In Cordobas’ isolated far north, where Andalusia gives way to Extremadura and Castille, is the region known as LOS PEDROCHES, a natural paradise with Castillian, Extremaduran and Andalusian flavours. The mosaic of landscapes and a forest of thousand year-old oak trees create an ideal refuge for animals, where local cattle graze freely and the black Iberian pigs feast on the acorns in one of the best preserved “dehesas” (Mediterranean woodland and pasture) in Europe. The Moors referred to this region as Fash al-Ballut, the land of the acorns, in reference to the abundance of ilexes, which nowadays are used to sustain a significant number of livestock, made up of pigs, cattle and sheep.
PEDROCHES is bordered by a series of mountain ranges and rivers that enclose the area, making it one of the most clearly defined natural regions of Andalusia. This is a plateau-like region of long, long vistas, broken up by a few ranges of hills and scattered villages and castles. This land of lime and granite which since ancient times has been used by stone-cutters to build impressive churches, unique hermitages and stately homes, is a place to get lost, to walk along its narrow streets to enjoy… All this in a region nearer than you imagine where time seems to stand still.
Let us give you a brief introduction to the villages that make up this unique region and who have still preserved their heritage and traditions.
ALCARACEJOS is the natural entrance into LOS PEDROCHES when travelling from Córdoba. Alcaracejos has archaeological remains from the Neolithic era, as well as a number of Pre-Roman ceramics. The Ermita de San Sebastián offers an idyllic panoramic view of Alcaracejos. According to popular belief the girls had to throw a stone at the bell of the hermitage, making it sound, in order to attract a boyfriend. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, one of the seven children of Écija lived within a cave in front of Calatraveño Port, which today is named Cueva de Juna Palomo.
The Museo de la Matanza is an institution of ethnographic character, with specific content focused on raising pigs, and their slaughter, uses and what this tradition has meant for the subsistence economy of the Comarca de Los Pedroches, and more specifically Alcaracejos. The main focus of the Museum revolves around the traditional slaughter, a festive event that brings together the whole family.
ANORA was founded as a dependent village of TORREMILANO at the end of the 14th century and offers many striking features, one of which is the typical casa de tira. There are many of these in the village centre alongside some of its other main features. Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja was born in the village and as a boy from the age of 7 until 19 years lived alone in the Sierra de Cardena y Montoro Natural Park with wolves.
BELALCAZAR is set in a wonderful location making it ideal for rural tourism and has great cultural character. The Castle of the Sotomayor Zúñiga y Madroñizis, one of the most important castles in Cordoba belonging to the Counts of Belalcazar, was originally built in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Convento de San Francisco de los Mártires was founded in 1486 by Inocencio VIII as living quarters for the Friars of Santa Clara. Today only the church survives, albeit abandoned. Inside the church there is a luxurious chapel dating to the sixteenth century, which stands out from the other ruinous parts, being relatively well preserved. The Hospital de San Antonio de Padua was founded thanks to an initiative by several locals in the fifteenth century. In this hospital the School of Christ was installed and from 1676 it served as a hospice until the end of the Civil War when it became a school. It is currently the House of Culture.
CONQUISTA is a small town of about 420 inhabitants and still maintains a wonderful tradition of local shepherds decorating their leather bags with the so-called talla de tablillas, which are drawings of flowers and geometric shapes. The Romans mined copper and lead in the area, with indications of a road passing through the village from Córdoba, which must have been a trade route. During the Civil War Conquista was the last town in the province to fall into the hands of Franco's troops. The church of Santa Ana dates originally from the second half of the sixteenth century and the first decades of the next; however, it later burnt down during the Civil War and was demolished in 1954, with the current chapel being built and its works completed in 1960. The chapel has been visited by important personalities such as Santa Teresa de Jesús. From the 17th century Ermita de San Gregorio there are beautiful views of the village and surrounding countryside and an annual pilgrimage is held here.
