Córdoba Province - Benamejí

BENAMEJÍ

Benamejí sits curiously on the edge of an immense crack that has grown over the years, causing many houses to disappear. Despite its dangerous implications for locals, this geological phenomenon has become one of the main tourist attractions of the town, which has around 5000 inhabitants.

HISTORY  

Early human settlements in the area are indicated by numerous remains including; Chalcolithic burials found at Cortijo Poyato, Iberian archaeological sites at Cerro del Castillo, and findings at Cerro Barrero and El Dehesa Encina el Cuervo. In the ninth century, Abd Allah built his fortress, Banu Bashir, which was later fortified by Abd ar Rahman III. In 1240, Fernando III conquered what was then known as Benamexir, and in 1254 it was donated by Alfonso X to the Order of Santiago.

For 200 years, the area was under Christian rule, having been conquered definitively in 1487 by the Catholic Monarchs. Pope Clement VII authorized Carlos I to sell some properties of the military order, and Benamejí was sold to the ruler of Burgos, Diego de Bernuy. In 1549, he decided to rebuild the town with a new layout, distributing land and drawing up a new statute for the town.

In 1729, King Felipe V decided to move his court temporarily to Seville. During this stay, which lasted for four years, he made several trips around Andalusia. At the end of May in 1730, a road engineer in Benamejí supervised the construction of a new road between Archidona and Benamejí, preparing the route for the passage of the royal entourage.

In preparation for their arrival, the Mayor of Benamejí, Don Antonio José Gabaldán, asked Lucena for urgent help in the form of 300 bushels of wheat flour to feed the members of the entourage; according to a Royal Order, villages on the route were to provide food and lodging to the travellers, courtiers, administrators, soldiers and other members of the delegation.

Historical literature on banditry references Benamejí as an important point of action in the nineteenth century. The bridge crossing the river on the road from Córdoba to Málaga, as well as the town's strategic setting between hills, made it a prime target for frequent ambushes.

During the War of Independence (1808-1814), the gangs of Juan de Campos and Pedro Alcalde controlled passages of Benamejí and Encinas Reales, alternating between harassing the French troops and robbing local towns.

Evidences suggests that in 1811, Pedro Alcalde managed to gather some 1,200 men with whom he held Major Robin's French troops hostage and tortured them. This conflict ended with 300 men dead, an endless number wounded, and the Spaniards abandoned. Pedro Alcalde Heredia was arrested and taken to Jaén, where they tried to hang him, but without an available executioner, they decided to shoot him and later hang the body.

THINGS TO SEE

La Grieta
The "Crack of Benamejí" has come to be recognised as one of the most outstanding geological phenomena of Andalusia, not only because of its size, but because the crack made a large part of the town disappear. The landslides on the southern slope of Benamejí had been occurring for several centuries, including a sudden slide indicated by evidence from 1739, but it was in February 1963 that one of the most intense movements occurred, causing the ruin of 55 homes and damaging another 50. This event alerted the community to the danger posed by the crack to the inhabitants living closest to the edge of the slope. After a period of large-scale works, the slope was completely stabilized in 1999, thanks to the intensive efforts of the current government and the collaboration of the Ministerio de Interior, Junta de Andalucía and Diputación Provincial de Córdoba. The crack is located off Calle Paseo Reina Sofia.

Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción
The construction of this church began in 1670, overseen by the first Marquis of Benamejí, Don José Diego de Bernuy, and was completed in 1740 by the fourth Marquis, Don Fadrique Íñigo. The tower dates to the eighteenth century, as does the great chapel, both the work of Don Fadrique Íñigo. The church can be found on Calle Antonio Martínez Victoria.

Ermita de San Sebastián
This chapel was built by the Marquises of Benamejí in the eighteenth century. The Virgin of the Cabeza presides over the austere central dressing room, on the walls of which hangs a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. For this reason, it was previously called the chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza. Located on Calle Remedios, this square previously housed a cemetery.

Convento de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios de Carmelitas Descalzos
The Baroque Convent was founded in 1682 by the first Marquis of Benamejí, José Diego de Bernuy. It housed an important collection of books and works of art belonging to the church, and once the Order left the convent in 1835, the chapel remained open to worship until 1905. During the twentieth century, the convent was a refuge for inhabitants affected by landslides during the crack formation. The entrance archway can be seen on Calle Padre Esteban.

