Almería Cathedral by Robert Bovington

The ‘Cathedral’ is one of the major attractions in Almería. It was designed as a place of prayer and of war, when it was built in the sixteenth century. This was because the shores of Almería were continually under attack from Turks and Berbers and so it was designed as a place of refuge as well as worship. It was built in Gothic style with a Renaissance façade.

Whilst I can appreciate the workmanship inside, particularly the carved walnut stalls, I find the interior rather austere. However, a door in the south wall leads to a sunny little oasis of peace and tranquillity in the form of a little garden brimming with flowers and shrubs. 
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The east facing façade of the Cathedral has a relief of the Portocarro sun, the symbol of the city.
On the north side of the Cathedral is the Plaza de la Catedral, a large attractive square with many tall palm trees. Tourist leaflets describe the Cathedral as having stark formidable walls. Certainly, they are tall and solid and the buttresses, towers and bastions give the building the appearance of a fortress rather than a place of worship. Yet, I think the Cathedral is attractive, the sandstone coloured building set against the bright “Almerian Blue” sky with the palm trees in the foreground make for an agreeable scene. In any case, the cathedral doorways are impressive with rich Renaissance decorative features.
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Almería Cathedral
 Another good thing about Almería Cathedral is that it is sometimes the venue for classical concerts especially at Easter.

Robert Bovington
English expat living in Almería province

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Almería – amix of old and new

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by Robert Bovington
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I like Almería. I like its mix of old and new. It is essentially a Spanish city with a North African flavour. It is one of the most ancient cities of Andalucía. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans have all left their mark, but it was the Moors that really put Almería on the map! The Romans called it ‘Portus Magnus’, but later it was called al-Mariyah, meaning ‘Mirror of the Sea’.
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During the time of Moorish rule, Almería rivalled Seville as a major Andalucian city. The Moors ruled from 955 until 1489 when the ‘Catholic Monarchs’ — Ferdinand and Isabella — captured the city.
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Alcazaba

Approaching the city from the west provides a dramatic view of the town with the magnificent Alcazaba on the mountainside on the left and the port on the right.
Alcazaba Almería © Robert Bovington
There are many things to see in Almería but the undoubted jewel in the crown is the Alcazaba. This enormous fortress dominates the city standing as it does on a hill overlooking the town and the sea. It was built in the tenth century but over the centuries it had further enhancements added such as a Moorish palace and, in the time of the Catholic Kings, a Christian palace.
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(please refer to separate article “Alcazaba de Almería”)

The Cathedral is the other principal monument in Almería. It was built in the sixteenth century and was designed as a place of prayer and of refuge. This was because the shores of Almería were continually under attack from Turks and Berbers and so it was used as a place of safety as well as worship.
Catedral de Almería © Robert Bovington
There are many historic buildings in Almería – the excellent map provided by the Tourist Office identifies thirty-three key places of interest but there are many more places of historic importance or of architectural merit. The city is a mixture of old and new and, I think, the buildings are a delight to look at with their Renaissance and Mudéjar façades. They are often exquisitely decorated in pastel colours, usually two-toned and have ornate window grilles. If you like looking at tasteful architecture you will like Almería.
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Avenida Federico García Lorca, a wide boulevard that has replaced the old Rambla de Belén, divides the modern city into east and west. West of the old rambla is the Paseo de Almería, one of the main thoroughfares with banks, shops and cafés. At the top of this road is Puerto de Purchena, the heart of the city.
Avenida Federico Garcia Lorca © Robert Bovington

West of these landmarks is where the real historic part of the city is to be found.

The Cathedral was built in Gothic style with a Renaissance façade. Whilst I can appreciate the workmanship inside, particularly the carved walnut stalls, I find the interior is rather austere. However, a door in the south wall leads to a sunny little oasis of peace and tranquillity in the form of a little garden brimming with flowers and shrubs.


The east facing façade of the Cathedral has a relief of the Portocarro sun, the symbol of the city.

