by Saskia Mier
Belalcázar is set in a wonderful location, making it ideal for rural tourism and highlighted by great cultural character. It has about 3,300 inhabitants.
The oldest remains found in Belalcázar date back to the Lower Paleolithic era. However, after this period, there is a great void as far as pre-history is concerned, with no news of other cultures until the Chalcolithic period.
There are various archaeological vestiges that prove the Roman presence and its importance in the area at that time. During the Moorish domination it was already known as Gafiq. Its location in the Valle de las Bellotas (Fahs al Ballut) was vital for communications in the area; hence its importance at the time of the Re-conquest.
In addition to other previous attempts, the final Re-conquest was achieved by Fernando III shortly before that of Córdoba. It was passed over to the ownership of Córdoba in 1243 but that dominance was lost when, in 1445,Juan II declared it in favour of Don Gutiérrez de Sotomayor, Maestre de Alcántara.The towns of Hinojosa del Duque and Villanueva del Duquewere both within the jurisdiction of the town.
THINGS TO SEE
Castillo de los Sotomayor Zúñiga y Madroñiz
One of the most important castles in Córdoba province, belonging to the Counts of Belalcázar. The castle was originally built during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The tower measures about 45 metres high and 17 metres wide and the stone that forms it is artistically detailed and worked. Another seven granite towers accompany this main one. Located north of the village, at the end of Calle Sebastián de Belalcázar.
Iglesia Parroquial Santiago el Mayor
The church was instituted in 1272, with a small temple which was later expanded into church, with the work linked to Hernán Ruiz II. Construction started in 1559 and thirty years later it was half built, which explains why its construction did not end until the seventeenth century. The exterior is structured by the Serliana scheme: that is, a half-point vain is accompanied by other lintel, all articulated by Tuscan pilasters. The tower is unfinished, since the project contemplated one more floor height. Located in Plaza de los Martires.
Convento de San Francisco de los Mártires
The Convent was founded in 1486 by Inocencio VIII as living quarters for the Friars of Santa Clara. Today only the church survives, albeit abandoned. Inside the church there is a luxurious chapel dating to the sixteenth century, which stands out from the other ruinous parts, being relatively well preserved. Located on Calle San Francisco.
Hospital de San Antonio de Padua
The Hospital was founded thanks toan initiative by several locals in the fifteenth century. In this hospital the School of Christ was installed and from 1676 it served as a hospice until the end of the Civil Warwhen it became a school. It is currently the House of Culture. Located in Plaza de la Constitución.
As Town Halls go, this is definitely one with great exterior charm, dating from the nineteenth century, and it is possibly the work of Córdoba architect Rafael Luque y Lubián. Located in Plaza de la Constitución.
A medical unit was built at the end of May 1937, by the Brigade I. XIII, because it was closer to the battle front. The head of the unit was Dr. Fritz Jensen, born in Prague but trained in Vienna. At the end of June 1937, the Brigade I. XIII medical team was ordered to leave the town, and from then and until spring 1938 the Hospital was directed by an American health team, led by Dr. Abraham I. Friedman and including many assistants and nurses. Today, the building is used as a school. Located on Calle Menendez Pelayo.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Convento de Santa Clara de la Columna
The Convent was founded in 1476 by Doña Elvira de Zúñiga, as a monastery for males, but after her death in 1483 it was converted into a female monastery. It has undergone few major transformations, conserving its old buildings dating to the Gothic Catholic Kings. Located south-east of Belalcázar, off the A-422.
Ermita de la Virgen de Consolación
The chapel dates to the first times of the Re-conquest whenGahet (current Belalcázar) was conquered by the troops of Fernando III before 1236. It is not known who were the architects or sponsors of its construction. Located south-west of Belalcázar, off the CO-9401.
Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Gracia de Alcantarilla
The late fifteenth century chapel belongs to the typology of rural mountain chapels, frequent in the region and with a certain typological kinship with those of Extremadura and Castille. Built on a Roman const and primitive Iberian castronext to the Zújar River, it takes centre stage for the pilgrimage held every year on the last weekend of April. Located 20 kilometres from Belalcázar, off the CO-450.
Belalcázar has a wonderful natural environment with the Paraje del Monte Malagón situated about three kilometres from the town ideal for hiking, camping or enjoying rural tourism in bungalows. There is also a dam where you can take boat rides, as well as a shooting range.
When visiting Belalcázar, try some of the local dishes, such as, ajoblanco (almond and garlic soup), pies lampeados, gazpacho, ajobacalao (garlic cod), albóndigas de Rosa (meatballs) and migas (fried breadcrumbs). Sweet treats include torta de Andalucía (aniseed tortes), flores de almendra (almond flower pastries) and torrijas (eggy bread usually served dipped in honey or cinnamon sugar). There is a very distinct tradition to eat oranges with olive oil and sugar, as well as an unusual drink of vinegar, water and sugar.
The traditional crafts still produced in Belalcázarare weaving and ironwork.
Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession celebrated on the evening of 5 January.
Romería de San Antón
Celerated on last Sunday of January.
Fiesta de la Candelaria
Celebrated on 2 February.
Celebrated in February.
Entierro de la Sardina
Celebrated on Ash Wednesday.
Romería de Nuestra Señora de la Alcantarilla
Celebrated onlast weekend of April.
Fiesta de la Cruz
Celebrated in May.
Feria de San Ronque
Celebrated from 15-20 August.
Romería de Nuestra Señora de Consolación
Celebrated on 8 September.