Almeria Province - Albox

The small town of Albox, in the north of Almeria province © Michelle Chaplow
The small town of Albox, in the north of Almeria province, is set amidst a stunning landscape of arid hills and olive groves

ALBOX

by Shenai Martínez Fernández and Chris Chaplow

The small town of Albox, in the north of Almeria province, is set amidst a stunning landscape of arid hills with olive groves, orchards of citrus and almond trees, and dramatic hills and valleys.

The town, which has a population of about 12,500, islocated at 400m above sea level,flanked by two mountain ranges -the Sierra de las Estancias and the Sierra de los Filabres. Situated in the basin of the River Almanzora, Albox is bisected by one of the Almanzora's tributaries, a (usually) dry riverbed known as the Rambla,which is crossed by three bridges.

The Barrio Alto (high area) of San Antonio was the original nucleus of the town. Following development in the 17th and 18th centuries, most expansion took placein Loma de San Francisco. The historic centre, to the west of the river, has narrow streets interspersed with small plazas. Many buildings around the Santa Maria church and Plaza Mayor have been restored.

The town is half an hour from the sea at Garucha,and one hour from the popular resort of Mojácar.Many visitors who are staying in self-catering holiday homes in the area come to Albox to stock up on food and household supplies.

HISTORY

Founded by the Arabs during the Muslim occupation of Spain - Albox means woodlands (al-Buks) in Arabic - also has remains dating back to the Neolithic times. The town was linked to the mighty Kingdom of Granada from the 13th century, and you can still see towers dating from this period (see below).

During the Christian Reconquest, in the 15th century, Albox was conquered by Alonso Yáñez Fajardo, the Military Governor of Murcia, part of the Kingdom of Castilla. Albox and surrounding area was awarded to Alonso as Marquess of los Vélez.

In around 1500, an earthquake destroyed a large part of Albox. The castle was largely demolished,and the stone used to repair homes, although some small sections of walls still remain. The Moriscos(Moors who stayed behind after the Reconquest and either converted willingly, or were coerced to covert, to Christianity) of Albox took a prominent part in the various Moorish uprisings throughout of the Kingdom of Granada in the 16th century. As a result, King Felipe II quashed the rebellions and expelled theMoriscos; the town was re-populated with Christians from Valencia and La Mancha.

A municipal council was constituted in 1563, under Anton de Andrano, the town's first mayor.

In 1716, the venerated image of Nuestra Señora del Saliente came to the town, and two priests from Albox founded the Santuario dedicated to it on Mount Roel.

During the Napoleonic invasion, the town played an important role in the fight against French invaders, with bloody skirmishes in 1810 and 1811.

Later that century, Albox suffered major floods in 1891 and 1900; as a result of the latter, the upper part of the stone city wall, built to protect the city in 1891, was destroyed.

Things to See

Santa María Church
The interior of the Santa María Church, built in the 16th century after the Reconquest, has the remains of an altarpiece made by Alonso Cano, a renowned Spanish painter, architect and sculptor.

The Church of Santa Maria, Albox. ©Michelle Chaplow
The Church of Santa Maria, Albox.

Plaza Mayor
A large fountain on an elevated platform in the Plaza Mayor provides a 360-degree vantage point to view the attractive town hall, Santa Maria church, houses with interesting wrought iron balconies,and cafés. It also overlooks the dry river bed and surrounding landscapes.

Pottery Museum
Antonio Alfonso Fernández and his brother Juan are potters who create traditional Almerian pottery in their workshop "Los Puntas", using arcilla clayfired intraditional Arab-style ovens dating back 300 years. Located on Calle San Leonardo.

Monument to the Arriero
This monument in Plaza Nueva is the work of the sculptor María Isabel García Oller. The large sculpture(5m by 2m) is made from white marble of Macael and represents the commercial and artisan past of Albox. The Arrerios were muleteers who transported goods from town to town.