On the north side of the Cathedral is the Plaza de la Catedral, a large attractive square with many tall palm trees. Tourist leaflets describe the Cathedral as having stark formidable walls. Certainly, they are tall and solid and the buttresses, towers and bastions give the building the appearance of a fortress rather than a place of worship. Yet, I think the Cathedral is attractive, the sandstone coloured building set against the bright “Almerian Blue” sky with the palm trees in the foreground make for an agreeable scene. In any case, the cathedral doorways are impressive with rich Renaissance decorative features.
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Opposite the Cathedral is another attractive building, the ‘Palacio Episcopal’ or Bishop’s Palace. It was built in the nineteenth century when the upper classes started erecting the grand stately homes and palaces outside the old walled city of Muslim Almería.
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Almería – Palacio Episcopal © Robert Bovington
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In the northwest corner of Plaza de la Catedral is the ‘Convento de las Puras’. It is now a church, and was built in the 17th century on the site of the former convent.

A short distance the Cathedral is the ‘Plaza de la Constitución’ — also called the Plaza Vieja or Old Square. This 17th century arcaded square was really rather splendid a couple of years ago but, at the time of writing, it is being renovated. The plaza is entered via narrow alleyways and in the centre are palm trees and a commemorative monument in remembrance of a group of liberals who lost their lives in a revolt in 1824. I hope this square returns to its former attractiveness because it is a little haven of peace in busy Almería.

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Almería – Plaza Vieja © Robert Bovington
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In this area of the city there is one of the best tapas bars in town – ‘Casa Puga’ is located in Calle Jovellanos. Just opposite is one of the oldest streets in the city, Calle de las Tiendas, which literally means ‘street of the shops’. This area has many little side streets with plenty of bars and shops.
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Almería – Casa Puga © Robert Bovington
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The Iglesia de Santiago is also located in this area and the main façade of this church is really rather splendid with its imposing Renaissance portal and magnificent sculptures including one depicting St. James, Slayer of the Moors.

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Iglesia de Santiago © Robert Bovington
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There are many fine churches in Almería and ‘Iglesia de San Pedro’, which stands in the square of the same name, is no exception. Named after St. Peter, it was one of three parish churches founded by the ‘Catholic Monarchs’, the others being San Juan (St. John) and the aforementioned Santiago (St. James).

The church of ‘San Sebastian’ is appropriately sited in the Plaza San Sebastian with its delightful little statue, a simple monument to the Immaculate Conception. It was originally erected in 1800 and restored after the 1936 Spanish Civil War. From the 11th century onwards, this plaza was one of the most populous parts of the city. In Moorish times, a mosque stood there and later, in Christian Almería, it became a shrine to Saint Sebastian. In the 17th century, the church was built. Other religious buildings in the city include the convent of ‘Las Claras’ and the ‘Virgen del Mar’ church.

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There are also a number of modernist buildings in Almería such as the ‘Palacio de los Marqueses de Cabra’. It is fine example of the aristocratic mansions built in Almería in the 19th century. Economic and demographic growth meant that the upper classes had much more money to spend so they started building grand stately homes outside the old Arab quarter.

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Almería – Palacio de los Marqueses de Cabra © Robert Bovington
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West of Calle Real is the old Arab quarter of the city. During the 11th century, Almería ceased to be part of the ‘Caliphate of Cordoba’ and became an independent kingdom. Many refugees from the Cordoban Civil War sought shelter in Almería but had to settle outside the old city walls. New defensive walls were built and the area between the older and the newly built walls was called the ‘Musalla Quarter’. In the maze of little streets of this area there are glimpses of the magnificent ‘Alcazaba’ high on its arid hill.
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Almería – El Cable Ingles

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Other monuments in the city include the bullring, which was opened in 1888, and ‘El Cable Ingles’ which was used for loading ships with iron extracted from local mines in the early part of the 20th century.

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There are museums in Almería including the recently opened ‘Cinema Museum’ – the ‘Casa del Cine’ is located in Casa Santa Isabel, a 19th century mansion. John Lennon resided there when filming “How I Won the War”.
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If you don’t like architecture or museums, there are also beaches in Almería but you would probably be better off staying in Roquetas or Mojacar Playa!
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There are plazas, parks and gardens in the city including the ‘Parque de Nicolás Salmerón’.

