La Carolina is a small town located in the north of Jaén province adjacent to the A-4 Seville to Madrid motorway. It is the last sizeable town to stop at if heading out of Andalusia through the Despeñaperros gorge into Castilla La Mancha. It has about 15,000 inhabitants.
The town was founded by King Carlos III in 1767, at the suggestion of the Treasury Commissioner Miguel Muzquiz, under the Sierra Morena Plan for New Colonization Villages. The settlement of new colonists from France and Germany was implemented by the Minister, Pablo de Olavide, administrator of Andalusia. Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the village was laid out on a grid of parallel and perpendicular streets, still visible today.
Six thousand Catholic settlers arrived from Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 1767 to take advantage of the generous offers of land and livestock being made to colonisers (five chickens, five goats, five sheep, two cows, and a sow per family). Within a few years, about half of this new population had died from illness or gone home: the rest gradually lost their national identities, and took on the language and customs of their host country. You can still find people in this area with Germanic surnames such as Eisman, Minch, Smidt and Kobler.
The project of the Nuevas Poblaciones would be one of the greatest reforming projects in the history of Spain; a project that contemplated the creation of forty-four towns and eleven cities in the plains of La Parrilla and Sierra Morena to rid these areas of bandits, better exploit the land and generate wealth, while securing the Madrid-Cádiz road through which most of the merchandise traffic from America passed.
Pablo de Olavide himself made an effort to turn La Carolina into one of the most active population centres in Spain at the time; in 1775, there were cloth, silk, earthenware and hat factories here, and the process was accompanied by a resurgence of mining in this area at the end of the eighteenth century. This led to significant population growth, until at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the progressive decline of the population began. This was aggravated further by the events and aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Starting in the 1960s, a process of demographic and industrial recovery began that has continued to this day.
The town is best entered from the east. Note the large monument to the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (see below); after Plaza Delicias head right towards the Plaza de la Iglesia, where you can park. If you're interested in local history, visit the Centro Interpretacion de las Minas to discover more about surrounding area.
Things to see
This roundabout and modern town square is the original entrance to the town. Also known as Plaza de la Aduana, it is where customs duties were paid on merchandise passing through the town on the Cádiz-Madrid highway. Two towers, dating from 1775, mark the entrance to the town from the Madrid road, and the commercial quarter of the town. The street leading diagonally to the right off Plaza Delicias leads to the ‘political’ district of the town, whereas the one diagonally to the left leads to the ‘agricultural’ area.
Plaza de la Iglesia
This plaza was built between 1767 and 1769. Although it has not been the ‘main square’ since the council moved their offices from here in 1872, it remains the historic centre of the town. The square has fountains and a sculpture of San Juan de la Cruz (patron saint of the town) by Martin Merino dating from 1961, formerly located in Plaza Delicias.
Iglesia de La Carolina or Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción
The church was built in 1573 and was inaugurated on February 2nd, 1578, destined to be the church of the Convent of La Peñuela. It responds to the style of a Carmelite church with a single rectangular nave covered with a barrel vault, closing at the back with an octagonal chancel. Inside is a painting of the Martirio de Santo Domingo attributed to the School of Ribera. In the eighteenth century, the central nave of the chapel was extended and two lateral naves were added at the presbytery level. In the façade, the convergence of the Carmelite, Neoclassical and Baroque styles is evident. In 1900, the bell tower was added in a slightly lighter-coloured stone. Located in Plaza de la Iglesia.
Palacio del IndependienteThis palace was the house of Pablo Olávide, the Andalusian Governor who founded La Carolina through his colonisation strategy. He was also an important figure in the urban planning of other towns and cities, including Seville. His home was built at the end of the eighteenth century on the site of La Peñuela Carmelite Convent. In 1835, the Special Population (colonisation) law was repealed and the palace has since seen many uses: offices, a school, chapter houses, Civil Guard Headquarters, infantry attachment quarters, telegraph office, lodging for poor families, and even a theatre in the early twentieth century.
The Town Hall was situated here until 1872 and in 1945 the palace returned to municipal ownership, but was subsequently ceded to the Ministry of Agriculture to be used as a wheat silo until 1972. Today, the building houses the Museo de La Carolina. Located in Plaza de la Iglesia.
