Cordoba Province - Luque

 Luque, which situated on a hillside and crowned by a castle © Michelle Chaplow
Luque, which is draped over a hillside and crowned by a castle © Michelle Chaplow

LUQUE

Luque is on the fringes of the rugged Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, picturesquely set on a hillside, crowned by a castle and medieval defensive walls overlooking the main square. The town has around 3000 inhabitants.

HISTORY

Luque may find it origins in a Neolithic settlement, as suggested by remains found in the Cueva del Toril and other archaeological sites, which prove that it is one of the oldest towns in the province. Other remains indicate a Roman settlement.

In the tenth century, the Moors built a castle over the remains of a Roman fortification, however, most of the fortress remains that are visible today date from the thirteenth century, constructed under Fernando III's orders after he reconquered the town. His son, Sancho IV, donated the city to Córdoba.

Again, the town was lost to the Moors, but finally reconquered by Alfonso XI in 1347, thanks to a scheme executed by brothers Luis, Alonso and Antón Luque.

Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion parish church ©Michelle Chaplow
Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion parish church

THINGS TO SEE

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
The Renaissance-style church was built between 1567 and 1697. Hernán Ruiz II, one of the architects responsible for the Cathedrals of Córdoba and Seville, as well as Seville's Town Hall and former Hospital, which now houses the Regional Parliament, drew up the original plans for the church. After he died, his son, Hernán Ruiz III, took over the construction in 1576. However, the third-generation architect was dismissed in 1590 after a dispute with Bishop Don Antonio Pazos of Córdoba. His brother Martín Ruiz took over the main works, and Hernán Ruiz III returned in 1592 to lay out the foundations of the tower. The church was completed in 1598. The impressive bell-tower was built by Juan de Aranda Salazar between 1631 and 1633. The church is located on Plaza de España.

Castillo de Venceaire
Luque's castle stands proudly on a rocky outcrop above the town square; its main homage tower is in good condition and dominates the view from the plaza. The tower remains bathed in evening sunlight long after the square falls into shade. The first early Moorish fortifications from 909 were briefly occupied by the rebel Ibn Mastana, in alliance with Omar bin Hafsun, who subsequently handed him over as a hostage to the Emir of Córdoba, Muhammad I. Once the Emir had recaptured the castle, the fortifications were strengthened. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the castle was enlarged with triple outer walls. After the Christian re-conquest in 1241, Fernando III ordered further changes, creating the layout of the two towers and irregular joining walls that we see today. The castle continued to be a strategic border stronghold, and was even recaptured by the Moorish Nazari Kingdom before its final defeat in 1492. The fortress became part of the Señorío de los Venegas. It was converted into a Condado in 1624, when King Felipe III granted the new title to Edgar Salvador Venegas, whose family resided in the castle until the early eighteenth century. The abandoned castle passed to the state in 1973 and was unsuccessfully put up for auction several times, attracting no bids. In 1999, the Town Hall took over the fortification and restored it; it can still be seen on Plaza de España.

Opening Times:
Saturday, 12:30-18:30hrs
Sunday and Holidays, 11:30-18:30hrs

Other visits by arrangement through the Municipal Museum.

Torre del Homenaje
This tower was added to the castle in the fourteenth century, with the lower floor used as a grain store and the upper floor as a living area. There is also a cistern which was used to collect rainwater from the tower, constructed in the Moorish Caliphal period.

Patio de Armas
This irregularly shaped patio was the interior courtyard of the castle, and was accessed via a double wall with offset entrances. The name derives from its purpose as a refuge in case of an attack on the castle, from which arms would be supplied to the defensive forces.

Ermita del Castillo
Ermita del Rosario is a small chapel beside the castle, in the Latin cross plan. The nave has a series of side chapels, many of which are closed off. The ceiling is a barrel vault with a half dome over the transept.

Cueva de la Encantada
This cave, the entrance of which is in the rock behind the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, was only discovered in 2002. There are several guided tours a day starting at the Municipal Museum. Various scenes of schematic painting from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras appear in caves across the town. There are also two workshops, one dedicated to prehistoric paintings and another to the realization of marrow lamps (prehistoric lamps). These historic attractions are located on Plaza de España.

