The Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierra in Hornachuelos (Cordova, Spain)

Hello again everyone! Sorry for the break, but as I explained previously I’ve been rather busy translating lately and couldn’t spend more time with my eyes glues to the screen.

However, today I took advantage of the cooler (28 °C) windier weather to go for a long drive up to the local sierra of Hornachuelos to visit a convent, Nuestra Señora de la Sierra in the area of San Calixto, lying almost in the middle of nowhere.

It’s surrounded by vegetation that ranges from open fields, olive groves, shrubs such as wild cistus, pistacia mastic and terebinthus, as well as old holm oak trees and cork oaks that have recently been stripped of their bark. (For more about the vegetation of the Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and its haunted monastery you can see my previous blog.)

The story of this particular convent goes back to the 16th century. It is said to have been founded by two monks who, after wandering the Sierra looking for a suitable place to make their sanctuary, finally came to rest in a hilly area full of thistles (cardos), high above the flood zone of the Bembézar River. Knowledge of their fervorous, holy pursuit spread, and they were soon joined by other hermits.

For shelter, they made a hut out of rockrose branches where they placed their image of Saint Michael. Eventually, in 1543, they founded the Monastery of San Basilio del Tardón. (It is said that Tardon derives from Cardón, which was the name given to this area by the monks. It is a derivative of cardo, or ‘thistle’, and refers to the thistle-covered hill where they lived.)

The monastery was inhabited by monks until 1808. A few years later, Francisco Sánchez, a Knight of the Order of Charles III was granted permission to build a hamlet on all the surrounding (thistly) land of Cardón/Tardón. He named the area San Calixto. Over the years the hamlet grew in size, and by the mid-19th century its population rose to a hundred and fifty. The village now boasted its own town hall, prison, communal oven and a posada (an inn). (San Calixto lies at about eleven miles above Hornachuelos, passing the visitor centre, Huerta del Rey.)

However, bit by bit the area and monastery fell into abandonment, perhaps due to its isolated location. It was not until 1940 that the hamlet and all the surrounding areas were bought by the marquis. As a result, the desolated, spiritual ground was resuscitated. This time though, a convent was constructed over the ruins of the ancient monastery, and was baptised Convento de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Nuestra Señora de la Sierra (Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierraa bit of a mouthful!).

Today, the convent serves as a spiritual retreat and tourist attraction, alluring many visitors with its fascinating charm and beauty. Two important guests included the former Belgium monarchs, King Balduino y Queen Fabiola. (They were related to the marquises via Fabiola, who was originally a Madrid-born Spanish aristocrat). The royal couple spent their honeymoon there in 1960.

Additionally, another attraction of this convent is the handiwork products that you can purchase, which are made by the nuns. These ladies-of-the-cloth are extremely talented in needlework and other crafts, employing local materials such as cork from the indigenous alcornoque oak trees, as well as wool, fur and antlers from the animals that inhabit the land. They also grow their own vegetables.

(A little word of advice here: if you do ring at the door of this convent wanting to have a look at their products, don’t be surprised when you are answered by a thin, delicate voice that glides out from the holes in the iron-grate window; it greets the visitor while at the same time pays homage to the Virgin Mary, murmuring piously, ‘Ave María Purissima’, to which the knowledgeable visitor is expected to reply,sin pecado concebida’, meaning ‘conceived without sin’. However, if you are not so well-versed in devotional greetings—like I wasn’t—then you might just reply with an irreverent ‘¡Buenos días!’ So be warned!)

Well, that’s all for now folks! Thanks for bearing with me and my fabulous photography (ha ha!).

Take care xxx

Easter Week in Posadas (Cordova, Spain)

It’s an intense week here in Spain being Easter week. Unfortunately the numerous processions which take place every day in almost every city, town and village have been cancelled for the second year running due to Covid. However, there is a lot that the church has organised that you can take part in, in a controlled, safe way, complying with all the regulations — meditations, contemplation, talks, prayers, retreats, expositions, just to name a few.

So for now I would just like to share with you some photos of the statues and floats that are usually paraded along the streets; these are typically accompanied by the brass band and rows of hooded penitents that quietly shuffle along. To see more photos and read about the processions you can visit my previous blog which I wrote last Easter Sunday.

The above statues are housed in the 18th century chapel, La Ermita del Niño Jesús in my local village of Posadas. The chapel has an interesting past which I mentioned in the last illustrated paras of one of my previous blogs.