Things to see outside the town

The Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Saliente (Our Lady of the Abandoned) is one of the most important religious buildings in Almeria province, commemorating a supernatural appearance by the Virgin Mary in the 12th Century. Constructed in 1716 by local priests Don Lázaro de Martos and Don Roque, it was later extended by Bishop Sanz y Torres,adding a shrine, Episcopal Palace, guesthouse and convent.

Housed at the sanctuary is the relic of Nuestra Señora del Saliente - a small baroque carving, possibly by the La Roldana (Luisa Roldana) school, it is the best example of the baroque style in Almeria. In 1988 the sacred image was crowned by the Apostolic Nuncio on behalf of Pope John Paul II. The sanctuary is located on the mountain side 23km north of the town on the AL-7100 mountain road towards Chirvel at km 20.

Torres Alfambra and Terdiguera
This Moorish watchtower is located on a hill a few km to the east, over looking the town. Also known as Torre Vigia Arabe, it dates back to 13th century at the beginning of the Nasrid kingdom. It has a square base tower with three of the four walls remaining standing; to get there, take the Camino Alfambra (continuation of Calle Puente).The Terdiguera Tower is another ruined Moorish tower, located 10km north of the town.

ARTS & CRAFTS

Apart from Los Puntas pottery (see above), arts and crafts activities in the town, include glassware, and carpets and rug-making, and classes in the latter are offered to young people.

GASTRONOMY

The local dishes aremigas (fried breadcrumbs with a mix of vegetables and meat), choto a lo pastoral (goatstew), puchero (stew), trigo guisado (wheat stew), fritada de sangre (fried blood), egg soup, gurullos (rabbit or partridge dumplings), remojón (cod and orange salad with olives and egg), meatballs and Easter pie.

Among the desserts and sweets on offer, liquor doughnuts (roscos de aguardiente), orange doughnuts, almond cake and suspiros are the most typical in this town.

FESTIVALS

Easter Week
Easter Week in Alboxis one of the most important in the province of Almeria, with four cofradias and one prehermandad. The procession on Holy Tuesday features the statue of Jesus of Nazareth washing the feet of the disciples, while on Holy Thursday evening, you can see Christ on the Crossand our Lady of Sorrows under a black canopy.

On Good Friday the processions have Jesus carrying the Cross, St. John, the Virgin of First Sorrow and Christ Crucified, that evening you can see features Agony in the Garden, Our Lady of Hope, and Our Lady of Sorrow with her dead son in her lap.
The procession of the prehermandadon Easter Saturday has the Station of the Cross representing the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Romeria de la Virgen de Saliente
A pilgrimage from the town of Albox up to the Monastery of Saliente takes place on 8 September every year. During the night of 7 September and early morning of 8 September, hundreds of people, walk, mainly via the Rambla, the18km uphill from the town to the monastery.

Fiestas de la Loma
In the month of October the Fiestas de la Loma is celebrated in that part of the town.

Fiestas de Todos los Santos
From around 23 October to1 November is the Fiestas of Todos Los Santos.This fiesta owes its origins to an important cattle fair, and with the passage of time it was named the All Saints Fair. Currently it is one of the most important fairs in the province of Almeria, and one of its highlights is the Feria del Mediodia, which goes until night time.

Chess in Albox
Albox holds the chess tournament, Vicente Bonil International Chess Open,at the end of November, which celebrated its 40th edition in 2017. The Club de Ajedrez Reverté Albox chess club was proclaimed the Spain's Champion Chess Team in 2005. Albox is considered to be the 'cradle of Spanish chess', and a number of grandmasters such as Veselin Topalov and Alekséi Dréyev have visited the town.

Festival Rock Albox
This rock music festival usually takes place on the last Friday in October.Held in the town since 1985, it is the longest-running rock festival in Spain. About fivegroups, mainly local, play in the recinto ferial (summer festival ground) in front of about 4,000 fans. Entrance on the door costs 5€.

NEARBY PLACES

The neighbouring villages are Taberno, Locaiba, Almanzora, Fines, and Arboleas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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