by Saskia Mier
Espiel is an ideal destination for climbers, a 45-minute walk from the peak of the Sierra del Castillo; one of the most beautiful and popular climbing zones in Andalucía. The small city has almost 2500 inhabitants.
Archaeological sites indicate that the Romans formed the first civilisation in Espiel. The town of Siciliana was a Roman settlement, with coins and ruined tombs indicating the town's early development. After the Reconquest, it became part of the Seignior of Córdoba, and in the year 1546, Pedro Sánchez de Sepúlveda won a provision for the town to have a Mayor, Sheriff and Scribe.
Espiel's strategic location in the centre of the Guadiato Valley greatly influenced the protohistoric settlement of the area. The principal remnants of El Germo, constituting a Visigothic basilica and baptistery, were erected around 600 AD, and are now an archaeological point of interest. The Moorish castle of El Vacar is a fortress from the Caliphate era built under the rule of Al-Hakam II. In 1237, Fernando III bequeathed the castle to Cordoba.
In the seventeenth century, Espiel was bought and developed by Juan Jiménez de Góngora, the Marquis of Almodóvar de Trasserra. Despite the town's evident socioeconomic reliance on agrarian farming, and like other key municipalities in the Valley of the Guadiato, the development was motivated by the exploitation and expansion of the valley's mining basin and railroad.
Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, the establishment of the Carboniferous and Metaliferous Fusion Company of Espiel and Belmez rapidly expanded Espiel's mining industry.
THINGS TO SEE
Parroquia de San Sebastián
Although a medieval chapel originally existed during the town's early development, built in 1272, the current parish church was constructed centuries later, around the time of the Catholic Monarchs. At the end of the sixteenth century the building was restored, and can be visited today on Calle Cervantes.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Conjunto de El Germo
The archaeological site of Cerro del Germo dates to the first century, with inscriptions indicating that it was dedicated to Jupiter Optimo Máximo. At the beginning of the seventh century, the site was transformed into a Visigothic basilica. The site was in an increasingly ruinous state from this point, until its excavation was carried out by A. Delgado in 1909 and later studied by Fidel Fita in 1914. Studies have subsequently been carried out by Ruiz Blanco, Slunk and Thilo Ulbert of the German Institute of Madrid (Madrider Mittelungen). Information on the excavation and study of El Germo was published by Dr. Thilo Ulbert in the Madrider Mitterlungen journal in 1968, and translated into Castilian in 1971.
Ermita de la Virgen de la Estrella
This chapel was built in the sixteenth century and is characterized by its simple whitewashed architecture and surrounding hill views. It is located 3km from Espiel.
Castillo de El Vacar
The castle dates back to the Caliphate period. Although it is generally accepted as having been constructed in the days of Al-Hakam II, some research indicates that the castle may have earlier origins. In the thirteenth century it was conquered by Fernando III El Santo, who offered its ownership to the city of Córdoba. The castle is located south of Espiel, off the N-432.
Balneario de Fuente Agria
The Balneario de Fuente Agria was formerly a hotel frequented by nineteenth century high society. It was surrounded by a series of kiosks which bottled and commercially sold medicinal water to the wealthy public. This water was known nationally as Aguaria. Unfortunately, today only ruins of the hotel and remnants of some kiosks remain on the site. Nearby is the Cuesta de la Matanza ('Slaughter Hill'), a natural landscape so named due to a legend that in the fifteenth century, warrior monks from the nearby Monastery of Pedrique assaulted travellers journeying between Córdoba and Badajoz. These sites are located south east of Espiel, off exit 231 of the N-432.
Castillo de Espiel
This castle was constructed by a wealthy family with noble titles at the beginning of the twentieth century. The family had only one descendant, who had a relationship with Emilia Pérez, a high-class lady residing in Espiel, but eventually married her sister Dolores, otherwise known as Lola Pérez. A lack of conservation has left the castle in a ruinous state; in 1993 the Junta de Andalucía granted special recognition to Castillo de Espiel, and many other castles of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, in a bid to improve their protection as heritage sites. The castle can be found south west of Espiel.
The cuisine of Espiel is generally traditional and simple. Their typical dishes are influenced by the way of life of past generations and are mainly based on local produce. Some distinct dishes include; caldillo de perdiz (partridge stew), escabeche de conejo (pickled rabbit), arroz con liebre (rice with hare) and carne de monte en salsa (game meats).
Sweet treats include hojuelas, buñuelos, piñonate, cuajao, roscos fritos and suspiros (all pastries).
Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession, celebrated on the evening of 5 January.
Día de los Tomillos
Celebrated the 19 January.
Celebrated the 20 January.
Celebrated the 2 February.
Celebrated in February.
Holy Week (varies each year).
Quema de Judas
Celebrated on Easter Saturday.
Romería y Fiestas en Honor de la Virgen de Estrella
Celebrated during the last weekend of April.
Cruces de Mayo
Celebrated in May.
Celebrated the first weekend of August.
Celebrated the first Sunday of September.
Día de las Gachas
Celebrated the 13 November.