This huge poster hangs from the façade of the parish church, Santa María de las Flores in Posadas. It reads:

Padre en tus manos enconmiendo mi espiritú…Yo soy la resurrección, la vida: el que cree en mi aunque haya muerto, vivirá… El que quiera siguirme, que se niegue a sí mismo, tome su cruz y me siga…

which translates as:

‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit… I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in me although having died, will live again… Whoever wants to follow me, let him renounce himself, carry his cross and follow me…’

The above photo is a representation of the Last Supper table. This is inside the parish church, Santa María de Las Flores in Posadas.

The above is housed in the chapel, La Capilla de la Vera Cruz which is close to the Ermita mentioned previously

The following impressive statue of Mary, La Virgen de la Misericordia is in San Pedro church of Cordova.

I understand that all this might not be your cup of tea, but one just can’t help but appreciate the amount of artistic work and total devotion and dedication that these processions involve — take, for example, Mary’s cloak which is richly hand-embroidered — and that’s nothing to say about the woodwork, flower arrangements and craftsmanship in precious metals. Nor does it involve just this outward expression: it is accompanied by a quiet strength of faith, prayer, reflection and interiorism. It is a week of living and breathing the Word — a poignant and emotive time which culminates and comes to fruition on Easter Sunday.

Well, this just leaves me to early wish you all a Happy Easter and to wish you well.

Bye for now! xxx

The Arquito holy arch of Posadas village (Cordova)… and gold leaf in painted glass

Today is the 13th and this reminds me of the legend of the mystical arch — el Arquito — that we have here in our local village of Posadas. This Little Arch, dating back to the Gothic 13th century was also known as Puerta del Levante, The Eastern Gate of the castle that once stood on this land. It is located in the Morería neighbourhood of Posadas village, which dates back to 500 AD, and was an area formerly occupied by the Jews and Moors. In 2006 it was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC), also forming the stage set of many films such as Guerreras Verdes (Green Warriors) starring Carmen Sevilla and Sancho Gracia.

El Arquito — the medieval arch which once formed the Eastern Gate of a former castle

Below this medieval archway lie the remains of an old door of the former medieval castle, the last towers of which fell in 1791. There was also a window with a turntable where, in more recent years, abandoned children destined for the Charity Hospital were placed. They were either adopted or left to suffer a worse fate…

You can see the little window with a grille where there was once a turntable on which abandoned babies would be placed

Above The Arch there is a balcony with a railing behind which is a little shrine presided over by the Virgen de los Remedios(The Virgen of Remedies).

The Virgen de los Remedios shrine

The statue dates back to the 16th century, and the shrine adjoins an old former chapel also of the same antiquity, La Capilla de la Caridad (Charity Chapel). This now houses the beautifully-kept, whitewashed, rustic, wooden-beamed tourist office. (I wonder if I’ve got my adjectives in the right order?…)

The building with the old wooden door was once the Charity Chapel, La Capilla de la Caridad, and is now the tourist office. You can see the green ribbons hanging from the shrine above

Certain mystical qualities are attributed to this Arquito and many fervent prayers are offered to The Virgin Mary by devotees asking for cures and protection from bad luck.

The special day to make such supplications is any Tuesday that coincides with the 13th, on which day the devotee will pass under the archway three times, each time reciting the Hail Mary before making their petition. If their prayer is answered, then they hang a green ribbon from the balcony railings in acknowledgement and gratitude. (Sure enough there are numerous little strips of green material fluttering from the balcony!) Flowers are also deposited before her on her saint’s day, and on each second Sunday of October she is paid a visit.

There still exists the saying in Posadas: ‘Ese es más viejo que el Arquito’, which means ‘Him — he is older than the Arch’.

For a more detailed and very interesting account of the Arquito and its intriguing history based on authentic documents from the early 19th century (as well as more on the history of Posadas village) see the blog of Gabriel Martín entitled The Abandoned Infants of the Foundling Home of Posadas in the 19th Century. (Good practise for your Spanish but I think you can use Google translate. The black and white photos do summarise its sad story.)

There are other mystical legends pertaining to the neighbouring villages of which I have already written about in previous blogs: Hornachuelos (the enchanted convent of Santa Maria de los Ángeles) and Almodovar del Río (the haunted medieval castle). However, suffice to say that these villages (as well as Cordova town) have their share of intrigue and certainly a lot to offer, be it in the way of nature, sport, culture, history and tales. The people a very interesting mix of Latin-Iberian with strong Arabic roots (seen also in their cuisine) are warm, friendly, welcoming, laid-back, though at the same time hard-working.

However, to finish on a similar spiritual note, I just wanted to share with you the effects of gold leaf behind glass painting, such as a religious-themed one I did yonks ago and am thinking of repeating (this technique — that is, if my glass paints haven’t all dried out over the long, hot 45°C summers!).

