Sightseeing in Vélez-Málaga

August 16, 2010 at 11:26 am 1 comment

Surface Area: 156 square kilometres
Population: 72,842

How to Get There

From any point on the Costa del Sol take the Mediterranean Expressway (A-7; N-340) towards Motril-Almería, or towards Málaga if you are coming from Nerja. The old N-340 passes through the centre of Torre del Mar and from there to Vélez-Málaga, which is just four kilometres away; the route is practically like driving through a city and is very well marked. Likewise, the signs on the Mediterranean Expressway announcing the Vélez-Málaga access leave no room for doubt.

The city of Vélez-Málaga was founded in the tenth century, at the height of the Muslim domination. The town grew up around the fortress-alcazaba and immediately spread towards the La Villa neighbourhood, which would become the ancient Muslim “medina” or city centre. It was one of the most important medinas in the Nazarite kingdom between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. It was not a very large city but it was well fortified and defended by a solid set of walls. As the population increased and could not fit within the walled compound, a number of suburbs sprang up, which are now the neighbourhood of Arroyo de San Sebastián and the plazas of San Francisco and Constitución.


The best place for starting a tour of the monuments in this city, which was designated a Historic-Artistic Complex in 1970, is the Plaza de San Francisco and its environs. The district displays a maze-like street plan that is a heritage of its Arabic past but is the site of the first examples of secular architecture in Vélez-Málaga, despite the fact that the building around which it grew up is the Real Convento de Santiago (Royal Convent of Saint James). .

The Real Convento de Santiago o de San Francisco (Royal Convent of Saint James, or of Saint Francis), founded in 1498, was installed in a mosque that at the behest of the Catholic Monarchs had been consecrated as a parish church. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it underwent such extensive transformations that only the coffered ceiling of the dome over the main chapel remains from the original Mudéjar church.

From the Plaza de San Francisco the street of the same name leads to the Casa de Cervantes (Cervantes House), an aristocratic mansion with a lintelled façade and an interior courtyard with a gallery supported by triple semicircular arches that rest on brick columns. Tradition has it that Miguel de Cervantes stayed in this house in 1591 when he visited Vélez-Málaga in his capacity as tax collector. Friar Alonso de Santo Tomás, supposedly the illegitimate son of Felipe IV and who would become the Bishop of Málaga, was born in this house in the seventeenth century.

If we  take Calle Cilla we will arrive at the Cruz del Arrabal (El Arrabal cross), a votive chapel dedicated to the cross that commemorates the entrance of Fernando the Catholic into the city on 3 May 1487. This is a small temple eight metres in height, which is opened in the front by a semicircular arch. The interior contains nothing but a simple cross and is covered by a dome.



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