The origins of DOS TORRES date to the middle Ages, around the 14th and 15th centuries and have a unique gothic style church, Iglesia de la Asunción, with a Mudejar-coffered ceiling. The Ermita de Nuestra Senora de Loreto chapel dates to the 16th century and tradition relates that, in 1587, a well-known doctor of the town, Doctor Cornejo, arrived from Italy, carrying on his horse an image of the Virgin of Loreto that Pope Gregory XIII had given him, in gratitude for having cured him of a serious illness. The image had fallen to the floor and, as Doctor Cornejo tried to pick it up, he realised that the Virgin had turned her head, meaning she wanted to remain in that place where the image had fallen by the chapel.
Near to Dos Torres the Antigua Basílica Paleocristiana, also known as Pozo de Nieve, the well dates from the first to the fourth century AD and is a significant construction because it is one of the few monuments of this type existing in Andalucía. The house that was built to enclose the well is quite exceptional, and was opened later in the eighteenth century.
FUENTE LA LANCHA is rich in typical 18th eighteenth century architecture. In the centre, some monuments and places of interest for the visitor are beautifully conserved and show how much the town has resisted past times. The famous 18th houses (casas dieciochescas) feature many elements of this century, such as Casa Partida de Juan Palomo.
EL GUJO only has 355 inhabitants and is a perfect destination for those seeking tranquility. The Paraje del Soto is a beautiful landscape, home to the village church. El Guijo still conserves one of the most everyday elements of the past: the public washing area. Not only used for laundry, the women also used it as a meeting point to chat while waiting for the men to return from cattle herding, and drink at the washing area's water source. The Ermita de la Virgen de las Cruces is set within a privileged enclave surrounded by nature and annexed to the most important archaeological site in the whole region, a place of worship from the most remote past, Yacimiento Arqueológico Majadaiglesia.
HINOJOSA DEL DUQUE is home to many monuments of historical and artistic interest, and for this reason it is considered one of the most important sites in northern Córdoba. The Museo Ethnologico y Oficina Turismo is situated within an 18th century Manor House aimed at showing visitors the lifestyle, customs and trades that have developed in the town. The Convento de San Diego was built in 1589 for Franciscan Friars, but later in 1890 the Carmelite Fathers settled here. Its modern-regal church is a work of the sixteenth century rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. Today only its church stands. One of the most venerated sanctuaries, the Ermita de la Virgen de la Antigua chapel building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. It was rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War and dedicated to the Patroness of Hinojosa, it is here where the pilgrims travel on their annual pilgrimage.
PEDROCHE was first conquered by Alfonso VII but the Moors recovered it the following year. Alfonso recovered it once again in 1158 and delivered it to the Order of Calatrava for defence, but it was useless as it fell back into Moorish ownership after the Battle of Alarcos. Finally, after the Castilian victory in Las Navas de Tolosa, it fell into the hands of Christians. The Ermita de Santa María del Castillo is built on the immense rock on which Pedroche is located, in the same place where the Arab Castle was situated. It is uncertain when it was built but it is believed that it was erected on part of the site that occupied the Castle, using some of its foundations. It was demolished and destroyed at the end of the fifteenth century, and it is believed that building would have been resumed in the first years of the sixteenth century, that is, between 1500 and 1510 approximately. In 1995, paintings of incalculable artistic value that could date from the time of the Re-Conquest appeared on the inner walls of the chapel. The paintings were traced back to the Gothic period.
POZOBLANCO is the commercial and industrial centre of Pedroches Valley. During the Spanish Civil War, Pozoblanco was seriously affected, although it remained faithful to the Republicans throughout the war. The Battle of Pozoblanco took place in 1937, when the forces of General Queipo de Llano tried to conquer the town. The Republican resistance, nevertheless, frustrated this attempt and troops of the Popular Army managed to obtain an outstanding victory over the forces of the rebellious side. In 1939, Pozoblanco was conquered by the armies of General Franco.
The 16th century Iglesia de Santa Catalina is the largest church in Pozoblanco. Look out for the striking storks' nests perched on the tower. Casa de la Viga is a building built on the site that occupied the house traditionally considered the oldest in Pozoblanco. Its name is derived from the huge oak wood beam that supported the roof of the primitive house and which has been incorporated into the current construction.