I stuck the gold leaf with mixtion behind the glass once I had finished the painting (using glass paints applied via a pipette, and lead contour paste). I then sealed the gold leaf with a couple of coats of shellac varnish. The gold leaf has the beautiful effect of illuminating the jewel-coloured paints when the light or sun falls on it and is reminiscent of the golden letters in the Illuminated Manuscripts which were produced in monasteries between 500 AD and 1600 AD, and the highly-decorated Book of Hours — a devotional book ‘crucial to the development of Gothic illumination, produced in the 13th century. Really worth a peruse and serving as an inspiration for colours, gold and intricacy!

Happy painting! Take care xxx

Happy St Valentine’s!

A copy of John Everett Millais‘ — The Huguenot, which was one of my first oil paintings that I had a bash at. I used oils on wood, though I made the mistake of diluting them too much with turps which had the effect of matting the colours — but not bad for that first attempt a few years ago. The height is about 1.5 m

Happy Valentine’s Day…

… although the above painting , however tender and sweet it may seem, might not really be so… Read on…

The Huguenot was painted by John Everett Millais in 1852. It is also known as A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge. 

The Huguenots were French Protestants who were persecuted because of their religion. This painting refers to their massacre of 3,000 Protestants in Paris (and 20,000 in the rest of France) on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. In order to protect themselves and escape the danger they had to wear white armbands, one of the Roman Catholic symbols. The rise of Protestantism in France in the sixteenth century resulted in hostility from the Catholics which eventually gave rise to a series of religious conflicts knows as The French Wars of Religion.

I think the painting speaks for itself. Though soft and sweet in its appearance, especially where the girl is devotedly tying the ‘catholic’ armband on her lover to keep him out of harm, if one analyses the painting, it is not so sweet and simple: the main colours are dark, except for the brightness of the white band, which depicts that this is the only light and hope, shining out from the surrounding darkness and uncertainty, and without this there is death. The fallen petals that lie on his shoe and on the ground indicate hopelessness and the deathly fate of their love, while the Canterbury bells signify faith and constancy…

And here is a photo of the artist himself:

John Everett Millais (England 1829-1896) Wiki

John Everett Millais was a child prodigy who, at the age of 11 was the youngest to enter the Royal Academy Schools and later was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ( a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848 who painted abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art, basing many of their themes on romanticism, nature, history, legends, stories, fables and religion).

See more of his lovely (subjective!) paintings here

One of his paintings (oil on canvas, painted in 1886) was later used as the original advert for Pears soap:-

Bubbles‘ Millais (Wiki)

Hurrah for Pre-Raphaelite paintings!… but I’m sorry that my Valentine’s Day theme had a bit of morose side to it…

Anyway, here’s to hoping that you have a nice Valentine’s Day, not forgetting that originally Valentine cards were made by children for their MOTHERS!!!

xxx

My walk along the Ruta del Cambuco (The Route of the Ravine) between Posadas and Hornachuelos (Cordova)

Being a nice, sunny day, my legs were just itching to go for a walk — and so for a walk I went…

This is what I was supposed to see, and yes, I did see the ruins of the old flour mills and canal system, the fast-flowing river and the waterfall, but no, I wasn’t lucky enough to spot a kingfisher or otter…

This time I followed the Sendero Ruta del Cambuco footpath which lies between Posadas and Hornachuelos. ‘Cambuco’ is of Celtic origin, meaning ‘barranco’, or in English, gully, ravine and steep riverbank.

This picturesque path passes by waterfalls, rivers, poorly-preserved remains of old flour mills and along former canals harking back to the Moors and al-Andalus.

The Guadalcavarejo River starts in the hills and it is full and fast-flowing at this time of the year. (‘Guada-‘ is from the Arabic word ‘wadi‘, meaning ‘river’.)
With a bit of imagination you can see a waterfall here, though from this photo it’s a bit difficult to appreciate the depth and steepness of the gorge. I didn’t want to stand too close because the cliff edges were quite crumbly!
This is the roof of the old flour mill. To the left is a wide well and behind these, the canal which channelled the water to the mill complex. This particular mill dates back to the time of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor (1503-1564), but some of the other mills that are in the vicinity are of the earlier Islamic age. (Ferdinand, by the way, was the uncle of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII.)
Loads of this was in flower.

The path then wends its way through agricultural land planted with orange groves, olive trees and arable crops, and also passes stretches of ‘monte’ or wild land populated by small dwarfs, asparagus bushes, fig trees and loads of wild flowers and thyme.

The fields were already full of wild daisies, chamomile and dandelions! You can see the orange grove ahead — now is the time to pick the oranges.
And here’s a closer look.
Me standing under a very broad wild fig tree, near two of the natural caves.

