Originally, Vistabella del Maestrazgo was a Muslim village, belonging to the Culla castle and the Setena (association of seven municipalities). After the Christian conquest, it received its first charter in 1251, when it was given to the lordship of Anglesola. A second charter was granted by Umberto de Thous to Pascual Subirals in 1382, before it then passed into the hands of the Order of Montesa. During the Carlist Wars, it is in Vistabella that Carlist stamps and some Carlist newspapers (such as Vanguardia and El Volante de la Guerra) are printed. A battle is fought here in 1835, and the Carlists are later kicked out of Vistabella, and Juan Vilás, the editor of the newspapers, saw his workshop closed.
Vistabella’s economy is based on agriculture, livestock, forestry and a fledgling services sector, of which tourism is by far the most important. Handicrafts, such as hand-painted fabrics, wood, iron, basketry, crochet work, dried flowers, knitwear, carpentry and masonry, also play an important role in Vistabella’s present-day economy.
What to see
The 436 inhabitants of Vistabella reside in the urban centre of the town and in some of the many farm houses in the district, while the old district of Sant Bertomeu el Boi is totally deserted.
The town features a Medieval part, surrounded by walls, that remains well-preserved even today, including a tower and two gates, known as Sant Roc and El Forn. However, there is nothing left of the castle.
Of particular interest within the old town is the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción church, a Renaissance-style building from the 17th century, the largest of its kind in Castellón and most notable for its façade.
We mustn’t forget the Calvary installation, the San Antonio hermitage next to the cemetery, the 16th-century Virgen del Loreto hermitage and, in the same square, the Polo mansion, from the 18th century.
Vistabella’s spectacular natural scenery is rounded by off by interesting architectural elements, such as the aforementioned farm houses.
Be sure to visit the Romanesque bridge over the river Montlléo. The hermitage dedicated to San Bartolomé and the Boi castle, 9 km away, are also well worth a visit.
However, the Sant Joan de Penyagolosa sanctuary is the most outstandingly beautiful of Vistabella’s attractions.
It inspires a number of excursions around the Penyagolosa massif, as well as a range of traditional pilgrimages, highlights including, the Pelegrins de les Useres (on the last Friday of April) and the Vistabella pilgrimage, which takes place at Whit Sunday.
Vistabella offers visitors a wide and varied selection of local cuisine, with dishes such as tombet or cabrit (sliced potatoes, peppers and aubergines lamb-stew with tomato sauce).
Sweet treats include cascaranya (typical pastry of the area), pastissos made with sweet potato or cabell d’àngel (a type of pumpkin jam), rotllets (egg and aniseed donuts) and the highly-prized truffles.