Pueblos Blancos

The Baroque refers to the predominant cultural, artistic and architectural period between the 17th and 18th centuries. In Andalusia, the Baroque does not stand out for the innovation in the plans, the buildings follow the models based on tradition. However, this style did bring novelties in terms of the exuberance and decoration of façades and interiors.

The abundance of buildings in the Sierra of Cádiz region, including the Pueblos Blancos, makes it of great value and interest to present an Architectural-Monumental Baroque Route. This route through different localities aims to bring visitors to those emblematic buildings where this architectural style is the undisputed protagonist.

Due to the number of municipalities in which we find the Baroque presence, we will divide the Route between the northernmost and southernmost towns, with the town of Arcos de la Frontera as the starting point.

Thus, the Northern Baroque Route would start from Arcos and include Espera, Bornos, Villamartín, Puerto Serrano, Olvera, Torre-Alháquime and Alcalá del Valle.

On the other hand, if we take the Southern Baroque Route, we will also start from Arcos and visit Algar, Ubrique, Benaocaz, Villaluenga del Rosario and Zahara de la Sierra.

Whether we take the route one way or the other, we will start the journey from Arcos de la Frontera, a small municipality surrounded by the Guadalete River and situated at the beginning of the Sierra of Cadiz. Arcos has a significant Baroque heritage, although due to the coexistence of different periods, some buildings are the result of the union of various architectural styles.

118 km
2h y 21 min
111 km
2h y 17 min

Northern Baroque Route

Southern Baroque Route

Architectural – Monumnetal Baroque Route Northern

Arcos de la Frontera

The Basílica Menor de Santa María is a clear example of this union of artistic trends. The church, classified as the oldest in the town, is based on an old mosque and, having been built over six centuries (XIV-XVIII), it has Gothic, Plateresque and Baroque features.

This is also evident in the Church of San Francisco, built thanks to Beatriz Pacheco, Duchess of Arcos. After suffering the confiscations of Mendizábal, the attached convent disappeared, but the church has survived to the present day. Three chapels are joined to the central nave, in Gothic, Baroque and Flamboyant styles.

The Convent-Hospital of San Juan de Dios was built in the 16th century and originally served as a clinic to which a chapel was attached. Inside we can see elements of different styles, such as the Baroque staircase in the columned courtyard, a Baroque altarpiece and a Gothic-style image of Christ of the Vera-Cruz.

 

The Church of San Pedro is another religious building in Arcos that we can visit. Built in the 16th century, this church has its foundations in an old Hispano-Muslim fortress. It consists of a nave divided into three spaces to which are added six chapels in Renaissance and Baroque styles. The façade also follows the same style, although it also shows influences from the Sevillian school.

The Convento of las Mercedarias is the only remaining convent in Arcos de la Frontera. It was built in 1642 thanks to the donations of one of the town’s leading ladies, Beatriz de la Calle y Natera. The chapel inside has a Baroque altarpiece with an image of Nuestra Señora de la Merced and San José.

Espera

From here we can continue through the Pueblos Blancos to the north or south to complete our baroque route. If we choose to continue along the northern route our next stop will be Espera, less than 20 km from our starting point. This town is located on the slopes of the Cerro de Fatetar and in the vicinity of the Sierra de Cádiz. In Espera we can visit the Ermita de Santiago, located in the Castle of Fatetar and completely preserved. This chapel, built in the 15th century, has obvious Baroque features on its façade, such as the predominance of the bay.

In Espera we will also visit the Iglesia Parroquial of Santa María de Gracia, a Renaissance temple that began to be built in the 16th century, although the work was not completed until the 18th century due to the damage caused by the earthquakes of 1636 and 1755. It has a Greek cross floor plan and both its façade and main altarpiece already belong to the Baroque style.

Bornos

Our third stop on the northern Baroque route is Bornos, which is only 15 minutes from Espera. In this small village we find examples of Baroque architecture such as the Iglesia Parroquial of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. The date of construction of the temple is unknown, although it is estimated that it was built between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. We should highlight the altarpiece found in the Altar Mayor, of Baroque style and made up of three streets separated by Solomonic columns and with cavities.