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Almería – Parque de Nicols Salmeron © Robert Bovington

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more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”

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Almería churches walk

by Robert Bovington

I am not really of a religious persuasion but the ‘churches of Almería’ make for a pleasant walk.
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A good place to start is the Plaza San Pedro.

st-pedro-mural
From the plaza, the Iglesia San Pedro presents an attractive façade comprising a portico flanked by twin towers.
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From San Pedro, walk to the Paseo de Almería  and thence to Puerto Purchena, the heart of the city centre. From there, the Plaza San Sebastian is only a few minutes away. The square is very attractive with the little garden containing palms and shrubs opposite the main entrance to the church of ‘San Sebastian’. 

There is also a delightful little statue on the garden’s edge, a simple monument to the Immaculate Conception. It was originally erected in 1800 and restored after the 1936 Spanish Civil War.  

From the 11th century onwards, the plaza was apparently one of the most populous parts of the city. In Moorish times, a mosque stood there and later, in Christian Almería, it became a shrine to Saint Sebastian. In the 17th Century, the church was built. 

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San Sebastian © Robert Bovington
Return to Puerto de Purchena and enter the old shopping street of Calle de las Tiendas where St. James church is located. The main façade of this church is really rather splendid. Its imposing Renaissance portal is similar to the Cathedral’s doorways and above the door are magnificent sculptures including one depicting St. James, Slayer of the Moors. This church is one of the oldest in the town. It was built in the times of Bishop Fray Diego Fernández de Villalán who occupies an important place in the annals of the Church in Almería because of his zeal as priest and founder of new buildings in the city. His shield is also to be found above the main door.
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St. James (Santiago) © Robert Bovington
Las Claras © Robert Bovington

Continue to the end of Calle de las Tiendas to arrive in Calle Jovellanos. Immediately opposite, is the main door of the ‘Iglesia Convento Las Claras’. Above the door, is highly intricate artwork that includes a niche housing a statue of St. Clara.

Take Calle Mariana and Calle Cervantes to arrive at the extremely attractive and spacious Plaza de Catedral. (see my separate blogs for details of the Cathedral of Almería).
Plaza de Catedral © Robert Bovington

Walk in a westerly direction to enter the old ‘Musalla Quarter, a maze of little streets. At every turn, the magnificent ‘Alcazaba’ can be spotted up on its arid hill. During the 11th century, Almería ceased to be part of the ‘Caliphate of Cordoba’ and became an independent kingdom. Many refugees from the Cordoban Civil War sought shelter in Almería but had to settle outside the old city walls. New defensive walls were built and the area between the older and the newly built walls was called the ‘Musalla Quarter’.

