Frigiliana – a pueblo blanco in Andalusia

by Robert Bovington

I have visited Frigiliana on a number of occasions. It is an attractive pueblo blanco, a short drive from the equally pretty coastal town of Nerja. Administratively it is part of Torrox in the Axarquia region of the province of Málaga.

Frigiliana © Robert Bovington
 The village lies on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Almijara and is 300 meters above sea level.
Places to see:
The village has a number of attractions:-
 
The Church of San Antonio de Padua, located in Calle Real, was built in the 17th century on the site of an old mosque. Its bell tower is the former minaret of the mosque.
Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua, Frigiliana © Robert Bovington
   
Another religious building is La Ermita del Ecce Homo. This small chapel was built in the 18th century. Nowadays, many citizens prefer to call it the “Ermita de Santo Cristo de la Caña”. 
 
The Palacio de los Condes de Frigiliana used to be a 16th century renaissance-style palace which belonged to the Count and Countess of Frigiliana, the Manrique de Lara family. Nowadays it tends to be known as El Ingenio and is believed to be the last remaining sugar cane honey factory in Europe. Just around the corner, Bar el Ingenio is a pleasant little place to drink. 
 
Nearby are the Reales Pósitos. Back in the 18th century, it was built to store grain. Nowadays, it is used for both dwellings and shops. And bars!
  
Calle Real, Frigiliana © Robert Bovington
  
The 17th century Casa del Apero originally served as a granary and a warehouse. In 1990, the building was restored and it is now the Municipal House of Culture. Inside there is there is a library, an exhibition room and the tourist information office. 
 
Tourist guides mention two other places of interest in the town – La Fuente Vieja and the 9th century Castillo de Lizar. The former is attractive enough but it is after all only a fountain! The latter is only worth visiting for the spectacular views because there is hardly anything left of the original castle!
La Fuente Vieja © Robert Bovington
 
So, there are a number of interesting places to see in the town but probably the best bit is just wandering around the old Moorish quarter!
 
 Festivals:
Like all Spanish towns and villages, Frigiliana has its fair share of festivals. A couple, in particular, are pretty spectacular:
 
The Cruces de Mayo celebration occurs on May 3 every year. Every plaza of the town gets a big wooden cross. The crosses are adorned with Spanish shawls, plants and flowers. Many villagers offer visitors tapas and wine for free. In the afternoon, the town band and other musicians make music. 
 
Cruces de Mayo
  
During the last week of August, the ‘Festival Frigiliana Tres Culturas’ brings together the influences of the Moors, Jews and Christian cultures with a festival of food, music, art and street entertainment.
 
http://mynerja.com/view/news/the-three-cultures-festival-in-frigiliana/
  
Other festivals in Frigliana are listed below:
   Fiesta de San Sebastián in January;
   Carnaval in February;
   The Feria of San Antonio in June;
   Feria de San Juan in June (usually on the beach in Nerja);
   Fiesta de las Candelarias in September.
 
Of course there are also the national celebrations including Christmas, Holy Week.
 
In summer, there are other cultural events held in Frigiliana including the traditional dance festival; the annual band contest, and the contest between choirs dedicated to Our Lady of El Rocío.
Robert Bovington

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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Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

by Robert Bovington

Córdoba was once the most important city in Europe. It was the centre of the medieval Caliphate of Córdoba and capital of the western Islamic Empire. It reached its peak in the 10th century when it rivalled Baghdad and Constantinople as one of the great cities of the World. Its greatest surviving monument to the city’s magnificent past is its Grand Mosque – the Mezquita.


Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington
Work on the mosque actually started in 786 when it was built on the site of an old Visigothic church. However, it was enlarged three times before reaching its present size in 987 when it became the largest sacred building in the Islamic world.

And big it most certainly is – so massive that a Gothic cathedral was built inside the mosque – and lots of chapels!

Following the Christian Reconquest of Córdoba in 1236, the mosque was consecrated as a Christian cathedral. During the 14th century, the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Capilla Real were built and then in 1523, work on the cathedral started with the building of a huge nave inside the mosque.
 
The interior of the mosque is spectacular – a forest of pillars and arches. 856 of the granite, jasper and marble columns remain – some were removed to make way for the Christian parts of the building. Horseshoe-shaped arches consisting of alternating red brick and white stone were placed above the lower pillars, which has given the Mezquita its distinctive character. 
Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington
Of course, there is much more to this magnificent building than pillars and arches! The Mihrab is particularly magnificent with its intricately carved marble ceiling and exquisitely decorated chambers with their Byzantine mosaics. All this ornamentation is in great contrast to the worn flagstones – an indication that many Muslims prayed here.

The Villaviciosa and Capilla Real chapels are both quite splendid and are good examples of Mudéjar architecture.

