Old name: al´Caz / arcayne.
Name of inhabitants: alcainense, alcainero.
Population: 1.089 inhab. in 1900 / 713 inhab. in 1950 / 50 inhab. in 1995
Elevation: 651 mts.
Alcaine was built on impassable and intimidating rock crests, which surround and protect it. It sits between the Martín and Radón rivers, which meet at the foot of the rock crests and then flow into the Cueva Foradada reservoir . This position, now a source of problems for communication and of isolation, once protected the village. During the Middle Ages it consented to be linked to an independent territory belonging to Don Artal de Alagón (1272), although soon after (1293) became subject to the Crown. The Sesse family, and namely don Juan Galindez, bought this territory in 1333. In the XV century, Alcaine became linked to the Bardaxí family, together with the villages of Oliete and Obón. The family ties of this family connected the village to the majorat of the Bermúdez de Castro family (XVIII century) and the Rebolledo de Palafox family until the XIX century.
Alcaine did not need a defensive wall, as it was protected by the harsh territory and steep rocky slopes. Further, it featured a series of independent large fortified towers strategically anchored to the rocky crests around the village. This particular defensive system (11 independent towers and a fortress) made of stone and mortar mud walls probably originated in the Arabian occupation and was likely widespread during medieval centuries. There are only a few examples left of this system and, as Cristóbal Guitart says, this increases its importance.
It seems the defensive functions of Alcaine were mentioned in the "Cantar del Mío Cid" (XI century), in the descriptions of the adventures of the Cid in the "Val del río Martín" (Martín river valley), identifying " al'Caz " with this village.
The urban center is characterized by buildings adapted to the irregular soil. For this reason the main streets of the village follow the switchback trails at different heights of the slope and the buildings - many of them still showing the mud wall on their façades - had to adjust to the difficult soil. The lower side or incline of the streets feature downhill access stairs-integrated in the façades themselves-in order to enter the houses through set doors. On the upper side of the street, the stairs are on the street itself, and stop directly at the façade.
Also, the differences in level along the mountainside allow buildings to have up to 5 stories and keep the integrity of the urban environment. This older atmosphere has been preserved, probably due to the province's problems with communication. Today, lack of land limits urban expansion. Rocky slopes above the river offer stunning views of houses built on intimidating precipices.
The main axis of the town opens to three squares. To the north is the church irregular square, where we can find the church of Saint Mary Major (iglesia de Santa María La Mayor) - XVII-XVIII centuries. The church has recently been restored and features a remarkable mudéjar bell tower . The main chapel of the church has an elliptical dome and lantern with a decoration from the XVIII century and an extraordinary baroque altarpiece . In the center, there is a steep street off of a rectangular square ( Saint Augustine 's square - plaza de San Agustín). The third square, plaza Mayor del tenor Albero, in which we find the town hall, includes civilian style buildings. The town hall features a marketplace with round arches on either end. Among the civilian style buildings, an old masonry house now hosting a hotel and the Center of Interpretation of Fauna of the Cultural Park of the Martín river stands out.
The main streets are intersected by others that run down the hill slope, one of which is Nevera street (calle de la Nevera "The icehouse street"), where the town icehouse still stands at the crossing point of several streets. Pillars flank the town entrance points, and the town's location offers many impressive panoramas: over the Martín river lowland (from the San Ramón lookout), as well as over the Radón river. The San Ramón lookout allows access to the river via a cobbled trail with steps.