A few metres from this basilica we find the Iglesia de la Resurrección, which was originally a house-hospital built in the 16th century by Diego Álvarez in his will. Only the church remains of this building, which houses a majestic gold-plated Baroque altarpiece accompanied by Solomonic columns.

Villamartín

We continue our route for just over 12 km to reach Villamartín, a small village located in the lower part of the Sierra Beticas. In this municipality we can visit the Iglesia Parrowquial of Santa María de las Virtudes, built shortly after the town was founded. Although it was originally intended to follow the style of a Mudejar temple, it was finally decided to opt for a Renaissance design. Among the relics to be found inside the church is the Baroque style ostensory.

In the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the Capilla of Las Angustias, a 17th century temple with a single nave and a flat chancel. The building stands out for its sobriety, both on the outside and inside, where there is a Baroque main altarpiece.

Puerto Serrano

A little over a quarter of an hour separates Villamartín from our next destination, Puerto Serrano. Located between the Sierras Subbeticas and the Guadalete river, this is the starting point of the Vía Verde de la Sierra in Cadiz. To the west of the municipality there is an old construction dating from the mid-18th century, the Molino de Siré. The building was originally an old Carmelite Convent, although it abandoned its religious function to take on an industrial role. Both its façade and its floor plan are the result of a mixture of Baroque and Neoclassical styles. It is currently considered an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Department of Culture of the Andalusian Regional Government.

In the same street where the mill is, just 25 metres away, we find the Iglesia of Santa María Magdalena. This church is the only religious building in the village and is of a humble character. Although it is neoclassical in style, it has evident nuances and influences from the first stage of Baroque architecture. It has three naves, a double façade and a bell tower, and inside the Baroque canvases by Alonso Cano stand out.

Olvera

After visiting Puerto Serrano, we will go to Olvera, 40 km away. In this municipality we find a rather peculiar and unique building in the region, the Capilla del Arte (Chapel of Art). This art gallery houses the work of the artist Miguel Sevillano, which he also uses as a studio. The monument houses neo-baroque paintings inside.

Near the chapel is the Santuario of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, a shrine where the patron saint of Olvera is venerated. The temple, which dates back to the 18th century, is clearly Baroque in design and is located on the border between the town and the village of Torre-Alháquime.

Torre-Alháquime

From Olvera, our next destination is Torre-Alháquime, just over 10 minutes away. Located in the heart of the mountain region, in this charming village we can visit the Parroquia of Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, a temple of Sevillian reminiscence by order of the Sevillian archbishop after intervening in the conquest of the town. Its imposing Baroque façade has a split pediment and an oculus. The exterior of the building is crowned by three bells, while the interior has a painting of the Souls, attributed to Murillo, and a baptismal font, considered to be a true relic.

Alcalá del Valle

The northern Baroque route ends in Alcalá del Valle, a small mountain town where our last stop is the Iglesia of Santa María del Valle. The church, dedicated to the patron saint of the town, was built under Baroque architectural guidelines between the 17th and 18th centuries and has undergone various modifications. Its interior is divided into three naves separated by arcades. There is no tower on its façade, but its stepped design culminates in a bell wall with two holes and a clock.

Architectural – Monumental Baroque route southern

Arcos de la Frontera

The Basílica Menor de Santa María is a clear example of this union of artistic trends. The church, classified as the oldest in the town, is based on an old mosque and, having been built over six centuries (XIV-XVIII), it has Gothic, Plateresque and Baroque features.

This is also evident in the Church of San Francisco, built thanks to Beatriz Pacheco, Duchess of Arcos. After suffering the confiscations of Mendizábal, the attached convent disappeared, but the church has survived to the present day. Three chapels are joined to the central nave, in Gothic, Baroque and Flamboyant styles.

The Convent-Hospital of San Juan de Dios was built in the 16th century and originally served as a clinic to which a chapel was attached. Inside we can see elements of different styles, such as the Baroque staircase in the columned courtyard, a Baroque altarpiece and a Gothic-style image of Christ of the Vera-Cruz.

