Where to visit in Alfarnatejo... Santo Cristo church Auta Cortijo Conejo fountain Medieval bridge Mill museum Miguel Alba park
2500 years of history to visit...
As with many villages of the Axarquia there is an incredible mixture of the ancient and modern in and around Alfarnatejo. The Cortijo de Auta possibly best illustrates this – a farm built on a Moorish fortress, itself built on the estate of a 2000 year old Roman villa, surrounded by tombs from the Phoenician era dating from at least 500 years before that! The cortijo is well worth a visit even if just to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Within Alfarnatejo there is its parish church to visit, Santo Cristo de la Cabrilla, which has a particularly fine square tower built from Mudejar style bricks. For those looking to relax a little there’s the Miguel Alba Luque park, located just at the entrance of the village, a very pleasant spot with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. If you’re going for a hike outside the village then make sure you stop to look at the beautiful stone bridge that crosses the Sabar River, and perhaps fill your water bottles in the large Fuente del Conejo.
Finally, another visit worth making a few miles outside Alfarnatejo, is the mill museum of Cortijo Pulgarín Bajo; meals and drinks are also available to visitors there.
If you’ve visited any of these places don’t forget you’re invited to leave a comment describing your experience, (note that a Facebook account is necessary).
Santo Cristo de la Cabrilla
Alfarnatejo’s little church, dating from the 18th century but rebuilt in 1977, is located in the highest part of the village and stands out among the houses and buildings. It’s address is Calle Padre Arnaiz, 31, Alfarnatejo.
It was built in a simple, traditional rectangular style, with two naves separated by arches. Outside, the massive square tower, built in Mudejar style baked brick, is particularly fine.
It no doubt reflects Alfarnatejo’s isolated position that the Mudejar styling of its church was quite anachronistic by the time of its completion in 1797. By then, in other parts of Málaga, this post-Moorish style of church architecture had long ago been abandoned. Unfortunately, a century later it was greatly damaged by the great earthquake in Axarquia of 1884.
The lack of historic furnishings in the church is due to the building being assaulted in 1936 during the Civil War, when altars, images and sacred objects were taken out to the street and set on fire. Unfortunately, it also robbed the interior of a sense history.
Cortijo de Auta
The cortijo (farm) is an important site of historical interest a few miles outside Alfarnatejo, at the upper reaches of the Rio de la Cueva, with remains from the Phoenician, Roman, Arabic and Mozarabic eras. It is accessed by a dirt track which starts at the end of the Camino de Riogordo.
The building is now in a ruinous state but still occasionally used as a shelter and pen for sheep, as well as storage for cereals grown locally.
Cortijo de Auta is in a magnificent setting, surrounded by immense natural beauty – for instance the Tajos del Sabar hills with possibly the most spectacular peaks in the province of Málaga.
Behind the farm on the photo above can be seen the three peaks – Alto del Fraile on the left, Tajo de Gómer in the middle, and Doña Ana on the right.
The cortijo is placed on the foundation of an old Arab fortress – Castillo de Auta – which in turn had been built over land belonging to a Roman villa.
During the subsequent Christian period, the fortress was changed into a flour mill. Wheat crops are still grown in abundance in the area. It may have been this incarnation of the structure that gave rise to the name Alfarnate – from the Arab word ‘Al Farnat’ which means ‘flour mill’. Remains of the mill can still be seen.
Fuente del Conejo
The Fuente del Conejo (Fountain of the Rabbit) is a large drinking water fountain outside Alfarnatejo, on the right bank of the river Sabar, near the village. It’s about 50 metres from the Medieval bridge. It is maintained as a community amenity not only for drinking but also for washing laundry! It is on the road known as the ‘Ruta de la Sierra’ (mountain route), which links Alfarnatejo with the village of Riogordo.
There is a local ‘courting’ tradition involving the fountain. Apparently, when a young man from Alfarnatejo wants to start seeing a girl of marriageable age he has to find a rough walking stick then leave it outside the door of the girl’s house at night. If the girl knows the boy who has left the stick outside her door, she has to decide what to do with the stick. If she doesn’t like him, or the family doesn’t feel he is a good match, the girl leaves the stick outside. If she does want to marry him, then she takes the stick into the house, which signifies that she and her family approve of the relationship, and they can court together.
