Archidona is a sizeable town lying at the foot of the Pico del Conjuro mountain and extending out onto a fertile plain. It is just 20 kilometres from Antequera and 50 kilometres from Málaga, and located as it is on a confluence of routes between east and west Andalucía, is well served by good highways and a railway line.
Today the town and its municipality have a combined population of around 10,000, many of them employed in olive production and other agricultural activities, although in the 1970s many local people emigrated to northern industrial parts of the country and overseas in search of work.
Archidona’s history stretches all the way back to the Phoenicians and Romans, but its names stems from the period of the Moorish occupation, when it was known as ‘Medina-Arxiduna.’ There were various distinct stages to Archidona’s Moorish occupation.
When Abd Al Rahman I was proclaimed emir of Cordoba in 756 the town became the capital of a region which coincides approximately with modern Málaga province. Archidona then played a key role in the rebellion of Berbers, Mozarabs (Christians in Moorish Spain) and renegades in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, led by Ben Hafsun, whose stronghold was the Bobastro fortification.
Archidona passed back and forth between the hands of the emirs and the rebels until 907 when it was definitively conquered by emir Abd Allah.
The town flourished at the end of the 10th century, becoming an important commercial, industrial and agricultural centre, although 100 years later political and economic divisions had left the town impoverished. Archidona experienced a second boom at the beginning of the 13th century, this time due largely to the silk trade. But in the 14th century commerce was upset once again by the onset of the Christian campaigns in the area. Archidona was finally conquered by the Christians in 1462 after a two-month siege.
An enduring legend from the Muslim period is that of the ‘Rock of the Lovers.’ The story goes that the daughter of the fortresses’ ‘wali’, who was called Tazgona, was in love with a young man called Muhamed. But her father had promised Tazgona to the old governor of Alhama. The two young lovers therefore decided to end their lives, and threw themselves from the top of the rock which is named in their memory. The wali, who until the tragedy had been a benevolent man, became cruel and irascible, and became known as ‘The Vulture of Archidona.’
Archidona’s present-day location dates back to the 16th century, when construction began on the area known as Villa Baja.
There are a number of beautiful monuments and places of interest in Archidona’s old quarter, which has been declared a Town of Historic and Artistic Importance. one of the most important is the hermitage in honour of Archidona’s patron saint, the Santísima Virgen de Gracia. The hermitage was erected after the Reconquest on the site where a mosque once stood within the Moorish castle. Remains of the old castle and the Medieval wall on the highest point of the town remain.
The 18th century Plaza Ochavada is the town’s focal point, and is where a whole bunch of shops, bars and cafés are concentrated. So-named because of its octagonal form, the Baroque plaza was built by local master builders Antonio González Sevillano and Francisco Astorga Frías, who combined French and traditional Andaluz styles, giving the plaza a surround of elegant white facades, with balconies and doors with red brick arches.
The Plaza de la Victoria is another of the town’s hubs and is where some of Archidona’s most important buildings are located, including the old grain store and now the Town Hall, and the 16th century Victoria church.
The Santa Ana Parish Church was first built at the beginning of the 16th century, although major alterations were carried out at the end of the 19th century. It is most notable for its triangular tower and richly decorated interior.
The Mínimas Convent, which is still used by the religious order, has a mid-18th century church with magnificent Baroque brick tower, crowned with a spire in green and white ceramics.
Also of interest are the 18th century Church of the Nazarene and the Escuelas Pías, the16th century Santo Domingo and Jesús and María convents.
Archidona also makes a good base for those interested in walking and mountain biking, particularly around the Lagunas Grande y Chica nature reserve and the Hoz del Arroyo.