The influence of religion on man over the centuries and its close links to the art world have led religious buildings to become an instrument and reflection of culture, representing models and building techniques from each époque. Man has always been concerned with producing works of art directly related with his religious beliefs, with architectonic, sculptor and pictorial representations acquiring greater protagonism; loaded with symbolism.
Muslims lived in our region and subsequently Christian populations, which have left most relics of their culture, both civil and religious. The most significant places of worship are churches and hermitages that occupied the sites of mosques and rabitas. Almost all the churches and hermitages date back to 16th century when Christianity was imposed on the Kingdom of Granada and mosques were replaced with churches in order to regulate the worship of the new State. These buildings could be categorised into Mudejar artistic style, an artistic expression resulting from the fusion of Christian elements and Muslim art (especially construction materials and decorative elements)
The churches and hermitages of the Lecrin Valley are places of historical-monumental interest, not only because they are well preserved, but also because they constitute an important source of information for the study of our most recent past. If you walk through the Lecrin Valley, you must take time to visit these places.
The information below is an informative guide for the visitor to our region.
We shall start the tour in Nigüelas. The parish church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist was built between 1557-1563 by Jerónimo García, the carpenter Martín Moreno and the stonemason Pedro de Solórzano, although its framework had to be rebuilt between 1580-1582 by Juan López de Paniagua, due to a fire that occurred during the Moriscan rebellion of 1568.
It is rectangular and has a single nave separated from the chapel by a large semi-circular arch, this differentiates the simple framework of the nave from the honey-comb work.
The High Altar boasts an 18th century Baroque gilt, polychrome altarpiece with profuse decoration. Its structure distinguishes three vertical sections that house sculptures such as that of Saint John the Evangelist or Saint John the Baptist, the latter attributed to the master José Risueño. Furthermore, inside the temple we also find magnificent imagery with sculptures from the 16th – 20th century, as well as some valuable paintings. Being the patron saint of Nigüelas, it is worth mentioning the beautiful image of the Our Lady of Sorrows, which represents Mary seated on the throne with the lying body of her son on her lap. The author of this piece is unknown.
The church exterior is robust with brick walls and masonry, the ashlars of the corners and the two doors are Doric style: one at the foot of the temple and the other on the right side. Located on the left part of the apse is the bell tower, inherited from the previous mosque and rebuilt in 1769.
The tower of the church of Acequias is immediately visible and the church of Saint Anthony was built around 1546-1551 by the builder Pablo Hernández y Luis Navarro and the carpenter was Juan Hernández. Its floor plan is attributed to Ambrosio de Vico, architect and master of works of Granada cathedral.
The construction is rectangular with a single nave and flat apse to which two quadrangular spaces are joined, all covered by a wooden Mudejar coffered ceiling. Inside the nave there are four altars two on each side and the high altar houses the altarpiece designed by Vico and carried out at the workshop of Pedro de Raxis. With exquisite polychrome work, the altarpiece comprises two horizontal and three vertical sections, with a niche in the centre housing the figure of the Virgin, as well as two medallions with the coat of arms of the archbishop Pedro de Castro. The fine sculpture of the virgin is flanked by five paintings with the life of Saint Benedict.
The bell tower is erected at the apse of the church comprising three horizontal sections topped by an iron weather vane, on it we can see the works undergone after the earthquake of 1884.
Mondújar shares the ravine with Acequias and its church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and building works started in 1565 by the builder Alonso, the carpenter Juan Robles and the stonemason Pedro Gómez, although they were interrupted by the Moriscan rebellion of 1568. It is built on the site of the former mosque, testament to this are two chamfered columns that were reused in the portico. The church has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave that is covered with Mudejar wooden framework. On the left side, the naves open onto the baptismal chapel, a ribbed vault.
