Cordoba Province - Luque

Luque Andalucia Spain © Michelle Chaplow
Luque, which is sprawled over a hillside and crowned by a castle

Luque

On the fringes of the rugged Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park is the attractive village of Luque. Picturequely set on hillside, it is crowned by a castle, still with its medieval defensive walls, which overlooks the main square.

HISTORY

The Moors built a castle in the tenth century (see below) over the remains of a Roman fortification; however most of the fortress remains you can see today date from the 13th century, constructed under Fernando III's orders after he reconquered the town.

THINGS TO SEE

From the main square, Plaza de España, where you can find bars and a kiosk, most sights are a short walk away. Head up towards the castle along Paseo de España, a tiled tree-lined avenue with traditional iron benches.

Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion parish church

Located in Plaza de España, the Parochial Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is Renaissance in style, and was built between 1567 and 1697. Hernán Ruiz II, one of the architects responsible for the cathedrals of Cordoba and Seville, as well as Seville's Ayuntamiento and the former hospital which now houses the regional parliament building, drew up the original plans for the church, and after he died his son Hernan Ruiz III took over in 1576. However the third-generation architect was dismissed in 1590 after a dispute with Bishop Don Antonio Pazos of Cordoba. 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.

Behind the magnificent limestone façade you will find a fine Baroque altarpiece dating from the late 17th century, and an image of San Juan la Bautista believed to be the work of Martínez Montañés, the renowned 17th-century religious sculptor. The church consists of three naves separated by slender half point arches; its main chapel is covered by a dome, and the ceiling is surprisingly high. Initially the church had only two chapels on either side of the main chapel; then, at the beginning of the 17th century, more chapels were added, two of which have Renaissance portals.

The impressive bell-tower was built by Juan de Aranda Salazar between 1631 and 1633. Square in plan, the tower has quadrangular openings in the front face and blind squares on the side faces, while the belfry has a vane on each side, flanked by pairs of Tuscan columns, and a spire on top.

 

The Renaissance parish church of La Asunción
The Renaissance parish church of La Asunción


Castle

The castle stands proud on a rocky outcrop above the square - its main homage tower is in good condition and dominates the view from the square. The tower is still bathed in the evening sunlight long after the square has fallen into shade.

The first, early Moorish fortifications from 909 were briefly occupied by the rebel Ibn Mastana, from the nearby castle of Carcabuey, in alliance with Omar bin Hafsun, who subsequently handed him over as a hostage to the Emir of Cordoba, Muhammad I. Once the Emir had recaptured the castle, the fortifications were strengthened.

In the Almohad period (12th to 13th centuries), the castle was enlarged with triple outer walls. After the Christian reconquest in 1241, Fernando III ordered further changes, creating the layout of two towers and two 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. Then the fortress became part of the Señorío de los Venegas, 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 18th century. The abandoned castle passed to the state in 1973 and was put up for action a number of times - unsuccessfully, with no bids. In 1999 the town hall took over the fortification and restored it.

The main castle features you can see today are:

Homage Tower
This is the main structure that remains, added in the 14th century on top of an Almohad tower. The lower floor was a grain store and the upper the living area, covered by two half domes. On the rooftop there was a small walkway with battlements, at the front there was a scaffolding and machicolations (overhanging structures from where boiling oil could be poured onto attackers).

Cistern
A water tank that collected rainwater form the Homage Tower, constructed in the Moorish Caliphal period.

Torre Almohade
The other tower is constructed from masonry and stronger sandstone blocks on the corners. It featured a covered defensive chamber.

Patio de Armas
This irregular-shaped patio was the interior courtyard of the castle. Access to this area was 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.

Castle Precinct opening hours
Saturday, 12.30 to 18.30
Sunday and Holidays 11.30 to 18.30
Other times by arrangement in the municipal museum.

Ermita del Castillo
The chapel next to the castle, Ermita del Rosario, is a small chapel in the Latin cross plan. The nave has a number of side chapels, of which many are closed off. The ceiling is barrel vault with a half dome over the transept. The facade has a lintel doorway flanked by two Tuscan columns that support a summit with triglyphs; and a Doric architectural element in the form of a protruding rectangle.

Cueva de la Encantada
The delightful cave whose entrance is in the rock behind the church was only discovered in 2002. There are several guided tours a day starting at the Municipal Museum.
Centro de Interpretation Aceite de Luque
Information centre explaining how the best olive oil is made. Located by the Via Verde station.
Opening hours
Daily 9.00 to 21.00.

Municipal Museum

Small museum near the Paseo de España consisting of a couple of rooms of artefacts and information boards. Plenty of leaflets about the local area are available on the desk. Guided tours to the Cueva de la Encantada and other monuments leave from here.

Opening hours
Wednesday to Sunday 10.00 to 14.00
Friday and Saturday also 17.00 to 20.00
Entrance Free

 

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 southern Cordoba province noted for their birdlife, especially the white-headed ducks that winter in the area. This lake is also known as the Laguna Salobral (Salty Lake) due to its high salinity.

Luque is crowned by its Renaissance parish church of La Asuncion and Moorish Castle. ©Michelle Chaplow
Luque is crowned by its Renaissance parish church of La Asuncion and Moorish castle.

Semana Santa

Luque is unusual in that it has two Semana Santa (Holy Week) brotherhoods whose members are all women. In 1993, a young woman from the Luque had the idea of creating an hermandad (church brotherhood which goes out in a procession in Holy Week) specifically for women. The woman confided her idea to a group of friends, and one year later in 1994, the project of the first female brotherhood was founded - Nuestra Señora del Mayor Dolor. More>

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