The memory of the stones brings to life the past that once witnessed our birth each day. When we look at them, we realise that they are there not by chance but rather by causality.
A causality sculpted by the epic poetry of discord, the reason behind reconciliation or human worship of the divine.
The most significant evidence of this to be found in the city of Málaga is la Encarnacion Cathedral. Possibly as a result of the time it took to built, 254 years no less, it is characterised by a blend of styles that range from the Islamic essence of the patio to the Baroque relief of the façade, not to mention a series of Gothic and Renaissance features. However, it would seen that even 254 years was not enough time to complete the Cathedral, the building’s non-existent south tower earning it the nickname of “Old One Arm”. Nevertheless, the works of art housed inside its colossal stone framework are fully complete. Creations by Pedro de Mena, a collection of Baroque paintings, an XVIII century organ and the chapels of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias and Cristo de la Buena Muerte all from part of the legacy of the temple commissioned by the Catholic Monarch in the first half of the XVI century.
The appreciation of the divinity of human creation once took the form of a clamorous ovation in the tiers of the Roman Theatre. Built in the I century B.C., this Odeon from the time of Augustus played host to fictitious tales until the late III century, when a Germanic invasion brought an end to an area. Some its columns were used in the construction of the neighbouring Alcazaba fortress, a watershed between the Chriatian and Islamic cultures that was built during the time of the empire of King Badis of Granada. Conceived as a defensive citadel, the “Captives Yard” and “Christ’s Arch” are just two of the locations that speak of its history. At the beginning of the century, it was home to over 100 people.
The twelve-metre-high keep was aided in its surveillance duties by a castle that stood atop the “Yevek-Faruk” (Lighthouse Hill). A leisurely stroll along the parapet walk that crowns its walls will suffice for us to understand just how well it complemented the aforementioned watchtower in its task of observing even the furthest of horizons.
Horizons which suddenly draw a little closer as we are confronted with a delightful, almost aerial panorama of the city. The castle’s interpretation centre situates to the period during which it was used as a military garrison between 1487 and 1925. Another such centre will help from Mother Nature: Ronda’s New Bridge. The dream of linking the pavements of the old and modern quarters of the town and bridging the gaping chasm of the Gorge became a reality between 1735 and 1793 thanks to the inspiration of Martin de Aldehuela, the same architect responsible for drawing up the plans for one of the largest (and oldest) bullrings in the world.
The Neoclassical style of Ronda Bullring was designed to delight its 6,000 spectators with every pass of the cape. And this figure is just a tiny fraction of the tourists who flood here each year, making it the third most visited monument in all Andalusia.
Considerably smaller, though strangely charming, is Mijas Bullring, built at the request of local inhabitants in 1900. Its curiosity resides in the fact that it is oval in shape.
Mijas Still retains its four watchtowers, all of which are in an excellent state of repair, as well as the remains of its former fortress, now home to gardens, a viewpoint and the Virgen de la Peña Chapel.
However, if sumptuous buildings are what you are looking for, then a visit to the subtly spooky Colomares Castle near Benalmadena is a must. The largest known monument erected in memory of the feats of the explorer Christopher Columbus, it is a veritable jigsaw puzzle of Gothic, Romanic and Byzantine styles, pieced together by Esteban Martin and two local builders. However, such touches of fantasy are not only to be found in the town of Benalmadena; they are equally present deep in the heart of Nerja Caves.
Here, there is a little room for reality in the Ghost Room, while the Bethlehem, Cataclysm and Cascade rooms are all havens of geological treasures in the section of the aptly-named “caves of wonders” that are currently open for public for public viewing, which accounts for only one third of the whole complex. The wisely-concealed whim of the goddess Gea is also home to 22 cave paintings.
First discovered by the curiosity of a group of mischievous children in 1959, the Cave, officially declared a National Monument, receives over 2,000 tourists each year, making it one of the most visited locations on the Costa del Sol.
Somewhat gloomier are the hollows of the Menga, Viera and Romeral dolmens in Antequera. The former supports a stone-slab roof structure weighing some 180 tons. The fact that this imposing funerary structure dates back to the Bronze Age makes it the most important collection of dolmens to be found anywhere in Europe.
Prayers for grandeur rise to the heavens in a wholly different manner beneath the dome of the main altar of the Royal Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, whose excellent acoustics make it the ideal venue for the concerts occasionally staged here. No longer is a place of worship, this National Monument, which was built as the first of the Renaissance-style churches between 1514 and 1550, nevertheless still used as an exhibition centre. It also housed a Chair of Grammar and Latin founded by the Antequera poets of the Golden Age.
As we leave this religious monument, we will encounter stone staircase that leads to the gardens of the Alcazaba fortress, green labyrinths which ring to the sound of the town’s largest bell. This is to be found in the Keep, a sister tower to those at Puerta de Málaga and Puerta Blanca, all of which are of Muslim design. In order to escape from this magical setting and head for the heart of Antequera, we must first pass beneath the Giant’s Arch. Built in 1585, in addition to guarding the entrance to the Alcazaba, it is also adorned with a number of inscriptions and Roman statues.
Antequera not only boasts more inhabitants than any other town or village in the province, it also has the most churches and convents in relation to its number of parishioners, almost thirty in total.
All of these deserve a mention, but pride of place must go to El Carmen by virtue of its exquisitely-decorated interior, notably the altarpieces of the XVIII century main chapel. Santago Church, the Convents of Belen and Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the Church of Jesus and the Votive Chapel of Portichuelo are just a few of the other mysical locations to be found here. The Plaza del Portichuelo, the square that is home to the latter two temples, was used some years back in the shooting of “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”,a film starring Robert de Niro andHarvey Keitel: inside the aforementioned votive chapel, the actresses Kathy Bates and Pilar Lopez de Ayala gave full rein to their cinematographic prayers, with the mountains of El Torcal in the background simulating the landscape of the Andes.
While on the subject of the province’s religious buildings, special mention must be made of its third largest: The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion. Located in Alora in the Guadalhorce Valley, it took a whole century to build (1600 to 1699). Recently restored, it is decorated with angels, sculptures and exquisite XVII-century frescos. Alora’s culture is lapped by the waters of the River Guadalhorce, which flow into the famous El Chorro Reservoir. And though both the spring and the location in question are different, Istan also boasts its own “Chorro”.
This is the name given to the famous water trough guarded by brick arches which is briefly home to the water that springs from the seven spouts of a fountain fed directly by the pure source of the Sierra Blanca. The holes bored in the rock to allow pitchers to be filled still survive, as do the songs of the local women who would wash their clothes here, as some still continue this practice today.
Every street is home to a scene, a legend, a glimmer of days gone by. Villages which are monuments in themselves, whose centres have been declared Areas of Artestic Interest, such as Teba and Archidona. Villages which have sprung up around a castle or chapel. Guardians of Málaga’s past.