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This historical site is the origin of Villanueva de Algaidas. Diputación Málaga
A chapel in the rock by an old convent - history salvaged from neglect in Villanueva de Algaidas
Treasures of Malaga

A chapel in the rock by an old convent - history salvaged from neglect in Villanueva de Algaidas

Javier Almellones

Malaga

Tuesday, 8 August 2023, 11:39

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Some can pinpoint Villanueva de Algaidas on the map because it is the birthplace of the famous sculptor Miguel Ortiz Berrocal, who died in Antequera in 2006. In the latter part of his life he returned to this small town in the north of Malaga province, where there is an interesting historical legacy. This lies neither in its church nor in the fortress of Arabic origin, but in a historic complex located barely one kilometre from the town centre.

Next to the local road that leads to La Atalaya and Cuevas Bajas, we find one of the most important hermitage chapels in Andalucía. Of Mozarabic origin, the chapel was dug out of the sandstone hillside between the 9th and 10th centuries.

It is not very large, but it has three well-differentiated rooms, as well as a space with access from the outside.

Although there is no archaeological research to confirm this, there are those who see a parallel with the famous cave complex at Bobastro, near Ardales, due to the ceramic remains found in the surrounding area.

  • What to visit The chapel in the rock and the old convent: Currently these can only be viewed from the outside, as access is temporarily restricted.

    The bridge over the Bebedero stream: This construction of medieval origin is in relatively good condition.

  • Hiking trails Two long-distance trails pass through this area: the Camino Mozárabe de Málaga and the GR7-E4 (Tarifa-Athens)

  • where to eat Chovi: Bar in the main avenue of the town that serves lunches, tapas and generous portions, as well as breakfasts. San Isidro: Restaurant with a pleasant terrace serving typical dishes of the area.

Next to this ancient chapel in the rock are the remains of a former Franciscan convent, which was founded by the first Duke of Osuna, Don Pedro Téllez Girón, in 1566.

This religious building, which was named Nuestra Señora de la Consolación de las Algaidas, was what gave rise to the town we know today, as small neighbourhoods of Atalaya, Zamarra, Albaicín and Rincona, the latter being the name by which the main urban centre was known, gradually grew up around it.

Today only a small part of its structure remains, due to the neglect suffered after the Civil War. There are also references to the building as the Convent of the Recollects of Saint Francis of Assisi, as the Duke of Osuna authorised its foundation to the fathers of this Franciscan order. On a visit to this complex, it is possible to see at least the structure of the church, built with solid walls thanks to the use of well-carved stone blocks.

This religious site is one of the most important landmarks on the hiking trail included in the GR-7, a major European itinerary that links Tarifa with Athens. The Mozarabic Way of Malaga also passes through here, specifically, the stage that links Algaidas with the Cordoba municipality of Encinas Reales.

Part of this path can be followed from the remains of the old Franciscan convent, which leads some five hundred metres to another piece of Villanueva de Algaidas’s medieval heritage, the bridge over the Bebedero stream, which served to connect the Atalaya neighbourhood with the main town.

Although the bridge is relatively distant from the cave chapel and the old convent, it can be considered part of the most important historical legacy of Villanueva de Algaidas. It probably served to connect the present-day areas of La Atalaya and La Rincona.

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