Museo Duquesa de Benamejí
The Duquesa de Benamejí was a play, later adapted for cinema, written by the Machado Brothers. It tells the love story between a beautiful and famous Royal and a bandit. The play's scenes are set in the Palace and Castle of Benamejí, and in the nearby valley of the River Genil. Although it is inspired by real people, facts and places, it is a work of fantasy concerning the phenomenon of banditry in nineteenth-century Andalusia. Bandits are a popular trope in the literature, art, music and legends of numerous cultures, because although fugitives of the law, they ultimately fought for social justice, true love and freedom; they are the original 'anti-hero' in a sense. The Museo Duquesa de Benamejí offers an exhibition of artwork, literature, films and music related to the play and its themes, and is located on Calle Aguilar.

Opening Times:
October-March, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 16:00-18:00hrs.
October-March, Sunday, 10:00-15:00hrs.
April-September, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 18:00-20:00hrs.
April-September, Sunday, 10:00-15:00hrs.

Price:
General, 2.50 euro
Groups, 2.00 euro per person
Over 65, 2.00 euro
Tel: 957 51 90 71

THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE

Santuario de la Virgen de Gracia
The sanctuary is the place of residence of the Virgin of Gracia, patron saint of Benamejí. No data has been preserved from the sanctuary; only that it was restored in 1917. Visitors can admire the crosses that existed in the past and that have recently been recovered. The site is situated 1km west of Benamejí, on Calle Prol. Jesús del Alto.

Puente
The bridge that crosses the River Genil is one of the most important works of its kind in the province of Córdoba, declared BIC (Bien de Interés Cultural - a category of the Spanish cultural heritage register), since it was uncommon in the sixteenth century to build bridges of such magnitude and perfection. It was the project of Renaissance architect Hernán Ruiz II and is the only example of a new project executed entirely by him. The bridge is south of Benamejí, on the N-331.

Castillo de Gomez Arias
Because of its high vantage point, the Arab Castle of Hins Banir Basir (Benamexir Castle), repeatedly passed between the hands of the Arab troops and the Christians, until in 1361, Pedro I of Castile re-conquered it, destroying the former Castillo de Gómez Arias, named after one of its Mayors. The fortress was later rebuilt in 1495. The very few remains can be found south of Benamejí, off the A-45, only metres away from the River Genil.

Cueva La Silera
Traditionally known as Cueva de la Silera, this 'cave' is an interesting construction of medieval origin, used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries for the storage of agricultural products. It has a Greek cross plan, with four galleries more than 30m long and around 3m high. Due to its proximity to the Castle of Gómez Arias, the Cueva's origins can be related to the primitive settlement of Benamejí at the foot of the castle. Over the centuries, it has served diverse functions, from sheltering livestock to, according to local oral testimonies, a hiding place for bandits. The cave is about 1500m south east of Benamejí.

COUNTRYSIDE WALKS

About three kilometres from the centre of the town, visitors will find a perfect place to enjoy nature and rural activities, known as Cerro del Viento. It is an idyllic spot for hiking, and there is also a shooting range.

Peña Parda
This walking route is just over 5km in length and is classified as an easy route suitable for beginners. It begins at Camping los Caños de Benamejí, and the circular route finishes at the same location.

HANDICRAFTS

Local crafts produced in Benamejí are lattice fencing and decorative iron bars (rejas) used for house windows and doors.

GASTRONOMY

Visitors to Benamejí can enjoy local dishes such as sopa de maimones (Iberian ham and bread soup), remojón de naranja (orange, cod and egg salad), adobillo de patatas (marinated potatoes), salmorejo, sobrehúsa de habas verdes (broad bean stew) and migas con chorizo (fried bread with chorizo). Sweet treats include leche frita (fried custard), arroz con leche (rice pudding) and gachas de harina tostada y almendra (pudding made with roasted flour and almonds).

FESTIVALS

Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession celebrated on the evening of 5 January.

Día de la Candelaria y San Blas
Celebrated the 2 February.

Carnaval
Celebrated in February.

Semana Santa
Holy Week (dates vary each year).

San Marcos
Celebrated the 25 April.

Semana Cultural
Celebrated the 10-19 August.

Festividad Internacional de Folklore
Celebrated the last weekend of August.

NEARBY VILLAGES                        

The neighbouring villages to Benamejí are Encinas Reales, El Tejar and Palenciana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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