SANTA EUFEMIA forms part of the Ruta de los Castillos, thanks to its medieval fortress at Miramontes. The walled enclosure of the town is the work of the then Lord of Santa Eufemia, Gonzalo Mejía II. Today, only deteriorated pieces of the walled canvas remain, along with some towers and the Puerta de Córdoba, popularly known as Puerta de la Villa. 5 kms from the town situated within the El Donadío farm, the Erimita de Santa Eufemia chapel is dedicated to the patron saint of the town, and built according to tradition in the area where Alfonso VII's troops camped before they conquered the town.
The origins of TORRECAMPO date back to medieval times, when residents from PEDROCHE settled in these lands to flee the plague that was ravaging the town. Housed in a former 15th century inn is the Posada del Moro Museum, where you will find archaeological remains, handmade objects and an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, explaining the history, culture and traditions of this village. Among the settlements that have populated the area is the Castillo de Mogábar, which was a medieval fortress, populated centuries ago, as well as the Cerro de la Torre, where you can still see remains of what was once a watchtower.
VILLARALTO is home to the Casa Museo Pastor, located in an old village house, inaugurated with the purpose of conserving and spreading the ethnological heritage related to the pastoral life of the Los Pedroches district and more specifically Villaralto town. Set within the house from the mid-nineteenth century, you can see a recreation of the way of life of shepherds from Villaralto, an activity that has been one of the basic pillars of the local economy.
Located east of the town the Ermita de Santa Rita is considered a meeting place for young people to have fun. It has undergone numerous reforms due to the poor condition of its walls and roof before it was surrounded by large eucalyptus trees and huge stone benches, enclosed by four rectangular and barred walls and a main entrance door.
VILLANUEVA DEL DUQUE was founded in the late middle ages and celebrates a series of unique festivals in the Ermita de la Virgen de Guía in honour of the Virgin. The Castillo del Cuzna, also known as Morras del Cuzna, was built in the eighth century by the Berber clan Kazan or Kazna. One of its owners was Mondir Ibn Said al-Baullití, anImam of the Medina Azahara mosque during the reign of Alhakén II. The fort was conquered in 1237 by Fernando III El Santo, and donated, along with other Córdoba fortresses, to the Order of Calatrava, who maintained it until in 1245. It is currently a ruin.
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Villanueva del Duque became one of the richest and most prosperous mining towns in Andalucía and Spain. The El Soldado lead mines ran continuously from 1906 to 1932, belonging to the Compagnie Française des Mines and Usines d'Escombreras Bleyberg. In 1912 they decided, in a desperate move after the bankruptcy of the Roux Bank, which had given it financial support, to merge with the successful Peñarroya Metallurgical Mining Society.
EL VISO is part of the Ruta de los Castillos, thanks to its links with Fortaleza Castillo de Madroñiz which received an award from the Asociación de Amigos de los Castillos. Archaeological materials belonging to the Chalcolithic period have been found, showing that there were human settlements in this area during that time. Funerary objects dating from the ninth to the eight centuries BC have been found, which possibly correspond to an aristocracy of warriors. The road from Córdoba to Zaragoza, cited in the Itinerary of Antoninus, passes through El Viso, and was used by the Romans and Visigoths. In Los Santiagos, Velardes and Buciegas there are extensive and major Roman sites as well as mines used to extract copper, lead and iron. This village is located in the Los Pedroches Valley region, in the north of the province. Most of its terrain is occupied by holm oak pastures which form an ecosystem of great importance both ecologically and economically speaking, since cattle farming requires a carefully-maintained natural environment. The result is a scene of great beauty, with the cows, pigs and sheep contrasting with the green of the meadows and holm oaks.
CARDENA is situated in the north east of the province, in the Sierra Morena, and began life as an inn on the road from Córdoba to Toledo. Most of its municipal area occupied by olive groves, and it makes up a large part of Cardeña and Montoro Sierras Natural Park. The village's vegetation comprises holm oaks, wild olives, umbrella and maritime pines and a wood of Pyrenees oak, rare in Andalusia. Its scenic landscape is home to hunting and cattle farming, and it is an ideal location in which to spend a holiday in contact with nature.
LA ALDEA DEL CEREZO, a former agricultural hamlet made up of small stone cottages which have been rehabilitated for tourist purposes, also stands within Cardeña's boundaries. The village stretches across an undulating landscape, blending in perfectly with its surroundings. Its popular architecture reflects the origins and the way of life of its people.