There used to be many entrances into the mosque but nowadays, the only one open to the public is the Puerta del Perdón.

No self-respecting mosque should be without a patio where prospective worshippers can perform their ritual ablutions. The Patio de los Naranjos was used for this purpose. Visitors still pass through this delightful courtyard with its orange trees and fountains on their way into the Mezquita.
Patio de los Naranjos  © Robert Bovington
The minaret of the mosque is no longer visible. It is enveloped in a Baroque bell tower – the Torre del Alminar.
Torre del Alminar  © Robert Bovington
Finally, there is the Cathedral. Charles V later regretted the decision to build it within the Mezquita and many people since have agreed that its construction has devalued the mosque’s simple beauty. Nevertheless, the Cathedral has many impressive features, particularly the choir with its Baroque mahogany choir stalls that were carved by Pedro Duque Correjo in the 18th century. 
Mezquita Cathedral – part of the choir © Robert Bovington
Anything this special ought to be afforded special protection and it is – UNESCO has declared the Mezquita a World Heritage site.

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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The ‘Golden Tower’ of Seville

The Torre del Oro is a polygonal military watchtower on the bank of the Guadalquivir river in Seville. It was built by the Almohads in the thirteenth century as part of the city’s defensive system. It is located opposite the Triana area of Seville.

 

Other blogs by Robert Bovington:

 

“Photographs of Spain”
“Spanish Impressions”
“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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Costa del Sol

by Robert Bovington

The Costa del Sol is essentially the coastal areas of Málaga province in the south of Spain. This ‘Sun Coast’ stretches from Estepona in the west to Nerja in the east of the province.Originally, it was a region of quiet fishing settlements but since the 1950s, it has become a massive urban abomination – sorry – agglomeration of high-rise hotels and apartment blocks running the length of the coastline.

This Mediterranean coastline includes the towns of Nerja, Vélez-Málaga, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella, Puerto Banús and Estepona together with the city of Málaga.

Benalmadena harbour © Robert Bovington

In my opinion, this coastal region suffers from all the worst excesses of mass tourism – a concrete jungle with parades of bars, supermarkets and shops selling cheap souvenirs and beachwear. ‘Full English Breakfast’, ‘Fish n Chips’, ‘John Smiths Smooth Bitter’, ‘Football on Sky TV tonight!’ appear on the signs outside many establishments. I think Spain is a fantastic country with beautiful cities and spectacular natural parks and yet the majority of British visitors to Spain head for the Costa del Sol. The good news, of course, is that it leaves the other areas of Spain free from beer swilling, football shirt-clad morons!

To be fair, not all the towns in this coastal strip are that bad – some are rather pleasant to live or visit including Marbella, Nerja and Mijas.

Marbella is rather swish. It is a jet-setting resort with many luxurious holiday complexes, mansions and shops yet despite this opulence it has managed to preserve its old Moorish quarter with its maze of winding streets and whitewashed houses.

Marbella © Robert Bovington

Nerja too consists of whitewashed alleyways, though the old Moorish houses here are perched on a rocky promontory. There are magnificent views of the Mediterranean below especially from the Balcón de Europa.

Nerja – Balcón de Europa © Robert Bovington

Mijas is one of my favourite places. It is situated in the foothills of the coastal mountain range that overlooks the coast – from the gardens of ‘La Muralla’ there are magnificent views of the coast below. This park is a quiet oasis away from the bustle of tourists, yet is only a few minutes walk to the centre of the village. Its maze of old Moorish streets are awash with colour – pottery, basketwork and other goods are displayed in the many shops and colourful floral displays adorn the walls of the houses. Mijas is a good place to get away from the urban sprawl of Fuengirola.

a street in Mijas © Robert Bovington

Another delightful place to visit is Puerto Banús. It is a magnificent marina filled with the most luxurious yachts imaginable. Alongside the moorings stand a huge array of luxury shops and plush restaurants where it is quite common to see Ferraris, Mercedes and other luxurious cars parked.

The main city in these parts is Málaga. Even though it is the international gateway to the Costa de Sol, Málaga has escaped the depressing image of brash tourism. In fact, it is refreshingly Spanish and has many examples of historic architecture, excellent museums and leafy parks and gardens. Just some of the sights on offer are the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro Castle, the Cathedral and the Palacio Episcopal. The Picasso Museum is well worth a visit.