The Church of San Pedro is another religious building in Arcos that we can visit. Built in the 16th century, this church has its foundations in an old Hispano-Muslim fortress. It consists of a nave divided into three spaces to which are added six chapels in Renaissance and Baroque styles. The façade also follows the same style, although it also shows influences from the Sevillian school.

The Convento of las Mercedarias is the only remaining convent in Arcos de la Frontera. It was built in 1642 thanks to the donations of one of the town’s leading ladies, Beatriz de la Calle y Natera. The chapel inside has a Baroque altarpiece with an image of Nuestra Señora de la Merced and San José.

Algar

If we choose to follow the route made up of the White Villages located in the southern part of the region, our next destination will be Algar. The town is just over 20 km from Arcos de la Frontera and here we can visit the Iglesia Parroquial of Santa María de Guadalupe. Considered to be the most important religious monument in the municipality, the church was built between 1762 and 1763. Although its main altarpiece, in the Baroque style, is no longer preserved, we can appreciate the tendency of this architectural style in its façade.

Benaocaz

From Algar we will head towards Benaocaz, a town almost entirely located in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, making it an ideal opportunity to visit this beautiful natural setting. Once we arrive at our destination, we will go to the Plaza de las Libertades, where we will find the town’s city hall. The town hall, built during the 18th century, has a Baroque layout and is made up of two floors reflected on the outside by two galleries. On the outside, the roof is made up of Arab tiles.

To the south of the municipality and almost on the outskirts of it is the Fuente de Allá (Allá Fountain). A monumental complex made up of a fountain and a trough in the Baroque style. It currently is part of the town’s water supply network, but until the 1970s it was used by the inhabitants, making it one of the town’s meetings places and centres of social activity. The fountain was built during the reign of Charles III from stone ashlars, and has four spouts, a basin and three steps. Nowadays, this group and some others with similar characteristics located in nearby towns are under study by the Regional Ministry of the Environment in order to classify them as points of interest due to their deep-rooted popular character.

Ubrique

A little more than ten minutes by car from Benaocaz is the town of Ubrique, our next stop. The town, renowned for the quality of its leather goods, has a number of buildings of great value for our route. The Convent of Capuchinos was home to this religious order from its construction in the second half of the 17th century. The church, the convent and the porter’s lodge that make up the stagecoaches of this type of construction present the architectural characteristics typical of the Baroque style. The temple has a single nave covered by a barrel vault and a hemispherical dome and inside there is a main altarpiece with an image of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.

Very close to the Convent of Capuchinos, in the historic center, is placed the old Church of San Juan de Letrán. The building, which dates from the 17th century and currently houses the Centro de Interpretación de la Historia de Ubrique (Ubrique History Interpretation Centre), follows the Baroque architectural style that proliferated in the province during that century and later. The façade is divided into three streets separated by Tuscan pilasters, of which the central one stands out for being three times as wide and having a recessed triumphal arch. It is worth noting that, after the confiscations in the mid-19th century, the temple was separated from the church and became the property of the Vezago family. The church underwent a thorough renovation at the hands of its new owners with the aim of turning it into a dwelling. The Vezagos lived in the old church until the middle of the 20th century, when they moved to Jerez de la Frontera and the building was bought by the Town Council of Ubrique.

Villaluenga del Rosario

If we continue eastwards for 20 minutes, we reach Villaluenga del Rosario, the penultimate municipality on our itinerary. This town is located in the heart of the Sierra of Grazalema, at the foot of the Navazo Alto and facing the Sierra de Líbar. It is also the smallest and highest village in the province of Cadiz. The Iglesia of San Miguel is located next to the village’s alameda. The church has Baroque architecture with three naves at different heights and separated by wide Tuscan columns. Among the elements that make up the sanctuary there are the Baroque domes of the Baptismal Chapel and one of the side chapels, where the Baptismal font is located.

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra, located in the epicentre of the Sierra de Grazalema and at the foot of the Sierra del Jaral, is the finishing touch to this architectural tour of the villages of the south. Right in the center of the village is the Iglesia of Santa María de la Mesa, a 17th century church built on the foundations of the old Ermita of San Francisco. It has a Baroque façade of pink marble and three naves, the central one being higher and wider than the side naves. Inside, the main altarpiece, also in the same artistic style, stands out.

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