Iglesia Conventual Nuestra Señora de Gracia
This church dates to the eighteenth century, and can be found on Calle Glorieta del Convento.

Ermita de la Aurora
This quaint and unique chapel is nestled amongst the village's houses, and features a whitewashed façade and stone doorway. Dating to the eighteenth century, it is a quintessential example of Spanish Neoclassicism. Located on Calle Carrera.

Tore Civil Reloj
The clock tower was built in 1820, and features a bell clock operated by weights. It no longer works as its maker, Miguel, carried the secret of its operation to the grave. It can be seen on Calle Carrera.

Centro de Interpretación del Aceite de Oliva
This educational centre was opened in November 2012, and teaches visitors the history and culture of olives and olive oil in Luque. You can also experience guided tours and oil tastings, as well the shop selling local oils. Located on Calle la Estación.

Opening hours: 
Daily, 09:00-19:00hrs.

Museo Municipal Luque Tierra de Fronteras
The Museum was opened on March 26, 2004 by the Delegate of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía in Córdoba, Rafaela Valenzuela Jiménez. It consists of three main themed rooms; Ancient Frontier, Medieval Frontier and Spanish Civil War, with artefacts and information boards. The Museum has two other rooms, one dedicated to local artists and the other to temporary exhibitions. The museum is on Plaza de España.

Guided tours to the Cueva de la Encantada and other monuments leave from here.

Opening Times:
15th October-15th March, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Holidays, 10:00-14:00hrs
15th October-15th March, Friday and Saturday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 17:00-20:00hrs
16th March-14th October, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Holidays, 10:00-14:00hrs
16th March-14th October, Friday and Saturday, 10:00-14:00hrs and 17:00-21:00hrs
Price: Free Entrance
Tel: 957 66 75 74

The castle of Luque stands proud on a rocky outcrop above the square ©Michelle Chaplow
The castle of Luque stands proud on a rocky outcrop above the square

THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE

Dolmen de la Lastra
The structure of the dolmen corresponds to the typology of corridor sepulchers, and is composed of a quadrangular chamber and a short, narrow, undifferentiated corridor. It is just 3.72m in length and its central axis is directed North-Northwest.    

NATURAL AREAS

Laguna del Salobral
The laguna is the largest of the seasonal water lagoons in the south of the province of Córdoba, with a surface area of ​​46.6 hectares. Due to the gentle slope of the terrain and the shallow depth of the wetland, it hosts numerous shorebirds that use the lagoon as a passage and breeding ground. The most significant bird species are the common stilt, the European lapwing, the common stone curlew and the Montagu's harrier, among many others.

COUNTRYSIDE WALKS

Via Verde 
You can follow the Vía Verde of the Subbética, a former railway line, on foot or by bike from Luque westwards to Zuheros or eastwards to the Laguna del Conde Natural Area, one of several wetland reserves in the southern Córdoba province noted for their birdlife, especially the white-headed ducks that spend winter in the area. This lake is also known as the Laguna del Salobral (Salty Lake) due to its high salinity.

You can follow the Vía Verde of the Subbética, a former railway line, on foot or by bike from Luque westwards to Zuheros ©Michelle Chaplow
You can follow the Vía Verde of the Subbética, a former railway line, on foot or by bike from Luque westwards to Zuheros

GASTRONOMY

When visiting Luque, try a variety of their local dishes such as sopa de maimones (meat stew), migas (fried bread with chorizo), pizporrete (cold tomato soup) and flamenquines (pork rolls stuffed with cheese and ham). Sweet treats consist of roscones de piñonate (sticky dough rings), gajorros (fried sugar pastries) and pestiños (honey pastries). Also worth a try is resol, a drink made with herbs, coffee and aniseed.

NEARBY PLACES

The neighbouring villages to Luque are Zuheros, Doña Mencía, Baena and Alcaudete.

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