Who is not surprised by the stories around the name of their hometowns. Personally, I have always been amazed by how places names are chosen or by chance given. Who would say that Amsterdam was named after a dam built on the river Amstel? Or what would most people think if they realised that Edinburgh meant “smelly city”? My hometown “Calamocha” was in origin “Qalat-Musa” or Castle of Musa (a wealthy arab who held a fortress here in the Middle Ages).
But today I want to tell you the story about another place: TERUEL, or as it was known after its foundation: Toruel. “Toro” translates for bull in Spanish and shows the direct connection of this city with these animals.
In ancient times
When the phoenicians arrived to the region they named the river they went up “Tur-riar” and the peoples that inhabited the valley “Turboletas” due to the abundance of bulls in the area. Being an ancient settlement, Teruel’s foundations are surrounded by legends and there are multiple versions of its origins, but all of them share two elements: a bull and a star.
History tells us that to found a new city the King Alfonso II of Aragon appointed the nobles and priests who had helped him reconquer the region to seek for a favourable omen so that he could build an outpost in the borders of his kingdom in order to secure its frontiers.
The most popular legend tells us that on top of a hill there was a bull roaring to a very bright star and they founded the city in that place. Another version tells us that one of the nobles had dreamt about the bull and the star and that it was an angel who was holding the star on top of the bull.
According to one of the theories, Teruel comes from “Toro” (bull) and “Actuel” (the name of the star the bull was roaring at) and evolved from: “Toroel” to “Toruel” to modern day “Teruel”.
The same place where the bull was found is today’s “El Torico” Square, the main one and most historical in town. Atop of a column there is a figure of a little bull (torico), that symbolises the foundations of the city.
Teruel has used the bull and the star as its main symbol ever since and appears in the city’s emblems, associations logos and sport clubs.
Teruel is a charming medieval city that even after being bombed to the ground during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) is Unesco Heritage for its unique “Mudejar” art, done by muslims that stayed in the Christian Kingdom after the reconquest. Very special because of its use of brickwork and ceramic in churches, belfries and convents.
Teruel honours its origins during its most important festivals: “Vaquillas” or “Las Fiestas del Ángel” that take place every year during the second weekend of July.
If you want to know more about Teruel:
If you want to experience how is Teruel’s major Festival:
I hope you enjoyed the reading! Feel free to share!