To confirm the date of the wedding, the girl has to bring tufts of wool to make a mattress in a traditional rite. The girl has to go in the early morning to the Fuente del Conejo to wash the wool, and, once all the tufts are dry, everyone then meets at the girl’s house to start stripping the impurities out of the wool.
These meetings could last for up to fifteen days, and might become quite boisterous with risque jokes and stories being told, which meant young children were not allowed to attend. In the end the couple’s wedding mattress was made, and the ceremony could be held.
The fountain is often used as the start point for some ambitious mountain hikes behind the village to the Tajos del Sabar. However, there are some breathtaking views to be had if you can manage the very hard climb of between 1100 and 1200 metres in altitude – and also don’t suffer from vertigo – see photo on the right of one of the ledges along the way!
Just outside Alfarnatejo is a beautiful medieval stone bridge crossing the Sabar river. At this point the little river hasn’t flowed far, it actually springs up in the Alfarnate area where it is called the Palancar; it has then joined with another stream called the Morales, before finally becoming the Sabar as it winds it way through the wheat fields between the villages and skirts around Alfarnatejo. However, eventually it will be an important tributary of the river Guaro flowing into Viñuela.
This small stone bridge would have been an important development for Alfarnatejo, opening up access to such villages in the west as Colmenar, Villanueva de Cauche or Casabermeja. Not just for pedestrians and horse riders though, but more importantly, for carriages, given the burgeoning importance of trade in this part of the high Axarquía. Indeed, making a bridge wide enough to allow carriages, was in itself quite an economic investment for a small community hundreds of years ago.
Close to the bridge, the original cobblestones that would have made up the road surface hundreds of years ago are still evident in places where the modern concrete surface has worn away. At either end of the bridge the parapets flare wider on both sides, a feature characteristic of medieval bridges, not for show but to protect the bridge from floods.
Mill museum of Cortijo Pulgarín Bajo
A few miles outside Alfarnatejo on the MA4102 is Cortijo Pulgarín Bajo. In addition to now offering accommodation, this typical old country farmhouse, has turned its olive oil mill into a museum.
The old mill remains as it was a century ago; the heavy stone cones that would have been endlessly rotated by a horse or mule still in place – the pre-industrial method to crush the freshly picked olives of the region to make what they claim as “the sherry of oils”. It also a reminder that the area was once dominated by the Moors, the original planters and cultivators of the olive trees.
As well as visiting the museum, meals and drinks are also available, not just to guests staying at the cortijo, but also to visitors to the museum.
Miguel Alba Luque municipal park
Alfarnatejo’s municipal park, which is parallel to Calle los Callejones, was inaugurated in 2005 and is located just at the entrance of the village. It is a very pleasant spot with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. [Photo left courtesy of Carmen Ocaña (www.malagapuebloapueblo.com)]
One enters the park through a striking horseshoe-shaped Moorish arch. Inside the park, apart from being a pleasant place for a stroll, there is a children’s playground plus a fitness area complete with exercise equipment.
Next to the archway there is a ceramic plaque to the man whom the park is dedicated to and named after, Miguel Alba Luque, the republican mayor of Alfarnatejo who was killed in 1937.
The inauguration ceremony was no doubt a moving occasion with the plaque to Miguel Luque being uncovered by his great-grandchildren. They described him as “a well-educated and good man, a freethinker, lover of poetry, whose only crime was to confront the local caciques [powerful landowners] to achieve improvements for the town.”
Apparently, Miguel Luque instructed the landowners to help build drainage ditches to help in irrigating the area, which they resented. This led to trumped up charges being filed against the mayor and also his son, accused of such things as being anarchists and having promoted the burning of churches. They were both sentenced to death and shot.
Unfortunately, unjust treatment like this was common at the time, with thousands of Spanish either disappearing into jails or given capital punishment. As has been the case many times in recent years, Spanish people want to be able to move on and at last have recognition of relatives who suffered prosecution or violence during the Civil War. The passing of the Historical Memory Law in 2007 which, at last, formally condemned the Franco Regime was one way, but having the local municipal park dedicated like this is surely also a very potent way.
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Alfarnatejo pages guide
Use the links below to explore what you can see and do in Alfarnatejo, what festivals take place through the year, and to read about the area’s fascinating history.