Antequera (coordinates: coord|37|01|N|4|34|W|) is a city and municipality in the province of Málaga, part of the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia (Sp: "Andalucía"). It is known as "the heart of Andalusia" ("el corazón de Andalucía"), because of its central location between Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, and Seville. It is noted for two large Bronze Age dolmens.

Geographical and economic

Antequera lies 47 km (22 miles) north of the city of Málaga on the A45 road, at the foot of the mountain ranges "El Torcal" and "El Arco Calizo Chimenea", 575 m above mean sea level. It overlooks the fertile valley bounded to the south by the Sierra de los Torcales, and to the north by the river Guadalhorce. It occupies a commanding position, while the remains of its walls, and of a fine Moorish castle on a rock that overhangs the town, show how admirably its natural defences were supplemented by art. At 817 km², the municipality is the largest, in terms of area, in the province of Málaga and one of the largest in Spain. The population is 41,197 (2002 census).

The saltwater lagoon "Fuente de Piedra", which is one of the few nesting places of the Greater Flamingo in Europe, and the limestone rock formation of the Torcal, a nature reserve and popular spot for climbers, are nearby. Across the Guadalhorce is the remarkable "Lovers' Rock" ("la Peña de los Enamorados"), named after the legend of a young Christian man and his Moorish lover who threw themselves from the rock together while being chased by Moorish soldiers; this romantic legend was adapted by Robert Southey in his "Laila and Manuel". In the eastern suburbs there is one of the largest burial mounds in Spain, dating from the Bronze Age, and with subterranean chambers excavated to a depth of 65 feet.Historically, the region's economy was based on the production and processing of agricultural products (olives, grain, and wool), as well as furniture manufacturing. Today, tourism is the main industry, and there are an increasing number of international visitors. The city's museums have about 80% of all the art treasures in the province of Málaga, which makes it one of the cultural centers of Andalusia.

Significant buildings include many fine churches, the 18th century Palace of Nájera, now the Municipal Museum, [ [ Guide to Antequera] ] and the early 16th century "Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor", a designated national monument that overlooks the whole town. The bullring, dating from 1848, was rebuilt beginning in 1984, in a style that reflects the city's diverse architectural influences, and is considered one of the most attractive bullrings in Spain. Antequera contains a fine arch, erected in 1595 in honour of Philip II, and partly constructed of inscribed Roman masonry.

History and culture

Bronze Age and early history

On the northern outskirts of the city there are two Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows or dolmens) the "Dólmen de Menga" [ [ ANTEQUERA "CROSSROADS OF ANDALUCIA"] ] and "Dólmen de Viera", dating from the 3rd millennium BC. They are the largest such structures in Europe. The larger one, "Dólmen de Menga", is twenty-five metres in diameter and four metres high, and was built with thirty-two megaliths, the largest weighing about 180 tonnes. After completion of the chamber (which probably served as a grave for the ruling families) and the path leading into the center, the stone structure was covered with earth and built up into the hill that can be seen today. When the grave was opened and examined in the 19th century, archaeologists found the skeletons of several hundred people inside. The "Dólmen del Romeral", which dates from the early 2nd millennium (about 1800 BC), is outside the city. A large number of smaller stones were used in its construction. Los Silillos, a significant Bronze Age prehistoric village was uncovered several miles north of Antequera. [ [ C. Michael Hogan, "Los Silillos", the Megaltihic Portal, ed. Andy Burnham] ]

From the 7th century BC, the region was settled by the Iberians, whose cultural and economic contacts with the Phoenicians and Greeks are demonstrated by many archaeological discoveries. In the middle of the 1st millennium BC, the Iberians mingled with wandering Celts (see "Celtiberians") and Turdetans of southern Spain (Tartessos).

Roman era and later invasions

In the last third of the 1st millennium BCE, the Iberian peninsula became part of the Roman Empire. The people quickly adopted Roman culture and the Latin language, and the transition to Roman rule was largely peaceful. As in many other places in Andalusia, the current city plan and the name originate from when Spain was part of the Roman Empire; the Latin name of the city was "Antikaria". Under the Romans, the city continued to be an important commercial center, especially known for the quality of its olive oil. The excavated Roman baths can be seen in the southeast part of the city. The Romans were later supplanted by a succession of invading tribes, leading eventually to domination by the Visigoths.