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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Vizcaya

by Robert Bovington
The area of northern Spain that we British know as Biscay is called Bizkaia by the people who live there – but then they are Basques! The Spanish people as a whole call it Vizcaya. Be that as it may, what isn’t in dispute is that it is a province in the autonomous region of the Basque Country – known as País Vasco by the Spanish and Euskardi by the Basques. 
Its fellow Basque provinces of Guipúzcoa and Álava share its eastern and southern borders whilst the provinces of Cantabria and Burgos lie to the west. The Bay of Biscay lies to the north, although we had better call it by its Spanish name of the Golfo de Vizcaya. The only sizeable town is Bilbao, the capital of the province although Guernica is regarded as the spiritual centre of the Basque Country. 
Bilbao is a major seaport and is the industrial heartland of the Basque Country. Notable landmarks include the 14th century Gothic Cathedral of Santiago, the Plaza Nueva, the Baroque Town Hall and the Guggenheim Museum.
Bilbao by Zarataman
 Guernica lies northeast of Bilbao and was the capital of the former Lordship of Vizcaya. In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the German Luftwaffe bombed the town causing great devastation and loss of life. Despite that, there are a number of architectural highlights including the 15th-century Church of Santa María la Antigua, the Museum of Euskalerria and the Casa de Juntas del Señorío de Vizcaya which is the Parliament House. 
Guernica – Parliament House by Zarataman
 Just outside the town are the Caves of Santimamiñe – the cave paintings there demonstrate that this area was inhabited in prehistoric times.  
The Urdaibai Nature Reserve is near Guernica. It is a large marshland formed by the Riva Oca and is home to a large variety of seabirds. In 1984, UNESCO awarded it Biosphere Reserve status.
Vista de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Urdaibai desde Oiz.by Txo

 
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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Zaragoza

by Robert Bovington
Zaragoza is one of the principal cities of Aragón, that historic region in north-eastern Spain. In fact, it is the capital of the autonomous community of Aragón and of the province of Zaragoza itself. Like other provincial capitals in Spain, the city has countless beautiful buildings, many of which reflect its glorious history. 
It is the fifth biggest city after Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla.
Zaragoza has lots of monuments to its illustrious past, many of them are in the ‘casco viejo’ – the historic city centre. Churches, basilicas, palaces, stately homes and plazas are all to be found within the city walls. 
Zaragoza and the River Ebro

A most appropriate place to begin a discovery of the city is in the Plaza del Pilar. In this beautiful square, standing beside the Ebro River, are two of Zaragoza’s most important buildings – the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and La Lonja Palace. The Cathedral de la Seo is also nearby. These are just three of the ‘must see’ sights in the city but also in this square is the Municipal Tourist Office, which is worth visiting if you wish to take guided tours of the city. 

If, like me, you prefer to amble around the streets of the medieval quarter under your own steam then the tourist office can provide you with a map or even a little booklet, which might include a guided walk. Whatever you do, though, ensure that you have enough time to visit one of Zaragoza’s star attractions – the Aljafería Palace which is located a little further out than many of the attractions.

It could be said that Zaragoza has two cathedrals because the Basilica del Pilar is often called the Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Be that as it may, it is one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Virgin Mary in the World and commemorates her alleged appearance on January 2, AD 40. It is said that the Virgin Mary was standing on a pillar when she appeared before the Apostle St. James who was apparently busy in the city converting some of the locals to Christianity.

 

Zaragoza – Basilica del Pilar
The Basilica is an enormous but attractive Baroque structure with four towers. The inside is pretty impressive too, with a Gothic altarpiece in alabaster, Renaissance choir-stalls, frescoes by Goya and Velásquez and – the star attraction – the Santa Capilla or Holy Chapel that enshrines the statue of the Virgin del Pilar. The Basilica has been declared a National Monument.
 The other cathedral is pretty impressive too! The Catedral de La Seo, as it is sometimes called, mirrors the history of the city because it has grown through the centuries and reflects different architectural styles. Even before the building of this impressive structure started, there had been previous temples including a Visigothic church followed by a Grand Mosque and then a Romanesque church. Construction began in 1119. It was originally Gothic but further changes resulted in Mudéjar, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The cathedral is also known as the Catedral del Salvador. Inside there is a tapestry museum.
Between the two cathedrals is a beautiful Renaissance building – La Lonja. It was built in the 16th century as a public place where merchants could carry out their commercial transactions. The remains of the 1st-century Roman Forum are displayed in this fine building.
La Lonja Zaragoza
 Opposite the Plaza del Pilar is the oldest bridge on the River Ebro – El Puente de Piedra- the stone bridge built in the 15th century.
Another fine church is the Basilica de Santa Engracia, which has an extraordinarily beautiful façade. The church was built in the 16th century in Renaissance style. Inside there is a crypt housing Paleo-Christian sarcophagi and the remains of the Martyrs of Zaragoza. There are many other churches in the city including the 14th-century Gothic churches of San Pablo and Magdalena.
 There are many stately houses and Renaissance palaces too, including the Los Pardos Palace that, nowadays, houses the Camón Aznar museum. It is a treasure house of Art with paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Velazquez, Goya, Renoir, Manet and Sorolla. The Museum of Fine Arts has an impressive range of pictures too, with paintings by early Aragónese artists as well as masterpieces by El Greco, Ribera and Goya!
There is much else to see in Zaragoza – the University, the Town Hall, beautiful parks, Roman remains, historic towers, arches and gates, and beautiful plazas. I could describe some of the Modernist architecture like the Post Office and the Central Market – but I won’t! Instead, I will mention one of the most impressive of all the palaces in Zaragoza – the Aljafería Palace!