 In Calle Almedina, the church of ‘St. John’ was built on the ruins of the ‘Great Mosque of Almedina’ and, with great foresight, some of the Moorish characteristics were left intact. After the Catholic Kings’ conquest of Almería in 1489, the mosque, which had been built in the 10th century, became the city’s first cathedral. However, the earthquake of 1522 destroyed most of the building. This prompted the building of the present Cathedral-Fortress in 1524. Later, in the 17th century, Bishop de Portocarrero instigated work on the present church of ‘San Juan’. During the Civil war it was bombed on several occasions. In 1979, it was rebuilt and then fully restored in 1991 when both the mosque’s kibla and mihrab were restored and the church given a new roof. All this information I have obtained from tourist web sites.
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Whenever I have tried to visit, the building has been closed. The exterior is unimpressive having been built of large rectangular slabs. In my opinion it is the most ugly looking church I have ever seen and probably not worth the detour. (The bar opposite, ‘Café Bar San Juan’, is OK though if by now you are feeling a tad thirsty. On my last visit I ordered a beer and a tapa of pescado del día and was given four small fishes. It may not have fed the five thousand but it was a good enough snack for me!)
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Las Puras © Robert Bovington
Walk back up Calle Almedina, cross Calle de Reina and back to the Plaza de la Catedral. I really do like this square with the tall palm trees and the golden coloured walls of the ‘Cathedral’ and the ‘Episcopal Palace’. A few yards away is another religious building – the ‘Convento de las Puras’. This 17th century church was formerly a convent. There is not a lot to see as the church is usually closed and the main façade is a bit on the plain side though nowhere near as bad as the church of St. John. However, there is an attractive sculpture above the door consisting of a coat of arms flanked by two lions’ heads. I have seen the inside of this church when I attended a classical concert held there a few years ago. I remember being impressed by the building’s baroque interior. Next to the ‘Convento de las Puras’, is a modern apartment block – all glass and aluminium. If this building had been next to one of the more attractive churches, I would have shouted “Sacrilege”. I still think the building should not have been allowed, as it is not in keeping with the architectural style of this part of Almería.
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Return to the Plaza de la Catedral and make your way in a south easterly direction to the ‘Iglesia Virgen del Mar’. Whenever I walk through this historic quarter of the city, I admire the colourful houses with their intricate wrought-iron window grilles, the old-fashioned lampposts and the mimosa trees. These trees provide welcome relief from the fierce Almerian sun, especially in Calle Trajano where one can sit in the shade with a drink outside one of the little cafes.
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Plaza de la Virgen del Mar
The Virgen del Mar church is a good deal more attractive than the previous two although it too is often closed. It is situated in the Plaza Virgen del Mar, which is another quiet spot in the heart of the old town. Park benches and attractive trees line the little park on the side of the square. These trees, ficus retusa, are to be found in many streets in Almería, Roquetas and many other towns and villages that I have visited in the province. They usually look smart as the town councils ensure that they are regularly trimmed into a neat cylindrical shape. Another feature I like in Almería is the wrought-ironwork, not only the intricately decorated window grilles on the façades of the buildings but the lampposts which remind me of the old-fashioned lampposts I have seen in pictures of Victorian London.
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Virgen del Mar © Robert Bovington
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A couple of streets away, there was another church, – ‘Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús’. It was closed and what’s more, it was so uninteresting to look at that it is not worth talking about – so I won’t! Just around the corner, was the much more attractive San Pedro church where I started my walk.
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Other religious buildings in Almería:

San Roque (near the port) © Robert Bovington
Ermita de San Anton (near the Alcazaba)© Robert Bovington

Robert Bovington
author of “Spanish Matters” & “Spanish Impressions”
 
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Diverse Almería – El Cabo de Gata

Photographs of Spain

On the south-western edge of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park is the small village actually called El Cabo de Gata. It is a pleasant little seaside resort beside a beach of white sand. The whitewashed buildings, that line its promenade, are mainly holiday apartments, interspersed with the occasional bar.



The village still supports a small fishing fleet and the fishermen’s boats, nets and lobster pots pepper the beaches at the southeastern end.



Nearby is the Salinas de Acosta area of the natural park. Between spring and autumn, thousands of migrating birds stop here on their journeys between Europe and Africa. Apart from flamingos, there are storks, avocets, eagles and many other types. Only a few remain in the winter when the Salinas are drained after the autumn salt harvest.

blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old…

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Walking is thirsty work!

The fuentes of Berja
by Robert Bovington

 Quite often my wife and I travel from Roquetas to the beautiful Alpujarras and often we stop in or near the attractive town of Berja for a coffee break.

However, occasionally we visit Berja because we like the town and like strolling along its quaint historic streets.

One of the noticeable features of Berja is its fuentes (fountains) –  there are more than thirty of them scattered around the town and its nearby environs! When you think that the province of Almería is the sunniest, driest part of Spain, you might wonder where the water is coming from! In the past, the Sierra de Gádor was heavily mined, mainly for lead and silver but now water is its biggest treasure. The mines were abandoned in the early nineteenth century but water, surprisingly, still appears to exist in sufficient quantities.

In villages like Berja there are numerous fuentes where water can be obtained – the meagre rainfall and the melted snow from the high sierra is efficiently stored and purified before being released as pure clean water.

So, a walk that takes in some of these fuentes is not a bad idea.