La Carolina Museum
This excellent modern museum is also known as the Centro de Interpretación de la Historia de la Minería en las Nuevas Poblaciones de Jaén. The space explains the history of the mining industry in the areas surrounding La Carolina and the other settlers’ towns. It charts local history from ancient times through to the mining boom of the nineteenth century, and will appeal to anyone interested in mining and industry, especially British visitors, since, as in Minas de Riotinto (Huelva), British engineers were involved in setting up the mines. This museum was originally called the Museo Arqueológico de La Carolina, but was reopened in December 2011 as a modern interpretation centre. . More >
Plaza de la Ayuntamiento
Main central square with town hall.
Plaza de Toros
This is an original six-sided square with balconies where roads would be sealed off so the square could be turned into a bull ring.
Torre de Perdigones (Torre de la Municion)
This tower was built in 1825 by the mining company of Don Luis Figueroa and Don Bernardo Casamayor for the production of lead ammunition. Manufacturing was carried out by lead smelting in a furnace at the top of the tower, with molten lead being dropped down through a hole so it took the form of pellet. At the base of the tower, the pellets were cooled in tanks of water and passed through a draw to give the final shape. This ammunition tower operated until 1882. On the tower is a plaque, dated 1902, which honours Señores Figueroa and Casamayor for their help in the Cuban War. The tower was restored in 2012. Located on Calle Odeanos..
This was one of the first streets of La Carolina, laid out by Pablo de Olavide in 1767. It originally linked Plaza del Ayuntamiento with the church, and its design is attributed to the military engineer, Desnaux. The first houses in colonial style were semi-detached with front gardens (a radical idea at the time), which gave the street its name. The houses were initially occupied by civil servants and later by mining company managers.
Torres de la Fundacion
These two well-worn, unassuming towers date back to 1768, but were moved here from Plaza del Ayuntamiento in 1873, divided into three panels. The top of the right tower is dedicated to Carlos III and bears his royal crest. In the left tower there was an image of Pablo de Olavide offering the new town to the King. This is now located inside the parish church and was replaced by an image of Príncipe de Asturias, the future Carlos IV. The central panels commemorate the colonisation of the area. In the lower panels there were texts dedicated to Carlos III and Pablo de Olavide, but these are no longer visible. Located on Paseo Molino de Viento.
The Neoclassical-style old prison is where the popular liberal General ‘Riego’ (Rafael del Riego y Nuñez) was held after being taken prisoner at a country estate near the village of Arquillos. He was held here in September 1823 before being taken to Madrid and executed for treason. Located in Plaza Ayuntamiento.
Monument to Battle of La Navas de Tolosa
Look out for the modern monument dedicated to the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which was inaugurated in 1881. It depicts the Kings, Alfonso of Castilla, Pedro of Aragon and Sancho of Navarra, as well as several Archbishops who also took part in the Battle. The figure in front of them, pointing ahead, is the shepherd who showed them the path through the mountains. Located on Calle Alemania.
Things to see outside the town
Remains of the mining industry
In the vicinity, particularly in the countryside to the west and south of the town, you can see many original buildings and towers left over from the mining industry. Most are on private land, but some can be easily visited by car or by foot. Either plan a route from Googlemaps or ask for more information at the interpretation centre in Plaza Iglesia.
Iglesia de Navas de Tolosa
Construction of this church was commissioned by the Intendant of the New Populations in 1777, and it was completed in 1783. Located in the district of Navas de Tolosa.
Aldea de los Guindos
The old mining complexes in the north of the province of Jaén are stunning landscapes and a great place for those who are keen on stargazing. This area has a spectacular Northern and Western horizon, where it is possible to see the elusive zodiacal light on winter nights. Visits to the site are especially recommended during the autumn and winter months, with the arms of Perseus and Orion hiding in the West. Located north of La Carolina, off the JA-6100.
There are bus services from La Carolina to Jaén, Mengíbar, Linares, Baeza, Bailén, Carboneros, Guarromán, La Guardia de Jaén, Úbeda, Navas de Tolosa, Puerto Lapice, Santa Elena, Tembleque, Valdepeñas, Villarta de San Juan, Manzanares, Madridejos and Llanos del Caudillo using the company, Samar.
Samar also has a bus service from La Carolina to Madrid Barajas Airport and Madrid (Estación Sur).
Partridge is a key element in the cuisine of La Carolina. Try the beans with partridge, partridge or partridge pâté. Naturally olive oil features here and dishes made with mountain game.
Popular festivals in La Carolina are Fiestas de Mayo, Feria y Fiesta de la Fundación and Fiestas de San Juan de la Cruz.
The tourist office of La Carolina is located in the Turimed.
Nearby villages are Las Navas de Tolosa and Santa Elena