In the very heart of this vast Andalusian region is Antequera, the city of white and ornamental churches as described by Gerardo Diego. It is located on the side of the famous Sierra del Torcal and watched over by the craggy profile of the Enamorados; it also has a broad lowland area. Antequera is history and monumentality, built over many centuries.
Antequera is only 47 kms. from the Costa del Sol and boasts a population of over 44,000 inhabitants. The traveller must begin his visit to this place at the City Museum. This centre is located in the Palace of Nájera. Inside we will experience an unforgettable journey back in time, including the impressive Roman tomb of Acilia and the enigmatic plasticity of the sculpture of Ephebe.
We can walk from here to the higher areas of the city centre where we will be amazed at the façade of the Collegiate Church of Santa María, the first renaissance building in Andalusia, housing a majestic interior. Beside this, we come across the Alcazaba, an important square in the times of the Reconquest. But the monumental treasures do not stop here: the church of el Carmen, the charming bullring and its bullfighting museum, etc. are also visits that are musts in our travel log.
Another unmissable visit is the Dolmen structure of Antequera, considered the best in Spain and of which the best piece is the dolmen of Menga, a true milestone in megaliths in mainland Spain. In the outskirts of the city is El Torcal, a natural spot of extraordinary beauty where we can admire the amazing formations that water erosion has caused on the limestone.
The gastronomy of Antequera offers us the renowned mollete de Antequera (bread roll with oil, garlic and paprika lard), the porra (gazpacho with ham) and an exquisite sweet known as bienmesabe (sugar and egg white dessert).
The foundation of Antequera is linked to the Roman city of Antikaria, site of the College of Pontiffs of the Ceasars in Spain. The remains of previous civilisations pertain to prehistoric archaeology in settlements dating back to between 2000 and 2500 years BC, although other schools of thought date them back to some 4000 years BC. The main witnesses of that time are the dolmens of Menga, Viera, Romeral and Alcaide, the first three close to the city and easy to visit, and the last close to Villanueva de Algaidas, considered the best dolmenic structure in Spain of which the dolmen of Menga is a true example of megaliths on mainland Spain.
The lack of data on the times between prehistory and the Roman era is not a reason to ignore possible settlements of Iberians, Tartessians, Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Evidence of the first hypothetical presence, that of the Carthaginians, can be found in earthenware pots and tombs discovered near Cerro León, in the municipality of Antequera, which would be have been the Osqua that existed on that site and was the stage of the battle between Hasdrubal and the Roman legions. We shouldn’t forget the Ephebe of Antequera, an emblematic sculpture in the city.
As of the conquest of Granada in 1492, the city began to change and expand outside of the city walls, its population having increased to 15,000 inhabitants in a short period of time, attracted to its fertile land and the absence of enemies.
But it would be during the 16th and 17th centuries that the city would experience the largest demographic growth, eventually becoming one of the most important trading centres in Andalusia mostly due to its location as a crossroads of two of the main commercial routes: Seville-Granada and Malaga-Cordoba.
The XIX Century was marked by a drop in population due to epidemics and the arrival on the scene of a bourgeoisie seeking in the textile and wool sectors alternatives to agriculture and declining crafts. The arrival of the industrial revolution in the city meant its products could be traded all over Spain; Antequeran blankets were highly renowned and sought after. But shortly thereafter, this industrial expansion quickly declined when, as of the inauguration of the first Barcelona-Mataró railway line, Antequera started to lose markets in favour of the Catalan trade, until business disappeared completely.
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