The history of the town of Vila-seca has always been linked to the castle, since they both originally date from the 12th century.
The castle was built during the repopulation of Camp de Tarragona by Ramon de Olzina, first feudal lord of Vila-seca, by order of King Alfons I the Chaste, Archbishop Bernat Tort and Guillem de Tarragona.
It later passed to the Archbishopric of Tarragona, which in 1680 sold it to Johan Kies, the Dutch consul in Barcelona.
In 1899 the castle and its lands were acquired by Isidre de Sicart i Torrents, who renovated the house according to a design by the architect Enric Fatjó i Torras, and from then on it was known as the Castle of the Count of Sicart. This is why, the building, as we see it today, is in the neo-Gothic style, with stylistic influences from central and northern Europe.
On 22 October 2005, the town hall of Vila-seca approved the acquisition of the castle and the adjacent garden.
The history of the repopulation of Camp de Tarragona
The arrival of the Moors in Camp de Tarragona in the eighth century resulted in the area becoming a frontier zone between the Christians in the north and the Muslims in the south. This situation prompted the counts in the north of Catalonia to decide on a policy to retake, control and repopulate the area. Once the counties of old Catalonia were consolidated, it was necessary to exceed the Muslim presence in Tortosa and Lleida in order to repopulate Camp de Tarragona. Finally, in 1118 Oleguer, Bishop of Barcelona, was made archbishop of Tarragona and he commissioned the Norman knight Robert d’Aguiló to embark on the repopulation of the region of Tarragona and adjacent areas.
Around 1162, Villassicca, present-day Vila-seca, was granted to the knight Ramon d’Olzina by the three overlords of Camp de Tarragona; the sovereign Alfons I the Chaste, the archbishop of Tarragona Bernat Tort, and Guillem de Tarragona, son of the knight Robert d’Aguiló.
Ramon d’Olzina became the first feudal lord of Vila-seca. After taking possession of the surrounding lands, he had a castle built on what were probably the ruins of an original Roman fortification, as was the custom at the time, as a base for the repopulation of the area.
The land controlled by Ramon d’Olzina was right next to other lands under the direct control of the archbishop of Tarragona, resulting in two Vila-secas; one known as Vila-seca dels Olzina and the other as Vila-seca del Comú, where the centre of the present-day town is to be found. We know of the existence of these two separate settlements side by side due to them both being mentioned in public records of the time. The two Vila-secas developed separately over the centuries. They were finally united in 1525, when they were merged into one municipality which kept the name Vila-seca dels Olzina (later known as Vila-seca de Solcina).
Development of the castle
Ever since it was built in the twelfth century, the castle has had many changes in fortune during its eight-and-a-half centuries of existence, as well as many noble owners.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century, a hundred and fifty years after the merging of the two Vila-secas, the castle and surrounding lands were sold by the archbishopric of Tarragona to Johan Kies, a Dutch consul who lived in Barcelona. He was a merchant who represented the Low Countries in the court of Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor during the Spanish War of Succession.
Johan Kies was a Dutch producer of distilled liquors who set up in Vila-seca the first distillery in Catalonia. It was an industry which required large amounts of water, so during the eighteenth century many wells and water tunnels were dug which were also used to irrigate the surrounding fields.
The Kies family reconstructed the medieval castle in the style of a Dutch country house, although they retained the solid keep and during the eighteenth century installed stills in it. The castle was owned by Johan Kies’s descendants until 1899.
On 20 September 1899, Josefa de Torrents Higuera, widow of Isidre de Sicart Soler, purchased the castle and adjacent lands from Antoni Kies Muñoz on behalf of her son Isidre de Sicart Torrents, first count of Sicart, who was married to Dominga Vilar Juera.
The new owner renovated the castle over the next few years according to plans drawn up by the architect Enric Fatjó i Torras. Local soldó stone was used for new balconies and modernista features which were in fashion at the time. Fatjó’s design transformed the old building into a neo-gothic house with stylistic influences from Central and Northern Europe, large windows on the main floor, battlements on the roof and balconies on the corner tower. The Tower of Olzina, or the keep (the oldest part), was joined to the rest by an elevated walkway and its exterior was clad in stone.
When Isidre de Sicart Torrents died on 15 October 1929, the castle was inherited by his son Isidre de Sicart Vilar, husband of Josefa Llopis de Pedro. Their son, Josep Maria de Sicart Llopis, married to Eugènia Girona Villavecchia, inherited the castle upon his father’s death on 17 May 1948. He and his descendants owned the castle until 22 October 2005, when it was sold to the Vila-seca town council.
During the one hundred and six years it was in their ownership, the Sicart family, generation after generation, showed great personal and economical commitment to this historical site in the town of Vila-seca. Examples of this are the fact that during the Spanish civil war they allowed part of the castle to be used temporarily as the local school so that pupils would be protected from bombardment by its sturdy walls; as well as many instances of working together with the townspeople, local organisations and the town council.
In 1949 Vila-seca castle was officially declared a BCIN or Bé Cultural d’Interès Nacional (Cultural Site of National Interest). Later in 1988 it was declared a BCIL or Bé Cultural d’Interès Local (Cultural Site of Local Interest), making it a doubly-protected heritage site.
List of the lords of Vila-seca castle from its establishment to the present day
From Olzina to Archbisopric
1164-1166: Ramon d’Olzina
02/10/1208: Joan, Berenguer, Bernat and Arnau d’Olzina
26/03/1213: Berenguer d’Olzina
21/08/1292: Joan and Guillem d’Olzina
14/11/1326: Gabriel, Bernadó, Blanqueta and Berenguerona d’Olzina
1331: Bernadó and Berenguerona d’Olzina
1340: Bernat d’Olzinelles, married to Berenguerona
08/04/1361: Joan d’Olzinelles
1397: Bernat d’Olzinelles
16/09/1398: Beatriu d’Olzinelles
12/05/1417: Bernat d’Olzinelles
12/11/1438: Bernat Saportella
1479: ? Gaspar Saportella
03/04/1518: Caterina Papiol, widow of Gaspar Saportella
1525: Pere de Cardona, Archbishop of Tarragona
1530: Archbisopric of Tarragona
1690: ? Johan Kies
1718: ? Antoni Kies Sala
1771: ? Joan Kies Guasch
31/05/1795: Ignasi Kies Guasch
(disputed): Antoni Kies Sarinyena
13/06/1887: Antoni Kies Muñoz
Josefa Torrents, widow of Isidre Sicart Soler
20/09/1899: Isidre de Sicart Torrents, Count of Sicart
15/10/1929: Isidre de Sicart Vilar, Count of Sicart
17/05/1948: Josep M. de Sicart Llopis, Count of Sicart and Baron of Salillas
22/10/2005: Vila-seca town council
A new space for the twenty-first century
The refurbishment of the castle has allowed the building to be reinforced structurally, turning it into a municipal facility ready for a variety of cultural uses. A new central vertical core has been incorporated with stairs, a lift, and toilets on each floor.
The floors, from top to bottom, are used for institutional, administrative and public affairs, with an auditorium seating one hundred on the ground floor.
In the twelfth century during feudalism, Vila-seca castle acted as a centre for social activity; a role it still retains given that now it is an entity representing every citizen of Vila-seca.