Baños de la Encina
by Saskia Mier
Baños de la Encina offers visitors interesting historical and artistic heritage as well as attractions for lovers of nature. Once called simply Baños, the village adopted ‘de la Encina’ (‘of the holm oaks’) in the thirteenth century, after a reported apparition of the Virgin Mary amongst the oak trees. It has about 2,600 inhabitants.
Cave paintings discovered in the north of the municipal area suggest that early settlement of the district dates from the Neolithic period; indeed these paintings are the first known traces left by man. In the second millennium BC, mining began in the deposits of Baños de la Encina, rich in copper and bronze, which gave rise to the formation of a social organisation that continued until the founding of Cartago. This mining attracted Greek and Phoenician civilisations. There are numerous sources of evidence for this, most notably the nearby town of Peñalosa, where various archaeological studies have been carried out. In the Al-Andalus period, the fortress was built by order of Alhakem II and finished in 968. During the Roman Empire, the exploitation of the silver mines began, which later declined in line with the Empire. Traces of this mining past are found in El Centenillo, a hamlet of Baños de la Encina. With the decline of mining, agricultural exploitation intensified, turning the town into a paradise of water and orchards during the Middle Ages. More>
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THINGS TO SEE
Castillo de Burgalimar
Baños de la Encina is marked by the presence of its imposing Caliphal fortress, built on a rocky spur that dominates the Guarromán River. Its structure follows the contour of the rock, narrowing at the ends. It is built in tabiyya, a typically Arab material made from a mixture of clay, sand, lime and very fine stones, which is placed in layers, in a similar way to the current cement formwork, by means of wooden “drawers”, a mould of fixed measures inside which the mixture is poured, which solidifies due to the evaporation of the water and the setting of the lime. It is considered a very fast and cheap construction procedure, which is why it is commonly regarded in opposition to careful works made with masonry or ashlars. (Location)
Iglesia de San Mateo
The church was erected in the late fifteenth century with a Gothic design for its nave, as shown by its pointed arches and tercelete vaults. The side portal is also Gothic, while the main entrance, carved in 1576, is Mannerist. Its octagonal base tower, articulated in three sections and topped by pinnacles, dated 1596, is inspired by the architecture of Vandelvira. The church’s interior is completed by the presbytery on tiers and the transept with a half-orange dome and lantern, designed in 1732 by Pedro de San José. Other significant elements are the choir, in walnut wood, the tribune, reserved for the hierarchs of the Holy Inquisition, the chapels, of shallow depth, and the small urn of the tabernacle, in ebony, with tortoiseshell, ivory and silver, and an interesting painting attributed to the Murillo School. (Location)
Ermita de Cristo del Llano
The most impressive element of this seventh-century church is its great prismatic dressing room-tower, added around the middle of the eighteenth century. Inside, it offers a spectacular Baroque vision: the spatial illusion becomes lavish in the multi-lobed vault on trunks in which stipes, niches and pedestals, in polychrome plasterwork, alternate with allegories, iconography of saints and evangelists and even exotic birds, fruits and vegetables, in a motley stucco decoration that gains even more intensity with the inlay of mirrors. The figure of the Inmaculada presides over the complex space, which is accessed by a small landing with a half-orange vault on pendentives of great expression and exquisite beauty. The primary objective of this architecture was to stimulate the piety of the faithful; the sculpture, ornament and decoration of the tower are a colourful, aesthetic accentuation of the call to prayer. Declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 2009. Located in Plaza de la Ermita. (Location)
The Town Hall dates back to the time of Carlos I. It has a landscape façade of ashlar masonry, in the Castilian style, in which a semicircular arch opens, with a wrought-iron balcony with roof tiles and, on the right, the emblem of the Habsburgs. Its internal staircase is particularly magnificent, and the Plenary Hall is thought to correspond to some old Arab baths. Located in Plaza de la Constitución. (Location)
Molino de Viento
The Santo Cristo windmill was built using locally sourced sandstone ashlars and measures 12m high on three levels and 4.5m in diameter. Inside, it contains a permanent exhibition designed by José María Cantarero, called “Stories in the wind”, in which the history and evolution of numerous types of windmill are narrated. Located on Calle Molino de Viento. (Location)
Palacio de Molino de la Cerda
The Molino de la Cerda family managed and oversaw the economic greatness experienced by the town in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the heraldry that adorns the upper windows of their palatial home implies that they were also relatives of the Holy Inquisition. Built in 1724, the palace’s lintel façade is decorated with coats of arms and framed between Tuscan columns with pedestals. The building stands out for the austerity and symmetry of its façade and for its organisation around a central courtyard, where the columns are replaced by wooden uprights. (Location)
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE TOWN
Ermita Virgen de la Encina
This sanctuary was built in successive stages on the site of another primitive temple (which must have been much smaller and dated from the end of the thirteenth century). In the seventeenth century, a notable and definitive expansion and restructuring was carried out. It is built in ashlar stone with a barrel vault and houses seven side altars. It also has an enclosed patio and vestiges of the old inn and house for worshipers. Located approximately 4km north east of the town. (Location)
The Argaric town of Peñalosa has been a benchmark for the investigation of the Bronze Age of the Alto Guadalquivir. It sits on a tongue-shaped slate spur, with two steep slopes bordering the Rumblar River to the north and the Salsipuedes stream to the south. Currently, the waters of the Rumblar reservoir bathe the structures of this Argaric town. Located west of the town. (Location)
Pantano del Rumblar
The reservoir belonging to the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation was built in 1841, situated in the riverbed of the Rumblar River, forming part of the municipalities of Baños de la Encina, La Carolina and Santa Elena. The basin has an area of 574 km2 and receives an average rainfall of 613 l/m2, with an average annual contribution of 83 Hm3. The reservoir has a surface area of 551.17 hectares and a capacity of 126.03 Hm3. Located south west of the town, off the JH-5044.
