Mortemer Abbey was originally built in 1134 on land gifted to the Cistercians by Henry I of England. The stagnant water of the drainage lake, dug out by the monks to dry up the marshy land around the quick running Fouillebroc stream, was called 'dead mere', 'dead pond' - in modern French 'morte mare' - and gave the monastery its name.
The monks constructed what was then one of the largest Cistercian monastery in the world. Over the centuries, the abbey fell into decline and disrepair. It was rebuilt in the 17th Century, but the decline was irreversible and by 1790, when it was dissolved in the course of the French Revolution, only five monks remained.
The 12th century buildings were already more or less derelict by the time of the French Revolution, and subsequent use as a convenient source of cut stone for local construction reduced them to little more than a ruin. Apart from the cloisters, which are relatively intact, there remains only a shell.
The 17th century buildings by contrast are well preserved and open to visitors, with guided tours available most of the year. The abbey site also has a well-maintained 17th century dovecote, which was also used as a gaol house in the 18th and 19th centuries.References:
The castle of La Iruela, small but astonishing, is located on the top of a steep crag in Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. From the castle, impressive views of the surrounding area and of the town can be enjoyed.
The keep dates from the Christian era. It has a square base and small dimensions and is located at the highest part of the crag.
There are some other enclosures within the tower that create a small alcázar which is difficult to access.
In a lower area of the castle, protected with defensive remains of rammed earth and irregular masonry, is an old Muslim farmstead.
After a recent restoration, an open-air theater has been built on La Iruela castle enclosure. This theater is a tribute to the Greek and Classic Eras and holds various artistic and cultural shows throughout the year.
The first traces of human activity in La Iruela area are dated from the Copper Age. An intense occupation continued until the Bronze Age.
Originally, La Iruela (like Cazorla) was a modest farmstead. From the 11th century, a wall and a small fortress were built on the hill to protect the farmers.
Around 1231, don Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, conquered La Iruela and made it part of the Adelantamiento de Cazorla. Over the Muslim fortress, the current fortress was built.
Once the military use of the fortress ended, it was used as cemetery.