On the interior walls we can see various altars with polychrome sculptures that date from the 17th to 18th century, whilst the High Altar, separate from the rest of the nave via a small staircase, shows an 18th century altarpiece that is one of the few Neoclassic examples of quality still remaining in Granada. This façade is divided into two horizontal sections separated by three sections. Its iconographic programme is very varied; with the sides boasting the coats of arms of the archbishop Valdés y Llanos, niches that house wooden sculptures of Saint John the Baptist, the Virgin of the Rosary or the painting of the Holy Trinity.
The exterior structure is solid with thick brick and masonry walls. The temple has two entrances, one at the foot and another at the side, the latter following designs by Diego de Siloé. It is worth highlighting the bell tower, unquestionable stamp of its Mudejar identity and the wall sections that are adorned with artistic geometric figures. Adorning the exterior walls, wedged by the brick are Fatimi “tears” in balanced adornment.
Talará formed the parish with Mondújar and Acequias until it was constituted as such at the beginning of 20th century. Here we find one of the most modern churches of the entire region, as this locality did not have a church until early 17th century. The residents took the initiative to build a hermitage and later extend it, consecrating it in 1747 as the church of Our Lady of Sorrows. However, the church remained small and the village requested its extension. After the rejections of the construction project of 1776, in 1783 Ventura Rodríguez designed the one that was built.
The temple comprises a long and vaulted nave with flat apse. Two spaces are distinguished: one at the foot covered by a cupola supported by squinches that is the baptismal chapel and another in the apse, on which the bell tower is built..
The High Altar is differentiated from the rest of the nave by a step and lacks an altarpiece. A large crucifix occupies this space flanked by two niches.
Likewise, on both sides we can observe diverse polychrome wooden sculptures that represent Saint Joseph, the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Sorrows and also some canvases.
Apart from the parish church, Talará has another religious building known as the Hermitage of Santo Cristo del Zapato. This Neoclassic-style building occupies the site of the rabita de Alcudiatey and was severely damaged by the earthquake of 1884 requiring roof repairs. It has Greek-cross floor plan with a cupola with lantern light supported on squinches covers the cross aisle area. The hermitage houses a 17th century canvas with the image of Cristo del Zapato.
The building of the church of El Salvador in Murchas was started in the mid 16th century but had to be restored almost completely after the earthquake shook the village in 1884. It is rectangular and is occupied by a single nave of flat apse and plaster ceiling, it is simple in style with a tower. The nave gives access to three rooms: one that leads up to the bell tower, another that houses the baptismal chapel and a third which houses the sacristy with an exit. Ambrosio de Vico supervised some of the works in the temple.
The remains of the old 17th century altarpiece can be observed on the High Altar together with polychrome wood representations of Saint John, Virgin with Child, the Crucifixion, etc. The side walls of the nave also boast several religious figures.
The church of the Immaculate Conception of Chite, formerly of the Holy Cross, was built by Miguel de Morales and the carpenter Alonso Moreno in the mid 16th century, although repair works had to be carried out in the early 17th century. It is rectangular in structure and comprises a single nave with flat apse covered with a wooden coffered ceiling. At the foot it is possible to distinguish two quadrangular rooms, one which houses the baptismal chapel and the other that rises up to the bell tower that is styled on an octagonal prism crowned by the pyramid shape of the ceiling, this is the result of the repairs after the earthquake of 1884.
The High Altar, separated from the rest of the nave by stairs, houses the remains of the missing altarpiece with the tabernacle, its silver door and several 16th century wooden sculptures, which appear to come from the Granadine school, including the large crucifixion and the images of San Segundo and the Our Lady of the Rosary with Child.
The lateral walls boast some beautiful pictures of the Immaculate Conception and Christ tied to the column. There are four niches (two on each side) with polychrome wood statues including one of Saint Joseph with the child.
In Béznar the church dedicated to Saint Anthony is the oldest in this area and was built between 1525-1530 by Juan de Toledo and the carpenter Juan Fernández. This Gothic-Mudejar temple is split into three naves separated by pointed arches, an octagonal apse and a wooden framework ceiling.
