of a monastery known as the monastery of San Martín de Asán. Later, in the 11th century, the name was changed to San Victorian (San Beturián) in his honour.
The monastery was rebuilt by Ramiro I of Aragon and it was there that Ramiro II, know as the Monk, and Ramón de Berenguer IV met to negotiate the latter's marriage to Ramiro's daughter Petronilla, a union that created the foundations of the Crown of Aragon.
The Monastery of San Victorián was protected by both kings and popes, and for centuries it was the political, economic and spiritual centre of the Sobrarbe. It controlled the towns within the territory comprised by the counties of Ribagorza and Somontano and also certain townships in Valencia.
HISTORIC TOWN CENTRE OF AÍNSA
At the confluence of the Rivers Cinca and Ara, a crossroads between the Pyrenees and the Somontano region, the medieval town of Aínsa conserves all the splendour of the faraway times when Muslims and Christians alternately contributed to its development.
This highly important architectural nucleus was officially designated a Historic-Artistic Site in 1965. Today the old town, the castle and the collegiate church have all been given status as 'sites of cultural interest' in accordance with the laws concerning cultural heritage enacted by the Autonomous Community of Aragon.
The medieval character of the old town invites visitors to stroll through the historic main square, along its charming cobblestoned streets and squares with its myriad of references to Romanesque style and history that comes alive in its buildings: the Collegiate Church of Santa María with its elegant tower (12th Cent.) the upper and lower gates of the town (13th Cent.), the 'Arco del Hospital' (13th Cent.), the remains of the Church of San Salvador (13th Cent.) and the fortified walls of the town (11th - 16th Cent.).
The main square (Plaza Major) La Plaza Mayor, which is faced with low arcades, dates to the 12th and 13th centuries. It is dominated by the dramatic profile of the bell tower of the Romanesque Church of Santa María.
The castle was the work of several centuries. Very little remains of the original Romanesque fortification. The easily recognisable pentagon-shaped Tenente Tower, built in the 12th century and one of the oldest elements of the castle complex now serves as an ecology museum.
Near the castle is the 17th century 'Cruz Cubierta', a monument commemorating a battle between Christian and Muslim troops that took place in 724. According to local legend, the Christian troops carried the day thanks to the apparition of a fiery cross above a Carrasca, subspecies of the Holm oak that is emblematic to the zone. This event is celebrated every other year at the second weekend of September when a pageant called 'La Morisma' is performed in the main town square.