by Saskia Mier
Santaella is transformed during the month of August, when the Plaza Mayor and Paseo Adarve are transformed into scenes from the Middle Ages and play host to a medieval-style feast. It has around 6,000 inhabitants.
Settlers began occupying Santaella as early as the Lower Paleolithic era, in the most remote period of the Stone Age. Settlements dating to the Bronze Age, Iberian, Roman, Visigoth and Arab eras have all left their trace on Santaella and its surrounding area.
The Iberian period left behind perhaps the most important piece in the Municipal Museum, La Leona de Santaella (the Santaella Lioness); a sculpture from an ancient tomb which was discovered in the Cerro de la Mitra. Under Arab ruling, the settlement was known as Santa-Ialla, and was later conquered by Fernando III in 1240. Years later, it was donated to the jurisdiction of Córdoba, and eventually constituted a municipality in the year 1569. Felipe II granted the town jurisdictional independence; Santaella later become a Marquisate, and regained its independence in 1735.
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia de la Asunción
This church is known as the cathedral of the countryside and has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, being the most distinct monument of Santaella. Of Muslim origin, it was a former mosque from the Caliphate period of the tenth century. A tower from the late Gothic period, finished in 1527 by Hernán Ruiz I, stands out in particular. Inside this tower is a small Gothic chapel, with a door opening out onto the patio of bells. The church is home to beautiful displays of religious goldsmithing, rich loom weaving, paintings and a pulpit in pink marble. The iconic church is located on Calle Iglesia.
Santuario Nuestra Señora Virgen del Valle
The Sanctuary dates from the sixteenth century and the entrance to the patio was constructed in 1699. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the primitive hermitage was replaced by the magnificent temple that stands today. The building works were carried out between 1747 and 1752, thanks to the generosity of the priest Miguel Vicente Alcaide y Lorite. The current structure can be found on Calle Nuestra Señora del Valle.
Castillo y Murallas
The Castle walls and tower are of Islamic origin, dating to the Almohad period at the end of the twelfth century. Nestled in the section of wall nearest to the tower is a typical gate with horseshoe arch pointing, which was the former gateway into the town. Today, this is a tribute to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. Between the archway and the tower there is a Baroque masonry construction, formerly the Town Hall. These historical monuments are located on Plaza Mayor.
Ermita de la Concepción
This chapel dates from the late sixteenth century, but later became a private property. Years later, it was bought the priest Pablo Moyano Llamas, who returned it to its religious state for the worshipers of Santaella. The Museo-Casa de las Coumnas is next door, and both can be found on Calle Concepcion.
Museo-Casa de las Columnas (Municipal Arqueológico y Etnológico)
The Municipal Museum is housed within a restored eighteenth-century palace, and offers visitors a tour through the history of Santaella, from the Paleolithic era, through all the civilizations that have left their mark on the town. The ethnology section is of particular interest, with numerous pieces from the town's more recent past. It is divided into three rooms; the first is dedicated to Prehistory, the second showcases Pre-Roman vestiges and the third is dedicated to the three 'great cultures'. The museum is located on Calle Antonio Palma Luque.
April-October, Saturday, 10:00-13:00hrs and 18:00-21:00hrs
April-October, Sunday, 10:00-13:00hrs
November-March, Saturday, 10:00-13:00hrs and 17:00-20:00hrs
November-March, Sunday, 10:00-13:00hrs
Visits can be arranged on Thursdays by appointment only.
Price: Free Entrance
Tel: 957 31 32 44
Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz
This chapel was built during the first half of the sixteenth century, and contains two of the oldest and most valuable images belonging to Santaella; the Santísimo Cristo de la Veracruz and the Virgen del Mayor Dolor. Look out for the small alleyway next to the chapel that boasts whitewashed arches and drawings on the cobblestones. The chapel is located on Calle Amaya Castellano.
Casa de la Cultura
This building was built during the reign of Carlos III during the eighteenth century. It was originally a pósito that would have been used to store grain, and housed the Municipal Museum until 2016 when it moved to its current location. It was recently reopened to accommodate exhibitions, music workshops, pieces of theatre and much more, and can be found on Calle Antonio Palma Luque.
Posada de la Plaza Mayor
This building is currently privately owned and is a valuable asset to the Town Hall. It was originally used as a barn and stable blocks, later transformed into a restaurant, and finally used as an inn, or posada. It is situated on Plaza Mayor.
La Leona de Santaella
This is a sculpture in the shape of a lioness made by Norma Santaella, a Brazilian sculptor with Andalusian parents. The bronze figure was given to Santaella by the sculptor, as a way of thanking the inhabitants for all the love they showed her during her stay in the town. It can be seen on Calle Villargallegos.
La Laguna del Donadío
This lagoon forms part of an exquisite natural landscape. Its surface area is variable, as is common in this type of wetland; when at its maximum capacity of retention, it measures about 12 hectares, with a maximum length and width of 1,800x450m respectively. The marsh vegetation, reeds, streams and cane that cover part of the pond's surface serve as a refuge and nesting and feeding area for large numbers of birds.
Around 100 species of birds have been identified at the lagoon, of which 84 are under legal protection, such as the white-headed duck. During the winter months one can observe, among other species, ducks, common teals, mallards and cormorants. In Spring, expect to see little species such as bittern, gull, avocets, stork or the imperial heron. The lagoon can be found several kilometers south of Santanella, off the CO-258, near to the Cortijo del Donadí.
Santaella offers you the possibility of getting lost amongst its magical streets and enjoying a more peaceful natural environment, mixing the two settings in specially designed routes such as Ruta Patrimonial, which explores the town's architecture, Ruta de las Fuentes, which takes you to various water sources and fountains, and Ruta de Cortijos y Haciendas which allows you to see ancient farmhouses.
Santaella harvest their own garbanzos blancos (white chickpeas) which are used as a base to many other dishes such as cocidos y potajes (stews usually served with meat). Other dishes worth trying include naranja picada con bacalao (orange salad with cod), salmorejo (tomato and garlic soup), gazpacho, migas (fried bread usually served with chorizo or sardines), revuelto de habas y morrillas (scrambled egg with beans and wild ceps), revuelto de ajetes (scrambled egg with wild garlic), guisado de manitas de cerdo (pork trotter stew) and albóndigas guisadas (stewed meatballs). Sweet treats include borrachuelos (liqueur cakes), magdalenas (muffins), gachas con almendras (almond meal), tortillas de manteca (lard cakes traditionally eaten at Christmas) and sopaipas con chocolate (pastries with chocolate usually served during Cruces de Mayo).
Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession celebrated on the evening of 5 January.
Celebrated the 2 February.
Celebrated in February.
Día de Andalucía
Celebrated the 28 February.
Holy Week (dates vary each year).
Día de la Cruz
Celebrated the 3 May.
Romería de San Isidro
Celebrated the 15 May.
Feria de Fontanar
Celebrated the last weekend of May.
Feria en Honor a los Colonos
Celebrated the first weekend of July.
Fiestas de Santiago
Celebrated the 25 and 26 July.
Feria en Honor de Nuestra Señora del Valle
Celebrated the 8-10 September.