The place to start is the tourist office – the young lady there is most helpful and will provide leaflets in Spanish and English. One of the leaflets features the famous fountain routes – you don’t have to do them all in one day especially as some of them are rather off the beaten track.

Go in Spring or Autumn – it’s best to avoid going in the heat of summer – even winter can be pleasantly warm at times! Take a container to fill with water – it’s free and probably tastier than bought water!

Not far from the tourist office is the main plaza where the Town Hall and church (Iglesia de la Anunciación) are situated as well as one of the fountains  – the fuente de los 16 caños.

Enjoy your walkl(s)!

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“A delightful oasis of peace in the centre of Benalmadena”

Occasionally I yearn for some peace and solitude away from the noise and bustle of the Costa del Sol. One of the places I head for is Parque de la Paloma in Benalmadena.
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It is delightful.


There is a lake In the middle of the park. It is inhabited by swans, gulls, ducks, mallards and turtles. And, of course, fish. 
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The path around the lake makes a pleasant walk especially for the elderly – or should I say older people than me! There are many paths that criss-cross this attractive park, some with a bit of a gradient but not too steep.

Little animals roam freely. These include hens, chickens, roosters, pigeons, sparrows and rabbits. There are also ibex and ostriches but these are penned in.

There are a variety of trees, deciduous and evergreen which include eucalyptus, weeping willow, palm and cypress. There is also a cactus garden with other species as well as cactii.
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Los niños are catered for with a playground and other areas where they can be let loose safely. Some areas of the park are closed to dogs.

On my last visit in April 2016, I visited the little cafe near the south-east corner of the park for a beer. And very pleasant it was too.
The park is located in the centre of the town only 200 metres from the windmill roundabout on the seafront. I parked nearby without difficulty.


Robert Bovington
April 2016

www.tablondeanuncios.com

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”
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Sierra de Gádor – a mountain range in southern Spain

by Robert Bovington

The Sierra de Gádor mountain range is situated in the south-western corner of the province of Almería. It belongs to the Betic system, specifically the Cordillera Penibética. The maximum altitude is 2249 meters – the summit of Launilla Morrón.
Enix © Robert Bovington
 To the north is the Sierra Nevada; to the south lies the Mediterranean Sea whilst the Sierras Alhamilla and Contraviesa lie respectively to the east and west.
At the foot of the Sierra de Gádor lies the region of the Poniente Almeriense (Western Almería), traditionally called the Campo de Dalias which, in my opinion, is by far the least attractive part of the diverse region of Almería. Author Gerald Brenan didn’t like it either – “…a depressing sight met my eye. For fifteen miles the road ran in a perfectly straight line across a stony desert…” was part of his description of the Campo de Dalías in his book “South to Granada”. Nowadays the stony desert is replaced by an ocean of plastic, the ubiquitous invernaderos. These greenhouses may have allowed the province of Almería to become Europe’s market garden but they sure look ugly!
Never mind! The Sierra de Gádor is a pleasant, largely unspoilt mountain range that is technically part of that delightful region of the Alpujarras. The following towns are within its boundaries:
Felix, Enix, Gádor, Alhama de Almería, Alicún, Huécija, Íllar, Instinción, Rágol, Fondón, Laujar de Andarax, Alcolea, Berja, Dalías and Vícar
In the past, the Sierra de Gádor was heavily mined, mainly for lead and silver but now water is its biggest treasure. The mines were abandoned in the early nineteenth century. Water, surprisingly, still appears to exist in sufficient quantities. In villages like Berja, Felix and Dalías there are numerous fuentes where water can be obtained – the meagre rainfall and the melted snow from the high sierra is efficiently stored and purified before being released as pure clean water.
Illar © Robert Bovington

 

Beninar © Robert Bovington

 

Beninar © Robert Bovington

www.tablondeanuncios.com

more blogs by Robert Bovington…

“Photographs of Spain”
“postcards from Spain”
“you couldn’t make it up!”
“a grumpy old man in Spain”
“bits and bobs”
“Spanish Expressions”
“Spanish Art”
“Books About Spain”
Posted in Alpujarras, Andalusia, Photography, Spain, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment