Mills in Alto Aragón – aceitero


Lapenilla is a dead village above the Embalse de El Grado. From L'Ainsa take the road to Campo. Turn right after about 12 km toward Tierrantona and Troncedo. Continue until you reach Pano and the information panel next to the Ermita de la Virgen de la Collada. Park your vehicle and walk —you may prefer to drive— the narrow road down to Lapenilla and Aldea de Puy de Cinca. Enjoy the splendid views on Pano, Clamosa, El Grado lake and Abizanda, where you can visit an oil mill in much better shape. The road runs between the village and the mill, which is situated about 200 m East from the village.

(1) The former oil mill with its façade facing the village.

The mill (1) has a rectangular ground plan. It is a simple building without any prominent features except perhaps that it has very few openings for such large walls. In the façade, apart from the entrance, we count only three rather modest win­dows: the largest one (4) above the door.

The other windows are small: one on the ground level and the other on the first (second, if you count like in the U.S.A.) floor. The latter (6) is very narrow and may in fact have been nothing more than an opening for the power lines.

The wall at the back counts two windows, which are situated on the first floor and of about the same size like the window above the door. They are closed with bricks. There may have been more windows, but it is difficult to be sure.

The last opening can be found in the short wall at ground level (left in 1): a second entrance probably, topped with a simple wooden lintel, not with an arch like in the façade.

The walls of the mill certainly warrant a closer look.

There is a clear boundary line between the top and bottom part of the facade (1, white line in 2). This breach line runs horizontally along the long sides of the building (1) and upwards to the back wall on the short sides (2). Also the corner stones above the line are clearly more grayish and the other stones form a more regular pattern in lines. The wall below the line shows a much more irregular aspect with more brownish corner stones.

(2) The old roof line with the newly added layer.
Our reading of the situation is that in the beginning of its life the mill was built like all the oil mills in the region : in order to give the huge cantilever press enough room, the backwall was built much taller than the front (see f.e. Ayera, or Castilsabás).

Later on, the cantilever press was replaced by a specimen which required less free height. It now became possible to add a second layer —living quarters maybe?— to the construction. The window above the door (1, 3) must then date from the same period of time and the cei­ling of the ground floor must have been just above the arch of the entrance.

Sadly, we have no docu­ments to sup­port our inter­pretation and we are not entirely happy with our own speculation.

The walls inside show openings for beams suppor­ting a ceiling. But the upper floor would have been a very unpleasant place with only three rather small windows allowing air and light to enter. Also, there is no way the vertical beams of a press (7) could fit below a ceiling at this height. Therefore the upper floor could have taken not more than about two thirds of the inner surface.

(3) Entrance.
(4) Regaifa behind the entrance.

The entrance (3) is topped with a low arch made from limestone tuff. The door jambs are each con­structed from a small stone at the foot, then a tall monolith and then a small stone at the top. There are no protective signs, like a cross sign or a calvary, present. In this region, engravings of this type seem to be more a thing of flour mills, not of olive oil mills.
There are however two engravings with a year mark (3): a stone centered above the arch carries the year 1853 and a stone right from the entrance is marked with 1935. The lintel of the small window left from the entrance (1, 5) carries also an inscription. I am not sure of the penul­timate digit. It resembles a 4, but given the stone above the door it may likely be a 5. Therefore the year on the lintel must be AÑO 1853.

(5) Lintel of the small window left from the door.
(6) Insulators above small opening in façade.

(7) Workplace: fireplace left; platform with press; entrance right;
in the back the door to the annex where the grinding was done.

(8) Vertical beams of the press.
As far as we can tell, most of the activity must have taken place in the area around, and south of, the entrance — that is the rightmost section of the building in (1).

The space is dominated by a platform (7). A stair­case with six steps made of stone, and situated against the south wall, leads to the platform. This is the best place for a staircase because it is the shortest way between the roller crusher and the place where the mash needed to be stacked for the extraction.

At the other end of the platform the press bed (regaifa, 4) can be found. It is a stone plate with a circular gutter that collected the oil and drained the fluid in a stone receptacle (pila) at the base of the platform. This pila is visible in (7), just below the beams.

The two beams (virgenes 7, 8, 10) planted in a pit in the platform form the pivot end of the cantilever press (for a good example see Panillo).

(9) Entrance left; platform with press right.
(10) Press beams left; regaifa; fireplace right.

Also on the platform, against the wall (7 left, 10 right) is a pila which probably was used to store the hot water needed for the extraction process.
Next to this stone vessel are some remnants of walls (10) that are reminiscent of a fireplace with a chimney.

(11) The grinding area in the small subsidiary building (extreme right in 1).

At the southern end of the mill (right in 1) a subsi­diary construction is leaning against the main building. It is the place where the olives were grinded before they went under the press. This small and low building has its own entrance from outside, but can also be reached from the work­place in the main building: the opening right in (7).
About the entire floor space is taken by the plate of the grinder (balsa del torno, 11) for the olives. Grinders of the same type can be seen in e.g. Olsón, or Abizanda. The border is made of bricks exactly like in Abizanda.

Two opposite corners of the room are transformed in small storage containers (algorines) used to keep the fresh olives waiting to be crushed.

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