Church Site and Castle of Peña of Ardales
Dating back to the 10th century, it served as enclave during Hafsun's revolt in Al-Andalus. As a frontier location, it was fortified again in the 14th century to resist the expansion of the Castilian Kingdoms on their way to the Hoya de Málaga in the 15th century.
This fortress preserves the remains of a Medieval castle (9th to 15th century) and a sizeable 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 Málaga, hence its strategic importance.
The fortress includes the battlemented tower of the Sierra de Peñarrubia and the Turón castle, which were to be closely connected by sight. Even though 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.
The castle was built at the end of the 9th century, which was the time of the revolt led by Omar Ibm Hafsun. It became part of his patrimony until the Omeyas from Córdoba 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 Nasrid 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, 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 Peter I of Castile, but the Nasrids recaptured it six years later.
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. 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 historical image of the fortress at Ardales exists thanks to the picture by J. Hoefnagel, which belongs to the work called “Civitatis Orbis Terrarum”, dated in 1564. It is in this picture that the summit of the rocky outcrop can be clearly 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 Alcaparaín 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.
Peña de Ardales today
Currently, 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, adding a rather irregular layout to the whole complex. The castle was accessed through an elbow-bend-shaped gateway behind the church and of which there is hardly any evidence today. Inside, the residence of the Lords (or alcázar) 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 surrounding the perimeter of the rocky outcrop have been preserved, although it is probable that others existed but have been lost.
There are no visible remains of the original construction from the emiral age, as the current facades and towers of the castle are from different periods which may be, either Nasrid or Christian. The walls are made of masonry with reinforced corners and rectangular stonework; others are of simple brick and masonry.
The site is open to the public and offers a one-hour guided tour that includes a visit to the magnificent natural lookout point, as well as the chance to stroll around the two-storey building displaying the museum collection of Ardales’ history and traditions.
Opening times and rates
Guided tour: at 11 am and 12:30 pm, 3 € per person. (There is a limit of 10 people per hour.) Children under 5 years old, accompanied by an adult, are free of charge.
Visiting days until the 31st of December 2020: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays.
You can make your reservation at the Ardales Municipal Tourist Office from 9 am to 2:30 pm, by calling (0034) 952 458 046 or by sending an e-mail at email@example.com.
The use of sanitary masks is compulsory.