The rock type is predominantly limestone-rich baked sandstone which has eroded in places to give karstic scenery and features like this natural cave. The whole area was under the sea at one time and there are many fossils dating to the Miocene period.

The remains of the Moorish bridge, Puente Quebrado

The path then passes close by an old Moorish bridge, Puente Quebrado which crosses the river. (‘Quebrado’ in English means broken, uneven or irregular.) Originally there were five arches, though only this one now remains. The design of the arch was typically Arabic. The bridge, together with the path formed part of the Xth century Arabic Route known as la Yadda (la ‘Gran Ruta’ — the Great Route) that led from Cordova to Badajoz (near the Portuguese frontier), running close to the extensive Cañada Real Soriana cattle track.

The Bembezar dam and reservoir in Hornachuelos — part of the extensive National Park which is home to a large diversity of fauna and flora.

The path then led towards the huge Bembezar reservoir (the one with the haunted monastery, Santa Maria de los Ángeles, perched high upon the cliff). It then turned up towards the B road along which we walked a short while til we got back to the car.

The haunted monastery of Santa María de los Ángeles

It was supposed to be a half-an-hour walk according to the information board, but I think we must’ve missed the path coming back because in the end it took about an hour and a half!

Nevermind, it was all great fun!

Thank you for reading — as usual, comments and questions are always welcome.

Take care xxx

My walk to the haunted Convent Santa María de Los Ángeles (in Hornachuelos, province of Cordova)

Hello folks — I hope you are keeping well and safe!

The other day it was grey, dull, cold, wet and windy, so I thought to myself ‘What a lovely day for a walk!’

And that’s just what I did!

But instead of going to my local Sierrezuela hilly range, close to Posadas, I went a little further afield to the National Park of Hornachuelos. (This was a few weeks ago before the municipal lockdown I might add! I am a very law-abiding person…)

Hornachuelos also has a village and lies some 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Posadas. The park is famous for its diversity of fauna and flora (but more about that in a later blog) and the whole area has a lot of historical hermitages and sanctuaries, as well as an 8th century castle and a gothic church with the ghost of the flying monk. It also has a dilapidated convent-monastery Santa María de los Ángeles— one which boasts its own peculiar history and where my walk took me close to, as you will see in the following photos.

There is a shrine built in honour of Our Lady of Crowned Angels
Hornachuelos National Park is home to many varied species of plants and animals. There are lots of eagles too
There is a lake and dam which contains the water from the Bembézar River. You can fish and canoe on the lake, but not swim
Looking down from the wall of the dam (note the wild fig tree in the forefront)
The starting point of the walk (next to the ‘Bathing Forbidden’ sign
Up and along it goes, skirting the flank of the reservoir
Looking across to the top part of the village which is perched high on a craggy cliff, with a school to the right. Towards the left you can just make out the rusted metal tower of the zip lines that stretch across the lake
You can see the while-washed school better now atop the hill (the rain didn’t do my photography any good!)
After walking for about 50 minutes I reached the point opposite the derelict, ‘haunted’ monastery
And here it is a little closer. Now it is forbidden to enter the building because it is deemed unsafe, but there are YouTube videos of the inside. On the outside, fourteen huge stone crosses on the path leading to the monastery mark the Stations of the Cross

The convent-monastery Santa María de los Ángeles gained more fame after being featured in Iker Jiménez’s Spanish television programme, ‘Cuarto Milenio’ (Fourth Millennium). In this production numerous facts and data supporting the convent’s paranormal history were revealed. These facts were backed up by exhaustive research and quantitative tests, while ample qualitative evidence was provided by witnesses. The evidence included eerie sounds and other psychophonic phenomena that were recorded on a tape, the cause of which has been put down to spiritism and psychic energy. The conclusion was that the strange sounds that hoot, whimper and cry out at night, accompanied by noises of certain ‘things’ moving about (as the experienced locals and some visitors will testify) are phantasmal voices from the past.

As well as these spooky sounds, there have also been sightings. One of the common spectral visions is that of a nun. She is dressed in such a way that is has been concluded (on the basis of other evidence too) that she was the first nun who inhabited the place some five hundred and twenty years ago, and (as the story goes) loathe to leave the convent when it changed ownership and underwent subsequent alterations, she stayed living there in secret for many years, until eventually she gave up the ghost. 

