Lying at the foot of the Sierra de Mariola in the Vinalopo Valley, some 39 kilometres from the city of Alicante, the ancient town of Biar is overlooked by its medieval walled castle. Biar is a small town with a municipal area of 98.2square kilometres and a population of 3,647 (2006 figures).
The 12th century castle built during the Arab occupation, is the first thing you are likely to see when visiting Biar, as it can be spotted from all approaches to the town. Declared a National Monument in 1931, Biar castle is composed of two parts, a semi-circular enclosure with 4 towers at the corners and a space with other structures including the Tower of Tribute. The restored Tower which originally dates from the 12th century is about 17 metres in height.
Though little is know of Biar before the Arab occupation it was settled by the Romans and called Apiarum (Beehive.) In Roman times the town was a major producer of honey, the bees gathering from the abundant mountain herbs which grow in the area. The origin of the name of the town is surrounded by some confusion as many believe that it is derived from the Roman name – Apiarum – Apiar – Biar, other believe that it is from the Arabic for ‘Place of Springs’ (there is a town in Algeria which is also called Biar), we shall probably never know for certain.
Located as it was between the ancient Spanish Kingdoms of Aragon and Castille, Biar was the cause of many disputes during the years of the re-conquest and various treaties set boundaries for both Kingdoms (which were often not respected), and it was finally agreed that a hypothetical line drawn between Biar and Busot be the boundary – Aragon to the north and Castille to the south. During these times the town and castle were still held by the Moors and although an agreement was made in 1252 between Jaime I and the Arab leader to surrender the town, the inhabitants rejected the plan and lay siege to the castle, which finally fell to the Christians the following year. Biar saw further conflict during the War of Spanish Succession (when it sided with the Bourbons) and during the War of Independence.
Biar today is a busy little town and the modern day economy revolves mainly around the production of dolls, pottery, blankets and forged metal products.
Places of interest in Biar are of course the castle of which much survives, the old town, the Parish Church of the Assumption of the Virgin (dating from the 15th century) and the town square where you will find the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) and the tourist office.
Biar is located on the CV-799 between Villena and Castalla.
By Steve Locke, for more information on the Costa Blanca visit: www.needahandspanishproperties.com
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