Written by Marta Palomo Hermoso and translated by Tanya Shew
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Looming over the village of La Calahorra and the plateau of the Marquesado in the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada is one of Andalucia's most emblematic and unusual fortresses, the haunting Castillo de La Calahorra. One of the first Italian Renaissance castles outside Italy and the first in Andalucia displaying these architectural features, it was constructed between 1509 and 1512 on the site of a former Moorish fortification.
Its towers resembling four huge, squat pepperpots, it stands on a small knoll jutting up from the plain at the foot of the towering sierra. Given its somewhat featureless but forbidding exterior, the inside has some surprisingly lavish features including a beautiful Renaissance colonnaded courtyard delicately crafted from marble. The earth surrounding the castle has a characteristic reddish colour due to the presence of iron ore within it.
The Catholic Monarchs awarded the castle as a tribute to Cardinal Mendoza, their influential adviser who played an important role in the Christian conquest of Granada. Cardinal Mendoza, in turn, signed it over to his illegitimate son, the first Marquis of Zenete.
The Marquis subsequently travelled to Rome and befriended many legendary figures of the Renaissance, including the Pope's notorious daughter, Lucrezia Borgia, who he courted but failed to marry. He returned to Spain, accompanied by a team of Italian architects, sculptors and artists - and a cargo of Carrara marble to boot - and set about designing and crafting his fortified palace.
But the Marquis was a tormented soul and plagued by ill luck due to his illegitimate status. Despite the public recognition by Cardinal Mendoza of his bastard son, the Marquis failed to gain the support of members of the court, who refused to let him marry a young noblewoman. After abducting her to his distant retreat on the plain of Guadix, he was forced to leave his castle, Florentine courtyard and all, never to return.
THINGS TO SEE OR DO
This municipality lies under the historical eye of the Castillo de La Calahorra. If you would like to visit the castle inside, remember that Wednesdays are the usual visiting days ( FROM 10AM – 1PM and 4PM to 6PM:
There are remains that go further back in time, such as the archaeological remains of the prehistory or the Phoenician and Roman settlements who also populated this area.
To the beauty of the Renaissance fortress that crowns the village, we must add other noteworthy monuments in La Calahorra: The Chapel of San Gregorio or the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.
In addition to the cultural richness, La Calahorra has a privileged location being it a natural passing place to get from Marquesado del Zenete to La Alpujarra. A natural passing located at 2000 metres above sea level in the Puerto de la Ragua, converted into a recreational area with a station for cross country skiing.
If you enjoy being out in direct contact with nature you can also discover the many natural paths whether it be hiking, horse riding, 4x4 or on quad bikes.
La Calahorra is known for its pottery handicraft. The villagers make beautiful plant pots, jugs, bowls and all sorts of unique items which you can take home with you as a souvenir of your visit.
For all the food lovers out there, La Calahorra is the perfect place to try several typical and well-known Granada dishes, such as sustentos, which is a casserole made with potato, ribs, garlic and spicy sausage, or the homemade cheeses and pork cold cuts.
January: San Anton
One of the most interesting celebrations held in La Calahorra is the Carrera de las nueve vueltas, which is basically a donkey and horse race around the cemetery and the village itself. It is marks the end of the San Anton festival, during which they tend to distribute typical homemade fritters around the village.
March-April: Holy Week
25th April: San Marcos El Evangelista
The main act is the mass, which is the most popular of the entire year, because when they leave the church, they receive small doughnut-shaped bread buns, which, according to them have healing powers. The religious administrator asks for wheat during the summer, to then mill it and make these small doughnut-shaped bread buns for everyone.
May: “Flowers for Mary”
Children build a small altar for the Virgin Mary at the schools and they say their prayers, sing for her and take her flowers.
1st of May is Labour Day, which the church called San Jose Obrero celebrates intensely.
On the night of the 2nd of May is the Fiesta de las Cruces. Some people create crosses made of plants, flowers, bedspreads and candle holders and put them on display in their private patios. People gather around them to sign and dance.
9th May: San Gregorio Nacianero, patron saint of La Calahora. Nine days before, San Greogrio is taken in procession to the church from its chapel, a special mass is held and on the night of the 8th of May and afternoon of the 9th, he is taken out on procession. During these days, the square and Calle Los Caños are filled with stands selling turron, cakes and other sweet delicacies, as well as swings and games for the little ones.
But this is not all, La Calahorra also celebrates the Día de la Ascensión, Virgen de Fátima and San Isidro Labrador.
August/September: Santo Cristo de las Penas.
Processions, mass, bonfires, music bands, stalls selling all sorts of sweets and swings are set up for everyone to enjoy. The also hold bull fighting runs through the streets of the village, which usually ended in a bullfight.
October: Día de la Raza, where the church celebrates the Virgen del Pilar.
November, 1st and 2nd: Día de los Santos and Día de los Difuntos
La Calahorra lies at about 85 kilometres from Granada. To get to La Calahorra from Granada take the A-44 towards Almeria and the A-92 towards Puerto de la Ragua until you see the exit towards the regional A-337 road. You can't miss it!