The Ruins of Corbera

03/05/2019 08:52

Corbera d’Ebre swirled around Muntera hill protected by the mountains of Cavalls and Pandols. The Battle of the Ebro devastated the town routing most of the inhabitants. Today, as Belchite or other scenes of the Spanish Civil War before, the ruins have remained to keep the memory alive.

It was barely fifteen minutes past midnight on July 25, 1938, when Ebro River waters were disturbed between Mequinenza and Amposta by the movement of those who tried to cross. One of the last and most bloody episodes of the Spanish Civil War had just begun and it would last for 115 days and would cut the lives of more than thirty thousand people. The Battle of the Ebro started with the Republican offensive that took to occupy more than 800 Km2 along the first day. At two o'clock that afternoon Corbera was occupied while other soldiers of the 11th Division of the V Corps of the Republican army led by general Lister occupied Miravet. However, the advance would stagnate and the government troops were fighting with their backs to the river.

On 9 August, fascist troops began the counter-offensive and Corbera d’Ebre was exposed to the front line next to La Pobla de Massaluca, Vilalba dels Arcs and Gandesa. On the 14th the Republican Enrique Lister troops retired to Corbera yielding positions in the Sierra de Pandols. On September 3, the fascist broke the front north of the town then already seriously destroyed by the impacts of artillery shells and aerial bombardments. That Saturday, Corbera fell.

The last fascist offensive began on Sunday October 30 with the systematic bombardment of Republican positions from the three hundred pieces of artillery that were located among Corbera ruins. They fired nine thousand tons of shells to which would be added eight thousand more launched by Italian aviation and the German Condor Legion. On November 4 fell Miravet, on 7 Mora d’Ebre, on 16 Riba-roja and so on until January 26, 1939, when they would arrive to Barcelona.

Corbera d’Ebre arrived at the end of the conflict in a ruinous state, literally, and had lost a third of its two thousand five hundred inhabitants who lived before the beginning of the war, many of them chose to move to the bottom of the hill where the town was rebuilt. Now the upper area is known as the Muntera or Poble Vell – Old Town - and was completely abandoned when in 2008 the last neighbours moved to the new town.

The existence of Corbera d’Ebre had already been documented in 1153, when Ramon Berenguer IV ceded Miravet Castle and another fortress in town to the Order of the Temple. Both would depend on the Hospital Order in 1317 after the dismantling of the Temple. The town had already suffered the consequences of the Catalan Civil War, the Catalan Revolt and the Wars of the Spanish Succession.

From the top of Sant Pere church steeple can be appreciated Broad, Hospital, Main and Old Town streets, where only the ruins of some buildings outline the layout. The church had been completed in 1827 upon a previous Romanesque sanctuary and recently it has been rebuilt becoming a cultural space. At the end of the war, only one of the three naves could be used for religious ceremonies, now the square has been refurbished with a new pavement and the belfry has been restored. There have also been some conservation works in Cal Cec and Cal Metget houses as well as in some walls that threatened to fall.

In October, 2000 a monument dedicated to the International Brigades fighters was inaugurated. Thirteen years later a plaque was also set up to remind those fighters of the British Battalion with the following text: On September 21, 1938, the Government of the Republic announced its decision to withdraw all international volunteers from its army. The British Battalion of the XV Brigade last fought on the side of this road, two to three kilometres east of Corbera d’Ebre before being removed from the front on 24 September. In the last three days of combat 23 British volunteers died, along with more than 175 Spanish comrades of this Battalion.

© J.L.Nicolas


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