Aljafería Palace by  Escarlati
 La Aljafería is probably the best Moorish monument outside of Andalucía! It is part palace, part castle – from the outside it looks like a fortress with strong walls and rounded towers. However, if you cross the moat, which is now a sunken garden, you enter the world of Muslim Spain – or, at least, partly – apart from the Arab architecture that includes the Moorish Palace there is also the palace of the Catholic Kings. The much-restored Muslim Palace of the Aljafería was built in the 11th century as both a place of recreation and as a defensive stronghold. Nowadays, it is the seat of the Aragónese parliament. However, it is open to visitors who can follow in the footsteps of the Catholic Monarchs by visiting Santa Isabel’s Courtyard or admiring the beautiful coffered ceiling of the Throne Room.

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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Zamora ‘La Bien Cercado’

In the Middle Ages, the city of Zamora was continually fought over by Moors and Christians, which is, perhaps, why this Castilian municipality has such impregnable looking ramparts. The city originally had three layers of fortification and the first of these walls has been preserved almost intact. 
 Zamora stands on the northern bank of the River Duero that winds its way across Castile-Leon towards Portugal. The city’s position has made it strategically important throughout history. In Roman times it was known as Occelum Durii and was part of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. It lay on the road from Augusta Emerita (modern Mérida) to Caesaraugusta (modern Zaragoza). Zamora was especially important during the Christian Reconquest and the city passed between Arab and Christian hands on a number of occasions.

Zamora preserves many buildings from the Middle Ages with its walls, castle, palaces and religious buildings – so much so, that it has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site.


The 12th-century stone bridge, the Puente de Piedra, is a good place to start because it not only provides a tremendous view of the city but it is also the actual entrance to the historical quarter. The bridge consists of 16 pointed arches. 

  
Most of the historic sights of Zamora are located immediately to the north of the bridge whereas the cathedral and castle lie half a kilometre in the westward direction.

 

The Duero & Zamora Cathedral – photo: public domain (Sira)

Zamora Cathedral is most impressive. It was built in the 12th century and is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful churches in the religious World. Because it is so special it is called the ‘Pearl of the Duero’. It has a magnificent Byzantine cupola with fish-scale-like tiles and many other notable features that include an impressively sculptured Romanesque entrance – the Puerta del Obispo. Inside there are a number of richly decorated chapels, opulent altarpieces and intricately carved walnut choir stalls decorated with biblical figures and allegorical scenes. The Neoclassical cloister houses the Cathedral Museum. 

Much of Zamora Castle is preserved including its keep, doorway and moat. The fortress is of Arab origin and has a trapezoid ground floor and a polygonal tower. There are six turrets, which afford spectacular views of the city and the surrounding countryside. The fortress along with the three layers of walls provided the city with a fair degree of impregnability. 

Ruinas del castillo de Zamora.

One of Zamora’s nicknames is “ciudad del románico”. This is because it has one of the greatest concentrations of Romanesque churches in Europe. In fact, many beautiful buildings are squeezed into its cobbled streets and plazas. Walking from the cathedral in the direction of the Plaza Mayor one encounters quite a few churches including the Romanesque San Pedro y San Ildefonso, La Magdalena and San Cipriano.

San Juan de Puerta Nueva

The impressive Church of San Juan de Puerta Nueva stands in the middle of the Plaza Mayor. This attractive square has two town halls – the current one and the Ayuntamiento Viejo, a solid 15th century building that was altered in the 17th century and which is now the police headquarters. 

 Just a short distance from Plaza Major is the Palacio de los Momos. It is the current home of the Provincial Court and is one of a number of palaces in the city. Another is the Palacio de Puñoenrostro, which is an excellent example of 16th century civil architecture. It is now the museum of Zamora. It is located near the stone bridge, in the Plaza de Santa Lucía.

Iglesia de Santa Lucía

 I have covered just a few of the historic sights in Zamora. To do them all justice it would need more than one day and an excellent place to stay would be the local Parador de Turismo. It is housed in yet another enchanting building – the Palacio de los Condes de Alba y Aliste. It is a 15th-century Renaissance palace – a medieval jewel in the crown that is Zamora.

 Robert Bovington

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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