The story behind the Santa María de los Angeles convent-monastery goes something like the following. The hallowed site, originally a Franciscan convent, was founded in April of 1490 by Fray Juan de la Puebla (born 1453, nephew of Catholic Queen Isabelle, and nicknamed by the Italians as El Gran Español for his spiritual devotion and the exemplary life he led). As a result of his divine calling, he entered a Hieronymite convent when he was eighteen and then later, under the orders of Pope Sixtus IV, the convent of San Francisco in Rome. (It is reported, by the way, that this popeunder whose orders the Sistine Chapel was builtalso aided the Spanish Inquisition, though unhappy with its in-house abuse.)

Fray Juan then returned to Spain when his brother, Don Alfonso de Sotomayordied. (The latter was a great paladin of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, fighting their cause during the Reconquest of Spain.)

Subsequently, Queen Isabel asked the then-acting pope (Innocence VIII) to grant her nephew, Fray Juan, permission to live definitely in Spain, and she herself would see to his spiritual education. Once agreed, he returned for good and devoted himself to establishing many new convents and monasteries in the provinces of Cordova, Seville and Extremadura. One of the monasteries was the aforementioned Santa María de los Angeles in Hornachuelos. This was erected upon the steep and craggy cliffs of the Bembézar Lake, far from any hamlet and village.

In 1494 the convent was visited by the Catholic Monarchs who, recognising and applauding Fray Juan’s famed heroic virtues, wished to give their thanks for the help they had received from God and indirectly, via Fray Juan’s spiritual intercession. This apparently had been instrumental in their victorious outcome of the Reconquest.

However, these were not the first and last monarchs to visit the blessed site, and some seventy-six years later, in 1570, Felipe II graced the monastery with his presence. Over the time there arose the legend that if this holy site were to be bought and altered then it would ‘rain fire’. Contrary to such warnings though, the site changed hands several times, each time undergoing various reforms. True to prediction, the monastery burnt down three times: in 1498, 1543 and 1655.

To rub salt into the wound, after the latter date of 1655 the convent was bought by somebody or other from the nearby town of Ecija and then sold to the Marquises of Peñaflor in 1884. They rather irreverently used the hallowed ground and edifices as a hunting centre. Subsequently though, the Marchioness (perhaps suffering qualms of conscience) donated the property to the church, and in 1957 it was opened as a seminary.

However, as is often the case when some good ideas fail, the new seminary was abandoned some fourteen years later when the upcoming seminarians chose to study in the newly-opened and more central, holy-training institution, San Pelagio in Cordova town. Since then, Santa María de los Angeles—which at last count consisted of seven buildings containing a chapel, various classrooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, toilets galore, patios and even a cave for meditationhas fallen into disrepair.

Now this sacred skeleton stands alone, balanced upon the vertical cliffs of the Bembézar Lake, inhabited only by ghostly nuns that glide about, accompanied by the phantasmal noises from former spectral devotees. The building (and its invisible inhabitants) is also visited by numerous hikers, nature lovers, history enthusiasts and psychophonic investigators, all of who must keep the spirits well-occupied.

Well, that’s all for now…

Thank you for visiting — as usual I welcome any comments or questions.

Take care! xxx

Cats, crochet and the Ermita de Jesús in Posadas (Cordova, Spain)

“In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.” Unknown

Hi folks! I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.

It became a little cooler last week, so after working hard all day, what with giving my online English conversation classes and working on my next art & craft project, I thought I’d take an evening break and indulge in another one of my favourite pastimes. Crochet!!

Just as well I only thought about it, because as you can see from the following photos, my progress was soon hindered…

Little Grey jumps onto the swinging chair and manoeuvres herself into a comfortable position next to me and my crochet pattern
Then she gradually sidles her way closer until she is right on top of the instructions and looks up at me seeking my approval — or rather, disapproval!
Then she makes a bold move, taking advantage of me having put down my bit of crocheted sleeve when I reach for my mug of Tetley’s (the tea, not the beer variety)…
…and tries her hand (or paw!) at crochet. Is that a guilty look in her innocent-looking eyes I spy? And did I get far with my crochet that evening?

Well, that’s how my crocheting usually goes. I wonder if I’ll ever finish my cardi on time for this winter, especially since I’ve had to do one of the sleeves twice — the first time it looked more like a mutton leg!

Anyway, while on the subject of crochet, I just couldn’t resist showing you the following photos of a little bit of the work that the local crochet group do, here in my neighbouring village of Posadas (Cordova). (I will be posting much more of their work as Christmas approaches, as they do up the whole village in crochet, from Christmas trees with baubles and buntings, to the Nativity Scene, the Holy family and baby Jesus, a village scene of Jerusalem etc., etc., etc. But that’s all to come later.)

