by Saskia Mier
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.
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. More>
THINGS TO SEE
The "Crack of Benamejí" had come one of the best known geological phenomena of Andalucia. It was not a single crack but a huge landslip which destroyed a large part of the town. Landslides on the southern slope of Benamejí escarpment had been occurring for several centuries, including a sudden slide recorded in 1739. It was in February 1963 that a particularly large movements occurred, destroying 55 homes and damaging another 50. The site of the ‘crack' is now a park and mirador located off Calle Paseo Reina Sofia. More>
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.
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.
General, 2.50 euro
Groups, 2.00 euro per person
Over 65, 2.00 euro
Tel: 957 51 90 71
Plaza de Andalucía
Plaza de Andalucía in Benameji is not located in the commercial centre of the village but in a quiet part of the village to the west of the csmall not a comercial centre but in the quiet western outskirts. The square itself has no shade for its benches and features a monument in the centre made form old olive millstones.
On one side the Guardia Civil barraks remind us that "todo por la patria". Adjacent to the square is a shady tree lined park also called Plaza de Andalucía. It has a café and a kiosk and is popular with locals on sunny Sunday afternoons. It is a pleasant place for a relaxing walk.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Santuario de la Virgen de Gracia
Santuario de la Virgen de Gracia is the home of the replica of Virgin of Gracia, patron saint of Benamejí. Unfortunately written records of the sanctuary have been lost, it is only know that it was restored in 1917. One can drive to the sanctuary which is located 1km west of Benamejí village, at the end of Calle Prol. Jesús del Alto. It is also a pleasant walk past the cemetery and guided by a series restored of iron crosses mounted on stone or concrete pillars. One of them is embedded in the wall of the Molino de Benameji Greyma Morán olive oil factory. The factory have placed an old olive oil press just outside its gates as a monument and Instagram opportunity for the visitor.
The large double arch stone 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). It is unusual that a bridge of such magnitude was constructed in the sixteenth century (1550 to 156). It was the project of Renaissance church architect Hernán Ruiz II and is the only example of a new project he started and finished himself. More>
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.
The Laguna de los Jarales is a saline lake located southwest of Lucena. The reserve covers 122ha and is noteworthy for its variety of aquatic habitats, as well as being an important breeding and overwintering site for wildfowl. Although it is a seasonal lake, in periods of high rainfall it sometimes contains water all year round. It is one of six wetland sites in southern Cordoba, all of them natural reserves. More>
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.
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.
Local crafts produced in Benamejí are lattice fencing and decorative iron bars (rejas) used for house windows and doors.
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 in Benamejí
Festivals that are popular in Benamejí are Cabalgata Reyes Magos, Día de la Candelaria y San Blas, Carnaval, San Marcos, Semana Cultural, and Festividad Internacional de Folklore. More>