From the middle of the 1st millennium, the Romans were increasingly displaced by people crossing the Pyrenees, including Vandals, Alans, and Suebi. In 554 the Byzantine Empire took power, but they were in turn defeated by the Visigoths in 624.


In the year 711 a tribe of Berbers out of North Africa (Moors) invaded Spain. By about 716, Antikaria was influenced by Moorish culture, tradition and architecture, and received a new name: "Medina Antaquira".The Moorish state was known for its religious tolerance, and lasted until 1212, when a coalition of Christian kings drove them from Central Spain in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Over the next few years the dominant Almohad dynasty was defeated and Moorish Al-Andalus greatly reduced in strength. Medina Antaquira, which at that time had a population of about 2,600, became one of the northern cities of the remaining Nasrid kingdom of Granada and an important border town. To defend against the CatholicSpanish troops from the northern kingdoms, fortifications were built, and a castle was erected overlooking the city: the "Alcazaba". Today only a few parts of the walls and some towers can be seen, including a tower called "Torre del Homenaje".

For about two hundred years, Medina Antaquira was repeatedly attacked by Christian kings during the "Reconquista", and on September 16, 1410 an army led by Ferdinand I of Aragon conquered the city. This gave Ferdinand, who was crowned King of Aragon in 1412, the title "Ferdinand of Antequera" ("Don Fernando de Antequera"), and the main street still carries his name: "Calle Infante Don Fernando".


After Antequera became part of the Kingdom of Castile, the Muslims were driven out. The city became a Catholic fortress against the Muslim Nasrid kingdom of Granada, and a base for continuing conquest. After Granada, the last Moorish city, capitulated in 1492 Antequera began to recover from the centuries of fighting, and the population increased from 2,000 to almost 15,000 in twenty years.

Antequera became an important commercial town at the crossroads between Málaga to the south, Granada to the east, Córdoba to the north and Seville to the west. Because of its location, its flourishing agriculture, and the work of its craftsmen, all contributing to the cultural growth of the city, Antequera was called the "Heart of Andalusia" by the early 16th century. During this time the townscape also changed. Mosques and houses were torn down, and new churches and houses built in their place. The oldest church in Antequera, the late Gothic "Iglesia San Francisco", was built around the year 1500.

In 1504, the humanist university "Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor" was founded, and it became a meeting place for important writers and scholars of the Spanish Renaissance. A school of poets arose during the 16th century that included Pedro Espinosa, Luis Martín de la Plaza, and Cristobalina Fernández de Alarcón. A school of sculpture produced artists who were mainly employed on the many churches built, and who were in demand in Seville, Málaga and Córdoba and the surrounding areas. The newly-built churches included "San Sebastián" in the city center and the largest and most splendid of the city, "Real Colegiata de Santa María", with its richly decorated mannerist façade.

Still more churches and convents were built into the 18th century (today there are 32 in the city altogether), as were palaces for the members of the aristocracy and the wealthier citizens in the Spanish Baroque style.

Antequera's prosperity slowly came to a close at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th. Spain had to accept the loss of its American colonies and lost a number of crucial military conflicts in Europe. That led to a deep economic crisis, which in some parts of the country led people to turn to bartering. Church, aristocracy and the upper middle class — the great landowners — who had been the clients and sponsors of the creative arts, lost most of their fortunes and could not afford to build more churches or palaces.

Starting from the mid-18th century, Spain underwent a series of reforms, in particular a land reform and the reduction of the power of the Church (the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767) that produced a slow economic recovery. In Antequera, textile production became the main industry. In 1804, yellow fever caused a setback, as well as the Napoleonic wars which broke out shortly after. In the early 20th century, Antequera's textile industry suffered another serious crisis.

It was only in the 1960s, when the nearby Costa del Sol developed into an international tourist hotspot, that Antequera experienced another economic upswing. Today the city is an important tourist and cultural center, not only on a regional scale.


* C. Fernandez, "Historia de Antequera, desde su fundación" (Malaga, 1842).
* Much of the content of this article comes from the equivalent German-language wikipedia article (retrieved March 20, 2005), loosely rewritten. Other material was added by reference to official sources.

Line note citations

External links

* [ Antequera official site]
* [ Information on the Costa del Sol site]
* [ Visiting Antequera]

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