Like an old, overnight “service station”, next to the Camino de San Lorenzo, the Alcubilla spring is in La Dehesa del Santo Cristo, the lungs of the town of Baños de la Encina. Here we find the kind of cultural landscape that gives the sensation of eternal peacefulness; in fact, it is a thermal waters complex comprising a well (water for animals), reservoir (spring for people), spillways and their corresponding outlets made with lime mortar. Above stands the “Huerto Miguelico”, a prototype of the cliffhanging vegetable gardens in La Dehesa del Santo Cristo, whose green terraces fight to attach plant life to the hillside. In general, the place was constituted as a water device that seems endemically tied to another time and other uses. Located north of the town, in Paraje de la Alcubilla.
Ostensibly, Piedra Escurridera is nothing more than a huge lump of granite used as a slide by dozens of generations of children, but it is the result of a 300 million-year old process; through a fissure in the slate subsoil, melted material arose from a chamber of magma. The melted material cooled slowly under the topographic surface, and the component minerals of granite crystallized. As the slate covering the stone became eroded, the granite body was revealed and was left open to atmospheric conditions. Located north of the town, on Camino de la Picoza.
Camino Romano de los Charcones
The ‘Roman Road to Los Charcones’ or ‘Camino Real de Castilla’, a Medieval construction in spite of its name, navigates the foothills between stony areas, running alongside Castillo de Baños. Nowadays, there are over 200m of this old paved path, linking the La Mancha plains and the Alto Gualdalquivir, perfectly conserved along with a small stone bridge. After the livestock farms and wells of Los Charcones, it leads us between rows of olive trees to the Jaén countryside. Located south of the town, on Carretera de Bailén.
Sierra de Andújar
The gently rolling 74,774ha Sierra de Andújar, part of the vast Sierra Morena, is densely wooded and boasts one of Andalucia’s best preserved expanses of Mediterranean forest and scrubland. Flowing through the rocky hills is the Yeguas River, with many lovely spots to sit and meditate along its banks. Its more remote areas are inhabited by an impressive number of endangered species, such as the pardel lynx, wolf, black vulture and imperial eagle.
Playa de Tamujoso
The “beach” of Tamujoso in the Dehesa del Cristo (a ranch) is a popular swimming location, just 3km from the town.
Sendero de la Verónica – PR289
The 6.5km lineal route travels through the remains of the Argaric town of the same name. Its route is dotted with chapels, estates and a section of the medieval paved road that linked Toledo and Seville.
Sendero de las Aguas
A 6.4km lineal route passing through the archaeological remains of Peñalosa.
Ruta del Bronce
The 9km Bronze Route Trail is nestled between the urban centre and the Rumblar Reservoir.
There are various bus services from Baños de la Encina. More>
Those wishing to sample the traditional tastes of Baños de Encina should look out for dishes made with game meat such as estofado de ciervo (deer stew), perdiz en escabeche (pickled partridge) or calandrajos con liebre (cod, clam and hare stew). Its desserts include sweets like gachos santeras (porridge), tortas de aciete (cakes made with olive oil) and mantecados (lard cakes).
Popular festivals in Baños de la Encina are La Candelaria, Romeria de la Virgin de la Encina, Semana Santa and Fiesta de los Emigrants. More>
The weather forecast for the next few days for Baños de la Encina. More>
The tourist office of Baños de la Encina is located in the Centro de Interpretación. More>