Around the City
Antequera is located in Andalucia which is a southern region of Spain bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Antequera is about 1 hour inland from Malaga, which is on the coast. The city has been called the “Heart of Andalusia since the 1500’s, due to the fact that it is centrally located between four other important cities in the area: Cordoba, Granada, Seville, and Malaga.
Like everywhere in Europe, the area has a lot of history connected to it. There are three famous dolmens (ancient burial/ceremonial sites built into a hill) in the area which date back to the iron age. Two of them are the largest in Europe. The Romans get credit for the way the city is laid out- and for naming the city -they called it Antikaria. The Romans got pushed out of the area between 500 and 600 by invading tribes – like the Vandals.
In the early 700’s, the Muslims invaded Spain. They renamed the city Medina Antaquira. The Muslims were in charge until the early 1200’s when the Christian Kings began the war to reclaim Spain. For a couple of hundred years, until the early 1400’s, Antiquera was considered an important border fortress town between Muslim and Christian territory. The Alcazaba (as it is known) was critical in holding the defenses for what was left of Muslim territory. The defensive fortifications were built along with a small castle on the hill overlooking the city. Of course the Muslims weren’t the first to build in that spot -but the Alcazaba is the fortress that endures today. Antequera was conquered by Ferdinand I in 1412 and then became part of the Kingdom of Castile. Granada, which is only about one hour away was the last Moorish city to be conquered -in 1492.
Once the fighting was over, the city became known for agriculture and craftsmen. They started building churches and convents -between the 1500’s and the 1700’s. I think someone told me that some of the convents have been closed over time, but there are still something like 30 of them located in the city today. Antequera has a population of about 50,000 residents.
And that is your history lesson for this week.
On the walk around the city, they first angle along the Eastern side of town, down a somewhat nondescript street, heading toward the high point, which is the Santa Maria Church. On the walk, one of the first things you pass is the Cruz Blanca Chapel (the white cross).
A few more blocks and you arrive at the San Jose Church.
Just beyond that, after a mean stair workout, is the Santa Maria Church plaza and the Giant’s arch (built in the 1500s).
The Alcazaba is situated on the hill even higher above the Santa Maria Plaza. In the past, I had been told that there wasn’t anything worth seeing up the stairs next to the church, so I never went up there. I think they’ve done some renovations in recent years and I found out that it is now open for tourists. Here is how I’ve always seen the Alcazaba – from the road going to and from El Torcal on past trips.
I always thought the “castle” was on the outskirts of town -not easy walking distance. Then the other day when David and I were returning from the El Torcal hike, I happened to take a closer look and was really surprised to realize that the “castle” I’ve been seeing from the road every time I visited was only a set of stairs (more or less) above the church plaza I’d visited 100 times. I made it a point to go see it. It looks bigger than it is -but it was very interesting.
After getting my ticket, the first part of the stairs took me to the top of the Giant’s Arc.
At the top, there were some simple garden areas and some rubble from excavations.
One of the first stops of the tour map was at what was at one time a gate to the fortress called the Christian Gate because it was created after the Muslims were driven out of Spain. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the Old Man mountain again -looking back toward the entrance to the site.
There are two towers that form the bulk of the fortress. This one is the larger one and is called: El Torre de Homenaje. (Roughly, the keep). The other tower is smaller and is called El Torre Blanca. (The White Tower).
As with any place that has new owners, some renovation was done. The Christians added a bell tower on top.
Next, the tour crossed the battlements to the White Tower.
The bottom floor was used for manning the walls, while there were some living quarters above. There wasn’t much space in there. I had to retrace my steps to the other tower -there’s really only one way in and out of the fortress.
When the Muslims were in control, there was a Mosque on the grounds. This was the informational sign showing what it looked like then.
That was pretty much the end of the tour. I walked back through the “wild” area of the site and back down the stairs. This is the entry door to the site from the inside. It is called logically enough: La Puerta de la Alcazaba. (The door to the Alcazaba.) It was the outermost gate for access to the fortress on that side.
It is just a few steps after you exit this door to get to the Giant’s Arch. Here is the view looking out through the Arch.
Just past the Arch is a road and across the road is a sidewalk along the wall. This is what you see if you look over the edge. The defensive wall for that side of the hill.
Nearby is the Fuente del Toro
The street ends in a large traffic circle with the Estapa Gate in the center. It was once a gateway to the city (and still is even if you don’t pass through it). There are a couple of other ones too located on different sides of the city near the major roads coming into the city, but I think this is the most ornate one.
I have been calling the formation that is such an icon around here “the Old Man”, but it’s real name is Lover’s Rock. There is an old story about a Christian boy captured and kept as a slave in a rich muslim’s household. The daughter of the house and the boy fell in love. Eventually they decided to run away together, but the father called in the troops and gave chase. At some point they arrived at the rock and climbed up hoping to hide out and get some rest. When it became obvious that they weren’t going to make it. According to legend, they wrapped their arms around each other and went all Thelma and Louise… or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid… and the rest, as they say, is history. There is statue of the lovers in a plaza near the bullring.
And that is a walk around Antequera. There are many more interesting buildings, churches, convents and other things to look at. It depends on how much wandering you want to do.
I can’t leave without a parting photo: