Battlements of Castillo Sohail. / SUR

The birth of Fuengirola

To celebrate 180 years of the municipality of Fuengirola this series reviews the rich history of the location, from prehistory to the founding of the modern town

PATRICK H. MEEHAN

If Fuengirola had a 'birthday', perhaps it should be 7 August 1485. From that date, the Castle and its lands were renamed and joined the Kingdom of Spain. This article looks at the birth of Fuengirola, how this 'birthday' is represented and when it got its unique name.

After centuries of probing attacks, the great defensively built Suhayl Castle became the Moorish frontline defence against Castilians on the road and sea routes to Granada.

  • Patrick H. Meehan is a 20-year resident of Fuengirola and author of Fuengirola Revisited, a unique book that tells the story of the location through the ages. Feedback can be sent to info@fuengirolarevisited.com For more information visit www.fuengirolarevisited.com or follow @fuengirolarevisited on Facebook.

On 7 August 1485, the Castle of Suhayl was defended by the Moors for the last time. The details are lost to history, perhaps attacked by land and sea in a glorious Castilian victory, or simply taken without a fight. The records conflict with the claims for battle rewards! Unless new evidence arises, we may never know.

This date has been encoded by the coincidental death on 7 August 1547 of Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene, the Italian aristocrat founder of an order of priests. Canonised in 1671, his feast day, 7 August, was observed locally.

To suit the temperament of the 1950s, San Cayetano became, temporarily, the patron saint of Fuengirola, at a time of rapid urbanisation. Today a district of the town, roads, a school, shops and a cemetery are all named in his honour.

Alhaurín, Malaga, Marbella and Benalmádena retained their Moorish names, but for Suhayl came a mysterious change. The first known use of the name with the current spelling, was in the 1480s by Spanish historian Alonso de Palencia;

"Soon the news arrived of having camped those of Malaga in a force located in the coastal of the sea next to Marbella, called Fuengirola, by source at the foot of the Castle."

There are competing narratives for the meaning of Fuengirola: the first part is generally agreed, that the 'Fuen' adapts from 'fuente', a font of water. 'Girola' is either an old word for part of a Church or derived from 'girar' to gyrate or go round. So, it could mean a font in a church, or water that goes around the Castle, or words lost to history, hence it is not officially defined.

The castle and the lands of Roman Suel and Moorish Suhayl, from Benalmádena to Cabopino, passed to the new Castilian Warden, Álvaro de Mesa.

On 7 August 1485, uniquely named, this perfect location began a new phase in its journey through history, to be known as Fuengirola.