La Vilella Alta
A town situated in the valley formed by the Scala Dei stream up to just before it meets the river Montsant, within the area of the neighbouring Vilella Baixa. To the right of the river are the heights of the Montalts. The area is crossed by the southerly hills of the Montsant mountain range. The town is centred around the Carrer Major, on a hill and the adjacent hillsides, a little above the Scala Dei stream which runs through the whole area at the feet of the cliffs of the Montalts.
The town was founded in 1286 by the Carthusians. Its history is closely tied to that of the monastery. The first townspeople were probably from the neighbouring town of Montalt, when the monks offered land to anyone who voluntarily left his town.
There is a legend that that says that two brothers named Vilella founded simultaneously Vilella Alta and Vilella Baixa. This legend has no real basis in history as the name Vilella Baixa has an older origin.
During the 17th century, Vilella Alta is variously called Vilella d’Amunt and Vilella de Dalt. At the end of the century Vilella Alta is more commonly used and this name becomes official at the beginning of the 18th century.
FESTIVALS AND CUSTOMS:
The Main Festival takes place on 18 January, in honour of St. Prisca. There is also a public holiday on 13 December in honour of St. Lucia. The summer festival of St. Jaume is in July and on the second Sunday in August a sardanas dance meeting is held.
PLACES OF INTEREST:
The most outstanding building is the parish church of St. Lucia, dating from the second half of the 18th century. It is of neoclassical and baroque style. It has an altarpiece painted in the Renaissance style. The buildings of the Societat la Veritable Aliança and Ca l’Ardèvol are noteworthy, too.
The aristocratic houses of the Carrer Major and the picturesqueness of its streets, very representative of Priorat town streets, are not to be missed. Special mention is made of the Carrer Major and those of l’Ereta and Nou.
Mention should be made, too, of the Font Vella and Font Àvia, being the main water fountains of the town. In times of drought people had to use the ‘popular post’, which was a piece of wood that was passed from house to house and indicated that it was your turn to collect water. Today, the Font Vella, now an area of leisure, is crossed by the GR 7-4 walking route.