Antequera, Malaga, Spain

 Visited 29 September 2008
Antequera is not just another Andalusian white hill town -- not that there's anything wrong with that! Lovely Antequera retains its baroque religious buildings while sitting atop its strangely beautiful landscape. But its air is permeated by history.
Here the Christians started their last holy war -- removing the Moors from their remaining Iberian holdout -- the Granada Empire. This makes the battle for Antequera the beginning of the end for the Moors. The Christians finally took the city in 1410 after 200 years of on-again, of again warfare. Then the Christians fortified the place to make it their base to attack Granada. Once they succeeded, Antequera flourished, especially in the 16th through 18th centuries when much of what tourists come to see was created.

Long a place like no other

Antequera panorama
The hill at right center looks church-filled and verdant, yet it held the Alcazar -- the defensive fort. Once the Christians arrived, they used it as a base to take back the rest of the Grenada kingdom. This took another 8 decades until that momentous year for both the Old and New Worlds: 1492.

Antequera panorama

Here's another view looking from the Alcazar area over the rooftops to the distant 2500 foot peak called the "Pena de los Enamorados" (Lovers Rock.) Antequera rises in the Sierra (mountains) de los Torcales, a beautiful area where limestone thrusts dramatically into blue skies, creating one of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe. Nearby is a salt water marsh called Fuente de Piedra which provides habitat for the Great Flamingo -- one of the few places in Europe to do so. The town is about halfway to everywhere in Andalusia, including the two largest cities of Málaga and Seville. 

Here before history

This town has a lot of history – not just the recorded wars between the Christians and Moors. Millennia before that cave menNatural Park lived here and buried their dead in some of the largest tombs (called dolmens) in Europe. (More on that later). Natural history abounds here as well: Antequera sits about 1800 feet above the Mediterranean and is separated from it by the Sierra del Torcal mountain range – a strangely beautiful landscape formed when the African landmass crashed into Eurasia about 20 million years ago. (See photos at right) The limestone formed 200 million years ago by all those little sea critters dying at the bottom of the then-ocean was gradually thrust up into scenery such as this, seen at the nearby Natural Park of Torcal. To see more of this park, click here

In the middle of it

But this city is in the middle of somewhere: Two of Andalusia's superhighways cross near here, making it a natural communication and transportation hub. Below is a closer shot of the Alcazar hill. The fort, unfortunately, was closed for repairs and, from appearances, will probably be closed for quite a while.


At left is a large church which today is a museum. It was the Colegiata -- a center of learning for the inland western area of Andalusia. Having one of these was pretty much an indication by the powers that be (popes and kings) that this town was something special even though it was not the head of a diocese (which would have given it, of course, a cathedral most likely medieval.)

A model fort

Model of Alcazaba

Above is a model of the fortifications built by the Moors to maintain their most northern outpost after all but the kingdom of Granada was taken back by the Christians in the 13th century. Let’s start with a visit to the church at right, the Colegiata. Note to its right the flat area which was here long before the defensive curtain wall when the 1st century Romans created their baths. After Rome fell, the Visigoths pretty much leveled the place.

Arch of the Giants

Arch of the Giants
After a steep uphill climb from the heart of the city, the Colegiata is accessed through the Arch of the Giants built in the late 1500s to honor Philip II, in power then when Spain was pretty much at its peak. Here the old Moorish defensive walls are over 6 feet thick.

The Roman town of Anticaria

The arch appears to be pay homage to Roman triumphal arches and, besides the old tombstones, incorporates the remains of a Roman statue of Hercules above left of the arch. Of course, the Romans were here and are responsible for much of the old town's layout as well as its name. Antequera is often called “the heart of Andalusia" (el corazón de Andalucía) because of its central position in the heart of this thriving agricultural area. Romans used it to supply olive oil to their empire and olive culture and processing is still a huge industry here today.

Just beyond that arch, the cobblestones of the Plaza of the Writers leads us to the former Collegiate (now a museum). Join us by clicking here.

Please join us in the following slide show to give Antequera the viewing it deserves by clicking here.

Antequera, Spain

         Next: The Collegiate of St. Mary Major

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