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History of Casabermeja

Diputación de Málaga

History of Casabermeja

The remains discovered in the area around the town are proof that the site on which it stands was inhabited by prehistoric man. These findings include the megalithic graves unearthed at Chapera and Cortijo del Hospital, cave paintings on Mogea hill and the remains found in a number of small caves near Cortijo Cabrera.

Meanwhile, the Arabic presence took the form of Mozarabic settlements in the areas of Chapera Alta, Colmenar and nearby Jotrón. During this period, the Omar Ben Hasún insurrection took place, as the area formed part of the defensive line that protected the territories belonging to the chief of Bobastro. The Arabs called it Q´sar Bermeja or Red Castle, a term that would later be used to name the town itself. However, a popular legend has it that the name can be traced back to the reaction of Queen Isabel of Castile who, upon seeing the town for the first time, is said to have exclaimed “¡Qué casa bermeja!” (Look at that red house!)

Reminders of the Arabic occupation include remains of the Torre Zambra and ruins of a wall built on an earlier one. The first written reference to the town dates back to the capture of Málaga, when a letter sent by the Catholic Monarchs ordered the building of a town that was later confirmed by their daughter Juana in 1509 and 1529 and again by Emperor Carlos 5th in 1550.

Another important date in Casabermeja’s history is the 15th of May 1630, when a Royal Letter granted its inhabitants permission to purchase the town.

Casabermeja’s major landmark is without doubt its famous cemetery, which is surrounded by narrow, winding streets which constantly rise and fall, requiring the cemetery niches to be adapted to this uneven terrain. The streets in question are named after the first 60 settlers to arrive here, mostly from Córdoba, around the year 1550. Even the famous writer Antonio Gala described this location as having a "bishop-like, Byzantine look to it". The oldest grave marked by a headstone to be found here dates back to 1829; in fact, the cemetery is primarily home to family burial sites coved with round-arch vaults finished with façades that are also found in the chapels and churches that inhabit, or used to inhabit, the rest of the town. There are two theories which purport to explain this custom – one of these attributes its origins to the Roman practice of building an enclosure topped with a large vault, while the other, more recent explanation claims that when a Royal Order was issued by Carlos 3rd prohibiting burials inside churches, people decided that the most appropriate solution would be to build a structure in the style of a small church, thus giving rise to a previously unseen form of popular architecture.

Casabermeja, perched on a mountain top and overlooking the banks of the River Guadalmedina, can boast a wealth of charms: narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses and monuments such as the aforementioned Torre de Zambra, and others so steep that they climb higher than the upper level of the six-storey church tower. The reddish colour of this tower, which belongs to the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Socorro, is believed by some to be yet another possible explanation of the origin of the town’s name.

Its proximity to the city of Málaga means that a large proportion of its inhabitants work in the provincial capital. However, the local economy is still based on agriculture, primarily the cultivation of olive groves, almond trees and industrial crops.