The ladies have crocheted a big ‘banner’ that has been hung on the façade of the chapel ‘La Ermita de Jesús’ which lies at the end of the ‘Paseo de Pedro Vargas’ walkway and gardens. (Read on for the history and legends of this little church)
And further down the gardens they have covered the base of the trunks of tall palm trees with their colourful work.
Here’s another, this time on the trunk of a Melia (Pride of Persia tree)…
…and yet another on a similar tree. You can tell we’re in autumn! (In the background you can see a palm tree which is so typical of Andalusia)

But coming back to the 18th century Ermita de Jesús — the little church in the first photo: I would just like to give it a mention as it has an interesting background:

Firstly, the belfry is not the original, but substitutes an earlier one which was situated adjacently, on the former Camino Real (The Royal Road). This route linked Cordova with Seville, and during the Moorish occupation of al-Andalus it formed part of the extensive Ruta Califal. Subsequently, after the reconquest of Spain, this was the route used by catholic monarchy, such as King Alfonso X ‘El Sabio(‘The Wise’) in 1262, or more recently by King Alfonso XIII (who reigned from 1902 till 1931). King Alfonso X was not the only monarch to travel along this Royal Road and lodge in Posadas del Rey: it is recorded that in 1438 Queen Juana stayed there prior to her marriage with Henry IV. Hence the name for the village, Posadas del Rey, which literally means Posadas of the King.

Below the chapel’s floor there are remains of Roman thermal springs, brick canals and cisterns with brick vaults, roofs and walls of mortar. The medicinal water from these springs was exploited at a later date. There were also remains of the walls of a pottery workshop that were constructed from rows of stone, brick, and finished with mortar edges.

It is thought that the Ermita de Jesús dates back to the 15th or 16th century, when it was probably called San Sebastian. During the early 17th century it fell into ruin, but was reopened soon after. However, in 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake seriously destroyed the belfry and roof, and so in 1786 (during the baroque period) the chapel was totally rebuilt. This was not the only damage the chapel suffered: during the Civil War, various religious icons and works of art were destroyed; however, these have since been replaced by new replicas.

The Ermita de Jesús is not without its legends. There is the story that recounts that in 1658, a donkey carrying the statue of La Virgen (The Virgin Mother) was led from Granada towards a certain destination. However, on crossing Posadas the donkey suddenly fell ill and died. The locals (Malenos) interpreted this as a sign from the Virgen Mary that the donkey and the icon of Our Blessed Virgin should stay in the village, and as a consequence they were placed in the chapel. At that time, the population of Posadas was in serious decline because of an outbreak of the plague, but after the arrival of the donkey and the statue of Our Lady, there was widespread recovery and so they named the statue, La Virgen de la Salud (where ‘salud’ means health). From then on, La Virgen de la Salud became the patron saint of Posadas.

Another miracle that has been passed down the generations is that which occurred in 1755, again the result of the Lisbon earthquake. The story goes that when the ground shook violently, the belfry was torn apart and fell heavily onto the adjacent kitchen of the church custodian’s house. His daughter was playing with an acorn in the kitchen at the time, but miraculously, she escaped unharmed, as he pulled her by the hand to safety.

But more about my local village of Posadas, its history, culture, legends, sights to see — and crochet! — in future blogs…

If you’d like to see and read more about this village, then you can have a look at the council’s webpage which also has an English translation.

And if you’d like to read more about my life here in this neck of the woods, then why not take a look at my humorous, illustrated book ‘An English Lady in Cordova — the Alternative Guide.

Thank you for visiting me — take good care of yourselves! x

My photo-guided, piggy walk to the mines of La Plata — Posadas (Cordova)

Hi folks! I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits, especially in these difficult and troubling times…

Well, I just wanted to share with you some photos of one of my walks — and yes, it does involve mines yet again! But there is a hint of humour in the last few photos, if you’ll bear with me. There is also a brief description of the mining history of this corner of Posadas which you can gloss over, if you’re that way inclined! So here goes…

As you can see, the only inhabitants of this Victorian building at the entrance of the mine are wild trees — or so I thought…)
The architecture from the Victorian era was beautiful though…
…shame it hasn’t been preserved as part of Andalusia’s National Heritage, or even turned into a cafe/restaurant.

I parked my car outside the mining complex then stepped over the wire which served as a gate. (At that point I didn’t notice any warning signs as to the potential danger of this area, i.e. pot holes, hollows and old shafts that had been covered over by a dusting of earth or a few tufts of coarse grass. Just as well I didn’t step on one or fall down a shaft!)

