The urban geography of Sant Carles de la Ràpita tells us of a king who dreamed of his perfect town. When King Charles III first arrived in La Ràpita he found a small fishing village and the old convent of Santa Maria de la Ràpita, on the site once occupied by the Islamic castle. Here the ambitious king imagined a grand Mediterranean port, the first that would trade with the Americas.
Charles III wanted to turn La Ràpita into one of the main trading ports in the Mediterranean,thanks to the new Ship Canal from Amposta to La Ràpita, which would give goods from north-western Spain an outlet to the sea.He changed the name to Sant Carles de la Ràpita and planned a new town to accommodate the dynamism he so greatly desired.
But the monarch’s dream was never fulfilled. His death, the financial and administrativeproblemsthat plagued the end of his reign and endemic malaria in the area meant that the grand new port town was never completed. Today we can still see some of the spaces and buildingsfrom that period, all of them half-finished, and try toimagine what the town Charles IIIdreamed of would have been like.
PLAÇADECARLES III (CHARLES III SQUARE)
This square was to have been the central point around which the rest of King Charles’ new town was to be organised, the convergence point of the municipality’s main streets.The King’s town planners were inspired by strict neoclassical canons andplanned it mainly for carrying out military parades. Of interest in the southern part of the square are the arcades and the neoclassical fountain. The Casa Laureanois also noteworthy.
Based on this central point, with an axialperspective and anorthogonalaxis from the sea to the mountains, they planned streets that ran in straight lines, paying scant regard to the relief.The planners of the timeparcelled out the land with a certain magnificence, seeking a harmony that concurred with a static concept inspiredby Roman town planning.
THE NEW CHURCH
This unique andnotablebuildingwas planned by Charles III’s brother.Hisaimwas toexpand the townto the south, thus replacing the old church in thePlaça Carles III. The New Churchwas never finished, although it can be easily identified, given the period in which it was built, with the grandbuildings designed forofficialfunctions.The ground plan and the façades are reminiscent ofItalian Renaissance churches.The east-west orientation is conditionedby the reference of the great port of Els Alfacs bay.
It has a Greek crossground planwith a central area of double height that would probably have supported adome. Around this space there are tribunes with balconies.The façade is markedly classical;it has a central door flanked on each side by Ionic columns separated by niches that recall Sabatini’sPuertadeAlcalá.
The building, once isolated and outside the town, is today in the built-up area, next to the main road, facing the sea and presiding over the bright, landscaped avenue that leads to the seafront promenade and the beaches.
La Glorieta dominates the top end of the town’s sea-mountain axis. Free-standing and unfinished, it had been conceived by the 18th-century town planners as a pavilion-lookout point over the sea and the town. This perspective, typical of the Baroque and Neoclassicism, has been lost due to the construction of modern apartment blocks and because it has been enclosed in the area of the old schools. As a small pavilion, known locally as the Capelleta, La Glorieta consists of a rotund a with three brick arch openings on the southern side and is annexed to a small rectangular body on the opposite side.
CHURCH OF THE SANTÍSSIMA TRINITAT
The Church of the Holy Trinity that presidesover PlaçadeCarles III was planned in the time of the King himself. It was demolished after the Spanish Civil War to make way for a new, larger church on the same site.
The church consists of a wide central nave flanked by narrower side naves that act as chapels. The façade presents a covered atriumenclosed by four columns with entases and Tuscan capitals. The upper part, above the atrium, with a centred window and lateralpilasters with Ionic capitals, is crowned by a triangularfronton. The side bell tower is plain.
LA TORRETA OR TURÓ DE LA GUARDIOLA
Rising above the town is La Torreta or La Guardiola hill,one of the eastern most stirr ups of the Montsià Mountains, at 113 m above sea level.The site has magnificent panoramic views of the Ebro Delta, Els Alfacs Bay and the town. On the peak of the hill is La Guardiola Tower. Documented since 1483 and mentioned in 1575 as the “armed Guardiola”, it has a square ground plan, slightly inclining at the base and worked with rubble.