Alcaudete – Route of the Caliphate – Ruta del Califato
Alcaudete takes up the far West in the region of Sierra Sur. The town belongs to the province of Jaén. Alcaudete is located in the centre of the Ruta del Califato, in a privileged place between the cities of Córdoba, Jaén and Granada.
The municipal area of Alcaudete has the shape of a genet’s head. It has an area of 1230 km2, including the old quarter and its three small village.
It is at 875, 5 metres above sea level. The climate is similar to the Mediterranean continental, drier and hot in the Eastern and central area, that is characterized by its large areas of countryside, where we can observe a lot of olive groves. This climate gets milder in the western area, it is cooler and humid, where the predominant vegetation is the indigenous Holm-oak wood, that is very-well preserved in some city centres and that, in its descent, is mixed with the reforestation of kermes oak.
The great variety of registered archaeological sites in its municipal area testified an intense and constant human occupation of these lands from the Palaeolithic. Between the archaeological remains we can emphasize the ones of oppidum (Cerro de la Celada, the Torre del Moro or the Cortijo de la Muela), with a close visual connection between them, through towers, which are basic to control a territory – roads, fords and river valleys – during the Iberian Age.
The origins of Alcaudete go back to the Roman Age, that according to epigraphic sources it is appointed to Sosotigi, flavius town.
Arabs called this town al-Qabdaq because of its plenty of water and springs. Arabs erected this impressive fortress that achieved a fame of inaccessible during the Caliphal Period. This fortress was a protection centre of a very active dealer medina, located in an important road and commercial network and that was military coveted both by Moslems and by the Christians.
From the first Christian conquest in 1085 by Alfonso VI, in the following centuries it changes several times hands between the Spanish and the Andalusia. Even after the battle of the Navas de Tolosa and the advance of Fernando III did not stop the barters: the king Santo ceded it to the Moorish King of Baeza, then to the Orden de Calatrava, and in holy periods it returned to him, the Nasrid had it, until in 1340 Alfonso XI conquest it once and for all.
At the end of the XIV century, when the Trstámara dynasty was settled, the town was transferred to the crown and passed to a private as a dominion: one of the branches of the Fernández in Córdoba, the one of Montemayor. In the XV century Alcaudete was converted in platform and enclave of the troops. When the war of Granada finishes, during the first half of the XVI century, the life of the Town changes, it was given the title of Count to the sixth lord of the Town. This is the period of higher splendour, promoted by the economic prosperity in the growing of cereal and the cattle, to this we have to add that it was obliged way between the king of Granada and Castilla. We can observe many constructions, churches, convents and hermitages, which will transform and mark its present appearance. During this period the Counts of Alcaudete hold important offices in government (viceroys, field marshals, etc.). At the end of the XVII century started a period of decline, emphasized by the absenteeism of the counts and by the end of the male line that it will not overcome until the end of the following century.
The XIX century is characterized by the social and political bustle of their neighbouring towns: rebellion of the town against the French, the battle between Carlists and Elizabethan in the streets, the disentailment of properties, and by the group of reformists in the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, a place of political gatherings and risings.
Church of Santa María, which was built, according to some traditions, over the place that would take up the Moslem mosque. It was built in two stages: the first one belongs to the elevation of the section, a rectangular room with three naves and the original main chapel of Martín de Bolívar, using the most characteristic gothic component: the groin vault . The second, to a new main chapel with a Renaissance style and a work of Francisco del Castillo. We have to emphasize the two fronts that develop an iconographic program with a Marian theme where Renaissance elements are mixed, both figurative and heraldry.
Church of San Pedro (XVI century). It is built under a plan and costing of Francisco del Castillo. It is a Renaissance church of floor, a hall with three naves, covered with groined vaults, typical of Vandelvira, except the vaults of the top that are of barrel vault. The diagram in alcaudetense floor is connected with a series of parish factories that are going to erect in jienense diocese in the course of the second half of the XVI century and that take as a model the Cathedral of Jaén, whose definitive project was set by Vandelvira.
Convent of Santa Clara that belongs to the clarisas order of San Francisco. The building has a rectangular floor, like a drawer. We can locate its construction in the border between the XVI and XVII centuries. In Jaén it is the only example of front with salomónicas columns in stone. This work is connected with the one of Hurtado Izquierdo in Córdoba or the façade of the University in Granada. We can locate the front in the first quarter of the XVIII century.
Castle of Alcaudete, during the emiral age a fortress was erected. This fortress was a centre of protection of a very active commercial medina, located in an important road and commercial network and it was military coveted both by Moslems and Christians.
There are no remains of these primitive defences, owing to the significant restructuring that undergo the defensive group during Almohad age. During this period, the population centre is surrounded of a wall and in the top of the hill is built a fortress with mud wall over a base of masonry.
The present Castle, built over the Almohad fortress, is an exponent of border during the XIII-XIV centuries. The walls and towers, built mud wall will be reinforced with masonry after the Christian conquest in 1246, by the friars of the Orden de Calatrava. It preserve the parapet walks or patrols through them we can cover all its enclosure and to access inside the towers. We can emphasize the refectory and stables just as the impressive tower keep. In 1985 it was declared Historical Monument.
Other interesting buildings are Capilla de Santa Catalina, with important mural paintings from the XVI century (opened all day), the Convent of Carmen, with wet paintings from the XVIII century (worship hours), or its stately houses such as the Casa de los Leones or the one of Virreina.
The gastronomy of Alcaudete is based on the olive oil, the quintessential of jienense cooking. The most popular dishes and products of this town are distinguished because of its simplicity that combined with the abundance and consonance.
We have to mention the produce of its vegetable gardens where the juicy artichokes, with a light green colour, compete with the green, little and tender beans that follow in the footsteps of a traditional canning craftsmanship and that are tinned by “Productos Mata”. You can also eat stewed fresh beans with its cut up pods in a dish called sobrehúsa.
Twelfth Night is celebrated cooking a stew of potatoes and pig’s ear, like in Lent it is made the succulent stuffing of Carnival (a pastry of meat and spices), competing in taste with a dish of vigil such as the encebollado, of anchovies. In Alcaudete is traditional the alboronía, which is a potatoes salad, beans, aubergines and species.
But undoubtedly Alcaudete is famous because of its orejones, that is, the stoned, cut up and dried peaches that give the fruity taste to the sweet punch of wine, and that will use to cook the traditional stew of plums and orejones.
The fruits of its banks are very delicious, like the famous duraznos, which are peaches with the flesh very stuck to the stone, with the traditional resol, a herb liqueur from Italy that in its origin it was made with the herb called “ros solis”, that is, dew of the sun, and that with its variety accompanied the after-lunch conversation of our Golden Age and the Confectionery, with a long conventual experience and a decisive Arab influence, with sweets like the alfajor (sweet biscuit with filling), the pestiños (honey-coated fritters), mantecados (buns), ochíos, the flat cakes of butter or the Easter pies with a Medieval origin.
Alcaudete has a great tradition in the production and preservation of seasonal fruits such as “winter fruits”, like the bun of fig, dried figs, prunes, , orejones, etc.
How to get there
You have to exit Jaén and continue through road of Córdoba, then take the Motorway A-316 and turn left in N-432. Then you get Alcaudete.
Distances from Alcaudete
Jaén 50 km
Martos 25 km
Sabariego 12 km
Vizcalmón 5 km
Todosaires 21 km
Los Villares 41 km
Fuente Tojar 16 km
Valdepeñas de Jaén 36 km
Fuensanta de Martos 35 km