The High Altar is separated from the rest of the nave by a tier and boasts a polychrome wood altarpiece, which dates back to 17th century and could have belonged to the Granadine school. It comprises two horizontal and three vertical sections with various wooden sculptures of Saint Michael, Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Anthony, etc., with a central crucifix dominating the tabernacle.
There are small altars on the side walls that house images of Saint John, Saint Anthony, Our Lady of Grace, Saint Theresa... and some canvases. The church has two accesses, one at the foot and another at the side, with both porticos in late Gothic style.
Two hermitages stood in Béznar occupying the site of the old Muslim rabitas. One was in the Barrio de la Correspondencia de España or lower quarter next to a picnic spot in the reservoir. The other of Saint Anthony has been restored and its surroundings remodelled and adorned with a bronze monument.
We could then continue our visit through El Pinar, which comprises Tablate, Izbor and Pinos.
The church of Santiago de Tablate was built during 1561 to 1563 by Luis de Morales together with the carpenter Francisco Hernández. It was damaged during the uprising of the Moriscos and was rebuilt after the war from the taxation made by Ambrosio de Vico in 1605. Finally, at the beginning of 18th century the church was given a sacristy and bell tower.
Rectangular and almost square in shape, the temple comprises a single nave that stretches to the high altar, without differentiation of the wooden Mudejar coffered ceiling. The exterior walls are thick brick with a belltower and only one entrance with a semicircular arch.
The church of Saint Joseph in Izbor dates back to 16th century and in 1542 its was built by Cristóbal de Miranda and the carpenter Álvaro del Castillo. In the beginning this construction was rather small and later extended in the time of the archbishop Francisco Perea y Porras as shown on the coat of arms on the façade. The parish church is rectangular with a nave and square apse that was previously covered with a cupola. The High Chapel is differentiated from the rest of the nave by a semi-circular arch and the nave is covered by wooden framework.
In Pinos del Valle we can visit Church of the Immaculate Conception, nominated a monument of cultural heritage and located in the lower and oldest quarter of the village. The temple was built between 1561-1565 by the stonemason Martín de Urquide and the carpenters Melchor and Francisco Fernández. In 1594 it was restored due to damages suffered during the Moriscan rebellion and finally at the beginning of 20th century the cross aisle and high chapel were added.
Its historic floor plan is Latin-cross with a single vaulted nave separated from the High Chapel by an arch. In the centre of the altar is the large Neoclassical tabernacle flanked by four altarpieces and behind the 18th century Rococo-style pulpit. Canvases and polychrome wood sculptures from the school of Mena y Montañés adorn the nave walls.
The Church of Saint Sebastian, located in the upper quarter was first a hermitage that occupied the site of the old rabita on the Royal Road to the Coast. After the War of Independence the hermitage was rebuilt under the patronage of Juan José Bonel y Orbe, Cardinal Primate of Spain and Archbishop of Toledo, thus converting it into a Neoclassic church.
The temple has a rectangular floor plan with three naves and a cross aisle. The central naves are covered with an annular vault whilst the sides are made with shaped vaults and the high chapel occupies a semicircular space in which the triptych is polychrome wood by Domingo Sánchez Mesa, with images of Cristo del Zapato, Saint Sebastian and Saint Roch, the patron saint of this village.
Outside we can see two towers at the foot of the temple, one of which is still not finished, whilst the other is finished with a cupola on top of the bell tower.
The Hermitage of Cristo del Zapato, was built in the mid 19th century under the patronage of Bonel y Orbe and extended in 1920. The hermitage houses the picture of Cristo del Zapato, a canvas that according to legend was found by a shepherd in the same place.
From Pinos del Valle we follow the road in the direction of Restábal main village of the municipal area of El Valle, together with Melegís and Saleres.
