Church Site and Castle of Peña of Ardales
A Fortress that preserves the remains of a Medieval castle (9th to 15Ith century) and a large Mudejar church (15th century) that has an impressive coffered ceiling and several Baroque chapels.
The castle, built on a rocky outcrop at 496 metres above sea level, dominates the village that sits at its feet and the wide open plain that stretches out towards the Sierra de Peñarrubia. It is one of the natural-made corridors to Malaga, hence its strategic importance.
The fortress has the battlemented tower of the Sierra de Peñarrubia and the Turón castle, which were to be closely connected by sight. Despite the fact that some Prehistoric remains from the Laccolithic era have been dug up, the remains that currently come to light and are preserved are from the Medieval period.
It was built at the end of the 9th century, which was the time of the uprising led by Omar Ibm Hafsun. It became part of his patrimony until the Omeyas from Cordoba put an end to the rebellion by conquering Bobastro. From the 13th century on, after the conquest of the Guadalquivir by the Castilian troops, the castle at Ardales began to become more and more important as the area was on the border between Castile and the Nazari kingdom from Granada and the Christians often organised scurries over the border to try to capture it. The Arabs were determined to maintain it as part of their kingdom, too and during the time of the conflict the castle was to change hands more than once. The first conquest happened in 1362 during the reign of Pedro 1st of Castile, but six years later, the Nasaries recaptured it again.
The last part of the 14th century was a time of relative peace between both kingdoms. However, at the outset of the 15th century, and making the most of a temporary weakness in the Arab troops as a result of some inner fighting amongst themselves, the Castilians renewed their attempts to conquer the castle at Ardales, and were successful in 1433. They also captured the other border villages of Turona and Iznajar. However, this situation was short-lived as these places were back in Arab hands by 1447. In 1453 or 1454 the fortress was definitively conquered by the mayor of Teba, Juan Ramírez de Guzmán, once the inhabitants had fled. The first historic image of the fortress at Ardales exists thanks to the picture by J. Hoefnagle, which belongs to work called “Civitatis Orbis Terrarum”, dated in 1564. It is in this picture that the summit of the rocky outcrop can be seen as well as the two enclosed areas with their corresponding buildings and the houses that cling to the side of the hill. A large irrigation ditch at the top of the hill, which was built between the 15th and the 16th century and which transported the water from the nearby mountain range of Alcaparan up to the foot of the fortress, is also represented in the picture. The remaining evidence of this construction today is part of the double wall, its base and several embedded paintings in some of the modern houses.
Nowadays the only remains that are easy to identify are the two walled enclosures. On the outside, the building adapts to the terrain and follows the contours of the land surrounding the rocky outcrop which it was built on and this way the whole complex has a rather irregular layout. Access to the castle was through a gateway in the form of a elbow bend, located behind the church and of which there is hardly any evidence today. On the inside the enclosure the “Alcazar” or Lords residence is situated on the upper part of the rocky hillside and has a square floor plan. There must have been a tower at each corner. This was the part that was occupied by the Castilians after the conquest of the fortress.
A total number of nine slightly protruding square towers have been preserved that surround the perimeter of the rocky outcrop, although it is probable that others existed, but have been lost. One of them, maybe the “Homenaje”, seals the upper northeastern side of the enclosure.
There are no visible remains of the original construction from the Emiral era, as the current facades and towers of the castle’s towers are both from distinct periods which may be, either Nazari or Christian. The walls are made of masonry with reinforced corners and rectangular stonework; others are of simple brick and masonry.