These were the first two buildings I was met with as I entered the complex. And no, I wasn’t wearing my hard hat, though I had brought with me my geological hammer that harked back to my former days as a geologist in England. (Oh, those nostalgic, bygone days!)
By the looks of that great crack in the chimney I should’ve remembered my hard hat!
QUESTION: Can you spot an animal in this picture? (Answer provided by the following photos…)
And here were more chimneys, funnels and a steadily-decaying building. There were lines and patterns of Victorian brick embedded in the earthen floor marking out old pits, former buildings and probably old rails on which carts transported heaps of rock and ore from one spot to another. I was well and truly in my element! (Wish I’d brought a picnic!)
I continued walking up the hill, past the slag heaps, stopping frequently to pick up chunks of rock and stones with glittering, metallic sides, hoping to find my bit of silver, zinc or lead…
Suddenly I heard some scratching and grunting, and lo and behold there was the creature! I continued towards the ‘house’ and as I got nearer, there was now a shrieking mixed with the grunting!
I jumped back in surprise — and so did they!
The sound of my clicking camera startled the wild pigs — they came pouring out of the old windows and doors! I needn’t have felt worried by their presence.
They took one look at me and off they went galloping, kicking up the dried up earth in their wake! It was a funny sight!
Mind you, some of the braver ones trotted the other way, down the hill — which is just where I was going too…
…and this is what I was faced with! Another funny sight — oink oink!
And those that had already reached the bottom of the hill went to recover under the low-growing tree.

So that was my morning’s escapade, and I loved every minute of it! I will repeat it soon, but this time with my hardhat, geological hammer and picnic so that I can spend the whole day there, picking my way across dangerous pot holes, crevices and tottering chimneys, and sitting astride piggy-smelling slag heaps sorting through the spoils — and all to the sound of snorting and grunting. What an ideal day out that would make!

But before I go, I would just like to add a couple of paragraphs about the background of this area, for those of you who are interested in mining and history:

This group of mines situated in the countryside on east side of Posadas was collectively referred to as Los Cinco Amigos (The Five Friends). They belonged to the Calamón Group and they were mined for lead, zinc and silver. Some of them were originally Roman mines, as ancient utensils unearthed from the sites date the first exploitation back to that era.

The first license that granted use for mining was given in 1692. Subsequently in 1900 the English company, The Calamon Mining Company of Spain, exploited the mines, under the direction of John Power. (There was a lot of English mining in Spain during this era, from 1849 to 1920, totalling about 670 British companies, with the lion’s share, about 196 companies, in Andalusia with 28 mining companies in Cordova province itself. As a result, many English installations were set up, such as hospitals, cemeteries, parks, tennis courts etc., many of which still exist today.)

Likewise, John Power, who settled near the mineral port close to the train station in Posadas, built his villa with gardens and a tennis court, and named the complex Los Menestrales (The Craftsmen), although it was popularly known then as Jardin de los Ingleses’ (The Garden of the English).

However, during the First World War production ceased. This was probably due to the fact that the silver blende ores were smelted in conflict zones and there were no other foundries to take them to. Five hundred families in Posadas were left out of work. In 1916 the English company sold the business to the French Mining and Metallurgy Society ofPeñarroya — Société Minière et Métallurgique de Peñarroya, SMMP. (This mining village is situated in the northern part of the Cordova province in the Sierra Morena, about 66 miles as the crow flies. It was also mined extensively for coal and other metals, and consequently this large mining, chemical and industrial centre became a focus for bombing during the war. See here for my slide show of the village.)

Subsequently, due to the after-effects of WW1, such as the reduced market, the problems with transportation etc., these French-owned mines closed for good in 1922, and the associated installations, such as the overhead bleichert tramway and the electric plant, dismantled.

Other important factors for the general decline in British mining and investment in Andalusia as a whole could have been the result of cheap, Australian lead flooding the market; also The Spanish Royal Decree of 1921 required mine ownership to be totally Spanish.

Well, I think that’s a brief overview of these mines. Thank you for bearing with me if you have!

And thank you for visiting me! Take care xxx

PS. If you like what you have read, maybe you’d be interested in reading my illustrated, humorous/factual book: An English Lady in Cordova— the ‘Alternative’ Guide (available from me or from Etsy)

My photo-guided, very rainy walk to the Roman quarry in Posadas (Cordova)

Hi folks! I hope you’re all keeping well.

As you might already know from my last blog, the weather here in Cordova has done a turn. From the 38° C hot, desert-like conditions to today’s 23° C thunder and rain.

The rain has been very heavy, so I did the thing that seemed most logical to me, which was to go for a walk. You know — ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ sort of thing. (Or in my case, ‘mad dogs and Englishwomen’.) But at least I went armed with an undersized, telescopic umbrella the diameter of which wouldn’t even span my shoulders — and clad in a skimpy muscle tee-shirt despite the gale-force winds.