The parish church of Saint Christopher patron saint of Restábal, built during the first quarter of 16th century was set alight during the Moriscan rebellion and was not restored until 18th century. In 1965 it suffered a second fire which led to its restoration with the help of its congregation. The temple has a rectangular floor plan and a single nave with high chapel and sacristy. The main façade is simple structure with a fine pediment and the emblem of the Archbishop Perea y Porras. The side wall is more interesting due to it age and comprises a three-centred arch flanked by fine columns with Gothic capitels that finish on a ribbing of mouldings.
Inside it houses the valuable oil painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, which dates from 17th century. We know that there was a work of Saint Christopher by Alonso de Mena commissioned by the curate Cristóbal de Morales and appears in his last will and testament along with the hermitage and house built on the Royal Road to the Coast. The Hermitage of Saint Christopher and the house of the curate were sold and today the house is inhabited by a family that have preserved it. A niche for Our Lady of Fátima was built in 1965 and the current hermitage was built in 1998. The village also boasts a niche commissioned by Jerónimo Morillas in 1823 with an image of the Virgin.
The church of Saint John the Evangelist in Melegís was declared a monument of cultural heritage in 2003 and was built between 1562-1567 by Bartolomé Villegas and the carpenters Francisco Hernández and Pedro Gómez de Fontefría. The entire building, however, was burnt down during the Moriscan uprising and in 1599 a framework was built that was probably simpler than the original one.
It has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave, flat apse and two adjacent chapels, all covered with a Mudejar wooden coffered ceiling.
The High Altar at a different height to the nave has a decorative, late 18th century, Baroque altarpiece, with images of The Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of the Rosary and Christ which appears to have been donated from Peru. Guarding the altarpiece we find the emblem of the Archbishop Pedro de Castro. Inside there are two Baroque altarpieces with a figure of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which is believed to have come from the workshop of Alonso de Mena, the crucifix bears a resemblance to the workshop of Pablo de Rojas.
Outside the walls are thick brickwork and masonry with ashlars on the corners, we can see the tower that rises above the right part of the apse and finished with a tiled roof. The temple has two porticos one at the foot and other on the right flank, both are under a semicircular arch inscribed in a rectangular structure.
There is a monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the new quarter of las Eras as well as the remains of a cross or niche on the road to Restábal.
The sheer volume of the parish church of Santiago Apostol and its tower dominates the small village of Saleres. It was built between 1558-1562 by Bartolomé Villegas, assistant of Maeda and the carpenters Francisco Hernández and Juan de Plasencia, the latter worked on the woodwork of the Hospital Real of Granada; and the stonemasons Pedro de Berruezo and Asencio Bidaña. The church caught fire a short time after completion, however, and had to be repaired. The temple has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave covered by framework of rafters and the ceiling is decorated with stars and crosspieces.
The High Chapel, at the same level as the nave, contains an 18th century, Baroque, gilt altarpiece with intricate decoration. The altarpiece is divided into the two horizontal sections with various images in its niches such as that of Our Lady of the Rosary, The Ascension and the Triumphant Christ. It is also worth highlighting other polychrome wooden sculptures that represent the Virgin of Sorrows, Santiago on horseback. Some of the paintings that adorn the side walls of the church are interesting and reminiscent of el Greco.
On the outside, the church walls are solid brickwork and masonry with a rectangular tower decorated with tiles.
The church has two entrances; one stonework entrance in the main façade with the emblem of the Archbishop Perea y Porras and the other on the side. The doorways are the same shape and appear under a large semicircular arch joined to a rectangular structure.
The next village we visit is Albuñuelas, where we can observe two places of worship.
The parish church of The Saviour built circa 1533 was burnt during the Moriscan rebellion and was repaired in early 17th century by the builder Juan de Toro and the carpenter Juan Calvo, following the design of Ambrosio de Vico. In spite of their efforts, however, and for fear of collapse the temple was demolished. A new church was built later, which was also demolished but this time by the earthquake of 1884. This led to the transfer of the parish to the Convent of Franciscan Missionary Fathers of Saint Peter of Alcántara, foundation whose patron was born in Albuñuelas and became archbishop of Granada, Francisco Eustaquio Perea y Porras.
