Santa Elena, Despeñaperros Natural Park
It has 38:234 degrees North and 3:324 longitude west. It is at a height of 742 metres above sea level in the city centre and between 540 and 1240 metres in the municipal district with an area of 146’65 km2, where we can find Art, History and Nature. At the moment it has 1.004 inhabitants.
We can find many proofs about the Prehistoric origins of Santa Elena, a group of schematic and semi naturalist cave paintings, located in shelters of the area, between them we can emphasize the ones of the Cueva de “Vacas del Retamoso”, in the spot of Los Órganos, and the ones of La “Cueva del Santo”.
During the Iberian Age in the surrounding areas of Santa Elena we can find one of its big worship centres, the Sanctuary of El Collado de los Jardines, where there were found a large quantity of Iberian votive offerings (small statuettes that were offered the gods). In the upper area of this settlement, over a plateau, there is a large group of frames that should form a settlement both during the Iberian age and the Roman and Medieval.
We have to emphasize during the Middle Age the most outstanding event is the battle of Navas de Tolosa, in which the caliph Al-Nasir with his immense Almohad army established its camp in Santa Elena. The great battle took place 17 July, 1212, with the victory of Alfonso VIII’s army against the Almohads. In Santa Elena was built a Church to guard the Cross to which it was attributed the miracle of the Christian troops’ victory, and who was the archbishop of Toledo Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada. The victory of the Christian troops is known like “Triunfo de la Santa Cruz”, and any better name than Santa Elena, the name of emperor Constantino’s mother, and that it was linked to the Christian symbol.
In this place it was founded in the XVIII century one of the Nuevas Poblaciones de Sierra Morena, a plan promoted by Carlos III and carried out by Pablo de Olavide.
The new town was called Church, although due to its ruin state, in 1793, during Carlos IV’s reign he ordered to demolish and build over it another new colonial style.
Parish church of Santa Elena. It was rebuilt in the XVIII century.
cave paintings. Caves of Vacas de Retamoso, La Granja and El Santo.
Site of Mesa del Rey.
Iberian sanctuary of Collado de los Jardines.
Ruins of the old castle Castro Ferraz.
Miranda del Rey. A small village near Santa Elena, in whose cave there are survived cave paintings.
Santa Elena Gastronomy
The traditional cuisine has the typical characteristics of the mountain cuisine, that is, the use of the agricultural produce: the meat coming from the small and big game; a great variety of mushrooms between we can find the Nizcalos (Saffron milk caps) which are the most known and looked for; numerous nuts and dried fruits (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, etc.); the wild plants such as the asparagus, tree strawberries and mulberries; and the aromatic plants like thyme and rosemary.
Another characteristic is the heavy seasoning, having strong food that help you face the rigors of the cold and the hard work.
The third peculiarity is the influence that have left the people who have travelled there (Muradal, del Rey, Despeñaperros, with influence of La Mancha cuisine, above all the shepherds). In this way we can taste the “descuidaos”, stew cooked with potatoes, spring onion, peppers, cod, oil, saffron, etc. And it had to boil over a low heat allowing to do the women all their housework without get worried about the food.
The “ajomorro”, a kind of Spanish omelette (made with potatoes and sometimes onion), but without eggs. We have to mention the curious “huevos de Miranda”, that consists on boiled potatoes to which the companion at table adds salt at their choice. The “almoronía”, stew of Arab origin made with dried herbs and aubergines, seasoned with species. The “pipirrana de rulahuevos”, a typical salad from the Easter Sunday, in which it is mixed peeled tomato, sweet peppers, olives, spring onions, boiled eggs, olive oil and salt. The “puchas”, a kind of oatmeal porridges made out of flour with pieces of bacon, chorizo and garlic. The “andrajos” made with a thin flour dough that is cooked in a meat hare stock with fried tomato and pepper, it is scented with mint and the “migas” (breadcrumbs fried with garlic).
How to get there
You have to exit Jaén towards Bailén – Madrid – E902. Once you pass near Bailén you have to follow towards Salida 0 – Bailén – Madrid, then towards Madrid. Continue in E-5 / A-4 and pass near La Carolina and take the exit towards Salida 258 – Santa Elena. Follow the signs until Santa Elena.
Jaén 80 km
La Aliseda 5 km
La Carolina 13 km
Miranda del Rey 5 km
Las Navas de Tolosa 9,5 km