Neolithic remains are the earliest evidence of Riba-roja’s history. Its charter, granted by Bishop Ponç of Tortosa in 1185, was recognition of a mediaeval settlement which had grown up around the Templar castle of Rippe Rubee, on the front line in the struggle against the Moors.
Though the remains of the fortress have largely disappeared with passage of time, the makeup of the town today, with its gateways, squares and alleyways, is the result of the symbiosis between its strategic position and the leading role played by the river.
THE 12TH CENTURY
Riba-roja is already mentioned in the 12th century, in documents from 1163 and 1167 belonging to Bishop Ponç of Tortosa. It was part of the lands given to the Knights Templar after the conquest of Miravet by Ramon Berenguer IV.
In order to push ahead with the Reconquest of the region from the Moors, Berenguer’s son Alfons I of Catalonia (who was also Alfons II of Aragón) asked the Templars for contributions, pledging among other things the castle and the town. Bishop Ponç attempted to resettle and Christianise Riba-roja. The town received its charter in 1185.
THE 13TH CENTURY
During the reign of King James I of Catalonia, Riba-roja was often involved in the struggles between the Entença family and the Templars. In 1288 the Entença forces did serious damage in the area. In 1289 the Templars’ commandery was in the town to put an end to the fighting by joining together with towns and villages in La Ribera and the Terra Alta to fight against the Entença forces.
THE 14TH CENTURY
The kings concerned themselves more for the welfare of La Ribera, containing or making agreements with the Entença barons.
James II of Catalonia-Aragón had the Templars put on trial. Their possessions in Aragón and Catalonia went to the order of St. John of Jerusalem, the Hospitallers.
The year 1348 saw the outbreak of the black death, the high mortality creating widespread confusion, disorder, banditry and demands for payments which weighed heavily upon the survivors.
Riba- roja and Berrús became part of the Commandery of Vilalba. Taxes rose, rights were taken away from both Christians and Muslims and heavy fuedal dues and taxes were exacted.
THE 15TH CENTURY
La Ribera, the Hospitallers and with them Riba-roja and Berrús suffered the consequences of the interregnum, of the rise of the Trastàmara dynasty and above all of the civil wars between John II and the Prince of Viana. To finance the wars, the Hospitallers completed the assessment and collection of the dues and taxes which had begun in the previous century. In the census for the taxes many Moorish, possibly Arabised, names are to be found alongside some Christian ones.
THE 16TH CENTURY
This was when the Catholic kings of Spain passed through the town. It also saw its expansion, the building of new walls and a gate. Riba-roja continued to live under a fuedal system without any great strength or personality of its own. In 1510 Joan Pubill, a former Muslim who was now a Christian, stated before the royal authorities that all the Muslims had converted and were well-assimilated Christians.