It has a Latin-cross floor plan, with three naves separated by semi-circular arches and the central nave is larger than the side ones that also house chapels. The naves are covered with annular vaults, whilst the cross-aisle has a cupola supported on squinches with wall decorations.
The High Chapel boasts a large Baroque altarpiece with several images including that of Our Lady of Sorrows that occupies the centre, the tabernacle and Saint John the Evangelist. On the left side of the nave we find another altar with the altarpiece of the Our Lady of the Rosary. We must also highlight the 16th century Flemish triptych and other 18th century sculptures from the Granadine school of Cano y Mora.
The date of the Hermitage of Saint Sebastian is unknown and it appears to occupy the site of the old rabita del Cautil in the lower quarter of the village. It is a rectangular building with a single nave and covered with a roof of Moorish tiles. The High Altar is presided over by the polychrome sculpture of Saint Sebastian and flanked by the images of the Virgin Child and Saint Francis of Assisi. Two Franciscan-themed paintings inform us of the heritage of the Convent before exclaustration. The palace of Perea y Porras used to boast a beautiful oratory adorned with paintings and sculptures.
From Albuñuelas we can reach the villages of Cónchar and Cozvíjar, which form the municipal area of Villamena.
In Cónchar the parish church is dedicated to Saint Peter and rebuilt between 1610 and 1614 according to the plans of Ambrosio de Vico, by the builder Antonio Bermúdez and carpenter Alonso López Zamudio, as the previous one was demolished. There is also evidence that it was repaired on two occasions, once in 1809 and again after the earthquake of 1884.
The parish church has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave that on the left side gives access to the sacristy and the tower. This entire space is covered by wooden framework with Mudejar decoration. On the High Altar (29) we find the tabernacle made in 1809 by Francisco Villanueva, who also made the two side altarpieces, also in Neoclassical style. We find beautiful paintings and sculptures from the Granadine school including a Crucifix and Our Lady of the Rosary. The patron saint of the village is San Roch who occupies one of the Neoclassical altars, and a niche houses the group of Saint Anna, the Virgin and the Child.
The exterior walls are whitewashed except for the main brickwork facade with ornamental semicircular arch and Tuscan-style pillars. The square bell tower is on the left side and is perhaps the remains of the old minaret of the mosque.
In Cozvíjar there are two places of worship. The parish church of Saint John the Baptist was built around 1540 by Pablo Fernández and the carpenter Juan Fernández. This parish suffered the consequences of the Moriscan rebellion and had to be restored at the beginning of 17th century. In 18th century the church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, a beautiful polychrome image that occupies a Baroque altar on one side. The temple has a rectangular floor plan with a single nave covered by a framework of rafters and simple decorative work. The High Chapel is at the same height as the rest of the nave. It is presided over by the image of the Virgen de la Cabeza, patron saint of the village.
The exterior is dominated by the bell tower that comprises three stacks. The tower stacks show the brick structure and the caissons of masonry with scratchwork.
Not very far from the threshing floors is the Hermitage of the Virgen de la Cabeza, which dates back to 16th century and was rebuilt by Gregorio López Madero, first lord of Villamena, who in 1641 ceded it to the Basilian monks. According to tradition, the hermitage was built on the site where a shepherd found the head of a virgin, which later was later blessed with a body.
It is a simple building with quadrangular floor plan and a single nave, its altar boasts the figure of the Virgen de la Cabeza. The image was later replaced by Our Lady of Lourdes, as the former was transferred to the parish church.
The municipal area of Dúrcal is close to Cozvijar and has two places of worship. The most important is that of the church of The Immaculate Conception. This was built during the second half of 16th century and since then has been restored. In principle it occupied the site of the mosque, which in turn had occupied the site of a Roman temple that gave the Cedelaque quarter its name.