It had been a long time since I visited the Roman quarry, Cantera Honda, and being a former geologist, I was dying to delve back in the past. A past where after the sea receded from this part of the land in Cretaceous times, the ancient civilisations moved in: Stone Age man, the Celtiberians, Phoenicians, Romans, Moors etc. They left their mark upon the land — higher up on the ridge of the hills there are Stone Age dolmens, while lower down, the Romans quarried the land for stone from which they hewed out pillars that were then used in many of their palaces, temples and buildings. The pillars were rolled down the hill, carted by donkeys and loaded onto boats that then navigated their way along the Guadaquivir River eastwards to Cordova or westwards to Seville. (There are also many other mines in the vicinity of Roman, Moorish and modern age. More about that in another blog.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, being an enthusiast of geology, culture and history, I thought I would mosey on down there, take some unprofessional, blurry photos in the rain which I could then share with you. I hope you enjoy my ‘walk’!

WARNING: There are quite a lot of photos, and they are rather grey because of the grey weather!   

I left home when there seemed to be a ceasefire from the heavy showers
I parked alongside my son’s olive grove, but by this time it had already started spitting. The earth was red from the earlier rain
The path passed by mature olive trees, soon to be harvested…
…and by the many dwarf palms that populate these lower footslopes of the Sierrezuela. (You can eat their berries)
The colours became deeper as the sky gradually became more overcast.
This was the sky that was behind me, but steadily moving in my direction…
…but ahead of me, towards the ‘finca’ planted with new olive trees, things looked clearer.
I passed by loads of giant fennel which smelled so fennelly and aromatic after the rain
And there are wild fig trees growing straight out of cracks in the bedrock
I continued to walk westwards along this path, though the light became dimmer
I passed the bordering palm trees
I paused to look backwards over my shoulder, and I saw how the thunder clouds were quickly catching up with me. There was just one single beam of angelic light that was focusing down onto the village of Posadas in the distance
Onwards I pressed. I reached the sign directing me right to ‘Cantera Honda
and then a few steps ahead I came to the first ancient Roman column that had, with time, become half-buried in earth
And then there was a second just lying under a large pistacia bush
This poster told me I was now close to the quarry Cantera Honda (which is located on the local footpath of the Roman Paterna route)
I reached the entrance of the quarry, and yes, it was raining quite heavily now! (Nothing like taking photos in the rain!!)
Old columns and pillars hewn out from the quarry walls and shaped in rounded form by the Romans were strewn everywhere. (And now it was pouring — you can see the lines of rain if you look at the fig tree in the centre back)
More broken cylindrical rock up the side of the quarry (and more rain too, also noticeable !)
Above the quarry, broken columns just scattered the place, carelessly abandoned as if the Romans (or their slaves rather) had just upped it and left
and more broken columns…
…and yet more
and even more…still having kept their recognisable form after 2000-odd years. (If only stone could talk!)
I was up at the top of the quarry (being careful not to slip — there is no fence) — and by now it was pelting (as you can see in the photo)
I was thoroughly drenched by now despite my measly umbrella, and my photos were becoming increasingly blurry, so I decided that it was time to turn around and leg it back…
I pussyfooted over the squidgy puddles and fast-running rivulets
..and with every footstep I became increasingly wetter — and so did my fox!
The fields took on another semblance than that of before — new rivulets, and the higher fields awash with water: (talk about soil erosion!)
I headed back as fast as I could under the rumbling, menacing sky
…until soon I reached my haven. (At least the rains had washed it clean — about the first good wash it’s had all summer — I hate washing cars!!!)
I thought of taking my wet, muddy trousers off, but then again I thought, ‘Better not in case the ‘trafico’ road police are there doing spot checks on the cars. Could be embarrassing… but then I could always reply in my Englishy accent: “¡Oh, lo siento! No sé…” — pronounced, “Oh, low sientow! Know say”, meaning “Oh, I’m sorry! I don’t know…”
And just as I started to drive off, the skies started clearing. Sod’s law!

However, it was an enjoyable morning when all said and done, and I’ve been able to share my experience and photos with you, which I hope you’ve enjoyed.

If something can be learned from my little escapade it’s this: have a nice mug of steaming Tetley’s as soon as you get back indoors (the tea that is, not the beer!).

Well, at least I won’t be needing a shower tonight!

Thank you for visiting. If you like what you have read, then you might want to read some more. My book An English Lady in Cordova – the Alternative Guide is available from here. (I’ve finally learnt how to do the ‘Here’ thing!)

I welcome your comments and questions.

Take care and bye for now! xxx