Niebla, Condado de Niebla
A thousand year old town (Niebla), the ancient capital of the county of that name, which stands on a hill overlooking the Rio Tinto within am enclosure punctuated by rectangular and octagonal towers – one of the most beautiful towns of Huelva.
The walled city retains some of its old form, and among its monuments you will find the Alcázar de los Condes de Niebla, the Mosque, Church of Nuestra Señora de la Granada, the Church of S. Martin and the Hospital de Santa Maria. Outside the walls are the bridge and the Roman Aqueduct.
A landscape which is diverse for this territory, joins a rich and complex succession of historical cultures that have made its name famous the world over.
At the highest point navigable of the river, Niebla was the destination for the minerals produced by Andévalo
and agricultural surplus from the countryside, and also a strategic communications centre between Seville and the Algarve, especially when during Roman times, they lifted
the bridge that still stands in the river bend.
These conditions explain why since the late Bronze Age, Niebla was, especially politically and economically, one of the hegemonic centers of the Huelva plains. In the ancient foundations of the walls you can find the traces. The proverbial riches of the nearby sea, and the mines, along with its position as a liaison between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic worlds, attracted to the region the seafaring settlements of the eastern Mediterranean, giving rise to the Turdetania of classical history; ie the population that inhabited the coast between Betis and the Anas, a string of towns and fortified ports and interchange, with a level such that during the Roman conquest, in the words of Antonio Delgado, “Was supposed to have laws, in verse, of an incredible age”. At this time the city was surrounded by a stone wall that marked a small circuit located to the north-east of the monumental area, the rest being occupied by metal workshops and, possibly, by areas set aside for cultivation.
From the beginning of the second century BC, the territory became deeply Romanized. Ilipla continued to exercise his leadership role in the extreme west of Andalusia, even minting coins with his own name. Between the current Port of Seville and the river is a stretch of stone wall, with massive towers placed at regular intervals, which may well correspond to the path taken by the wall of the Roman city. There are also numerous remains found in excavations, or reused in different works later on.
In the Visigoth period, Elepta reach an even greater religious and military prestige, and the city became an episcopal see. In fact, their prelates were attending since the year 590 to the councils of Toledo and, in the inner city, many examples of architecture characterized the new situation. There even remains a stone chair which legend identifies as the chair of the iliplense bishops.
But perhaps the best known and brilliant era of Niebla corresponds to the centuries of Muslim rule. When in 756 Abd-al-Rahman I was done with the power of al-Andalus, the city and its core were integrated into the emirate of Cordoba, and a new and permanent wall was built between then and the Caliphate period.
The history of Lebla during the Islamic period was very bright politically, economically and culturally. One need only read the most prestigious Arabic texts of that period to know the splendour of this “red city”, admired even from Baghdad. During the fitna, which is the dismemberment that marks the end of the Umayyad Caliphate, the dynasty of the BeniYahya took control of the city, with Yahsopi becoming king of the independent Taifa in 1019.
Nieblas army stood as an ally of the Taifa kingdoms of Mértola and Silves, which together with that of Badajoz faced Sevilla under the domain of al-Gharb. Finally, the city ended up surrendering to Al-Mutadid, who left it to be independent, and it was absorbed by the kingdom of Seville in 1051.
In a new period Niebla became independent. Labla al-Hamra, in 1091, when the Almoravids dominated throughout al-Andalus, left it as a homage owed to Al-Mutadid of Seville. In this period the city reached a high level of development, in which was maintained with Islamic tolerance a fair sized group of Christians who kept their faith and customs, including their churches, with bishops and cults. The new power, Almohad, brought to Niebla the dynasty of the Beni-Yahya.
The last of the Islamic kings in the history of Niebla was Ibn-Mahfoh, who in order to avoid conquest paid homage to Ferdinand III of Castile. Alfonso X
reconquered it definitively in 1262, and it came under the same laws as Seville. The siege was not easy either for the assailants nor the Islamic inhabitants, as the strength of the city defences meant the siege lasted nine months and half the population surrendered due to starvation. The chronicles of the time say that over the walls were thrown … stones, darts with fireworks, and thunder shot with fire, which is a reference to the first use of gunpowder in Spain. Also, during the taking of the city, came an invasion of flies which almost led the besiegers to lift the siege.
It is also said that Ibn-Mahfoh to show them that the starvation tactic was useless; he tried to deceive the Christian army by sending them a prime beef ox, perhaps the last remaining within the walls. Therefore, the western gate, by which the animal left, is named “el Buey” (the beef) for the ox.
After the conquest, was Niebla came under the courts of Seville, who divided their land among new settlers. In the city they began the preservation of mosques and the churches of San Martin and Santa Maria de la Granada, the only ones that have remained standing of the four collaciones that were established by King Sabio.
In 1369, after other attempts failed, King Enrique II gave the city to the then Count of Niebla, Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, ending the period in which it had been governed as a council and enjoyed new royal laws.
In the fifteenth century, the Fourth Count of Niebla initiated a policy of rebuilding this very active city, which included elements visible in the churches of San Martin and Santa Maria and especially, the work on the castle, breaking down for the most part to the remains of the Islamic citadel which can be seen today.
In 1755, as a result of the earthquake known as the Lisbon Earthquake, according to Amador de los Rios, most of the main tower of the fortification collapsed. It was one of the highest in Andalusia after the Giralda in Seville. Many other problems of the time were not recorded in the chronicles.
What followed was the defense of the city by Marshal Soult during the War of Independence. After the flight of General Lacy, some of its defensive structures were restored. However, its monuments entered the present century badly damaged.
Church of San Martín. Built on the site of the West Mosque. At present only the apse and the main façade remain.
Church of Santa Maria de la Granada. Byzantine cathedral, later an Arab mosque. The last renovation was done in the sixteenth century as a Christian church in Gothic-Mudejar style.
City Wall. Built by the Almoravids to completely enclose the perimeter of the city. It is the most important surviving wall of this style in Spain. The citadel was destroyed by the French in 1813.
Hospital of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Inside the walls stands the Roman castle. It had reparations done by all occupants: Visigoths, Arabs and Christians.
Roman Bridge over the River Tinto.
Museum-Room in the old Hospital of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, eighteenth century.
Some typical modern dishes from Niebla are:
Asparagus scrambled or in an omelette.
Spinach with chickpeas.
Broad beans “enzapatá.”
Medley of lamb with tomato.
Among the sweets considered Nieblas own (although consistent with those of other localities) are “las torrijas” for Easter, “los roscos” (a type of cake) and pestiños (fried dough flavored with sesame and cinnamon).
Leave Huelva. Take the A-5000. Pass through San Juan del Puerto. At the roundabout take the 2nd exit Continue along the A-472 to Niebla.
Distances from Niebla
Beas 14 km
Huelva 31 km
Sevilla 65 km
Almonte 21 km
Bonares 6,5 km
Trigueros 20 km
San Juan del Puerto 16 km
Rociana del Condado 11 km