The church of Dúrcal was built by Juan Fernández in 1546 and this temple has undergone many transformations over time. Only the framework of the central nave remains of its primitive structure, simple rafters with three cross beams with inverted interlaced eight-pointed star design on Manierist corbels. The framework loses the pitch towards the high chapel which leads us to believe that there was an arch that separated the high altar. There is a cross aisle and three naves separated by semicircular arches on pillars.
Originally, the parish church had a rectangular floor plan and a single nave, but later the cross aisle was added and two side naves separated by semicircular arcades that rest on thick pillars. This is covered by a Mudejar coffered ceiling whilst the cross aisle has a cupola supported on squinches. The High Altar, differentiated from the rest of the nave by a step, is presided over by a marble tabernacle with a crucifix. Various polychrome wood images adorn the side walls such as that of Saint Ramón Nonato, patron saint of this village, Saint Anthony, Jesus of Nazareth etc.
The main façade has a bell tower on the left side and the portico of the entrance is decorated with a semicircular arch on which there is a niche that contains the image of the Immacultate Conception, with an angel on each side and two stained glass windows with images of San Blas and San Ramón.
On the edge of the Royal Road of the Alpujarra is the puzzle-like building of the Hermitage of Saint Blas. It was built in 16th century and may have occupied the site of the rabita Balina. It has a rectangular floor plan and a single vaulted nave with a central cupola supported on squinches. The high altar on the same level as the rest of the nave houses the sculpture of Saint Blas, patron saint for the remedy of sore throats. The side walls of the nave have a series of blind arches with images sculpted in wood and polychrome.
The simplicity of the interior is in sharp contrast with the exterior architectonic display of the temple. The main façade where the entrance door is crowned with a small single, square tower. Also in the area surrounding the nave is the structure of the cupola marked out by an octagonal lantern.
In the Darrón we can locate a cross that occupied the site of a holy place, or it may be the site of the rabita Abdarrof.
Our journey ends in the municipal area of El Padul, where we could visit:
The parish church of Saint Mary was built in 1541 by the master Juan Ajofrín and his son, although it was later reformed several times; between 1543-1545 Jerónimo García built the tower and in 1559 stone mason Gaspar de Muriel made the doorways.
Initially the church was a single nave but two side naves were added in the early 19th century (of smaller dimensions) with a ribbed vaulted roof, whilst the central nave is covered with Mudejar-style wooden framework. King Alfonso XII, on his visit to Padul donated a significant sum of money for the temple works as it housed the blood hospital after the earthquake of 1884.
The High Altar is elevated above the naves with a marble step with an 18th century Baroque altarpiece. The gilt altarpiece houses niches of images of San John Nepomuk, Saint Anthony of Abbot, Saint Innocence, Saint Zachariah, Saint Ursula...
Also, the walls of the side naves boast other representations such as the Crucifixion or Our Lady of Sorrows. It is worth highlighting the artistic value of the altar with the 16th century altarpiece of Saint Francisco.
On the exterior next to the central nave we can observe the three-stack tower with first two quadrangular and the top one octagonal, unlike the rest of the building it is not whitewashed.
The stonework portico of the main façade is preceded by a large stone cross, which is evidence of a cemetery in the past.
The Hermitage of Saint Sebastian built in 1679. According to tradition, the neighbours paid for the works in thanks to their patron for having “freed” them from the epidemic of plague that swept through the Lecrin Valley. The structure of the temple is simple, its rectangular floor plan has only one nave. The High Altar is adorned with an 18th century late-Baroque altarpiece structured into two parts. On the lower floor there is an image of Saint Sebastian and in the upper part that of Our Lady of Sorrows, the two patron saints of this village. The hermitage has an entrance on the main façade, framed by a semicircular arch and preceded by a stone cross.
Autora: María Luisa Jiménez Robles