If any temple is already in itself a monumental, curious and historical figure, when a work of ecclesiastical significance is located in the depths of a cave it becomes even more fascinating.
In Spain there are several churches, hermitages and small monasteries that remain embedded in the mountains, creating a landscape of ancient, medieval appearance. It is even possible to trace a historiographic route from temple to temple that would cover the main tourist destinations in the country. It is time to get to know these beautiful and unique cave churches and a little bit of their history.
This primitive religious temple dates from the first centuries of the Middle Ages. Its appearance is pseudo-prehistoric. It is impressive to contemplate it. Some say it has a sinister air.
It is located between the rivers Ribera and Pisuerga, in the southern part of Cantabria, an area that is already beautiful in itself. There you can see this rectangular cave temple that keeps, in a very precarious way, a chapel inside and several tombs in the outer area. Historians have confirmed that it had a continuous monastic use throughout time. Many scholars come to the vicinity to observe the monument closely. It is perfect for a morning visit.
This hermitage represents the archetypal image of the Ojo Guareña Natural Monument. Seeing it there absorbed by that karstic relief impresses. It is of unquestionable beauty. Historians disagree about its origin. Some claim that there are indications that the cave was already being used since the Paleolithic period, others delay its use until the 7th century and even the most skeptical delay it until the 13th century.
In any case, it is obvious that it was a place of prayer. Two different saints were and are prayed to there. That is to say, it has two dedications: San Bernabé and San Tirso. The famous pilgrimage of San Bernabé, which is usually held in June and attended by hundreds of locals and tourists from all over the world in a picturesque event, comes to the area every year. Undoubtedly, a place worth visiting.
Calasparra is home to an impressive sanctuary that is located in an ancient cave carved into the rock, six kilometers from the town, in Murcia. Its origin dates back to the 17th century. In it you can find two different images of the well-known Virgen de la Esperanza, which as its name suggests is the virgin to whom Murcians ask for future wishes, confess their personal longings and dedicate their prayers.
The interior of the chapel, almost entirely made of stone, is a delight. If you wish, you can take a virtual tour from their website. But there is nothing like seeing in person this wonderful fusion of religious mysticism and the most abrupt nature.
The cave legend tells that the hermitage of San Úrbez, located in the depths of a canyon in the valley of Vio, in Huesca, was inhabited by the hermit monk San Urbicio. He had a remarkable life as a shepherd and orator, demonstrating his enormous devotion. He died right there, in that hermitage, today a pilgrimage site for so many believers and devotees.
This cave-sanctuary is a marvel set in the midst of a natural environment of irresistible beauty. The interior of the hermitage is ultra-minimalist. There is only rock, a dozen wooden benches and a small and primitive altar. On December 15, the villagers and mountaineers of the area come to pay homage to the saint. It is a place that, beyond the religious spirit of each person, and for the beauty of the place, deserves to be visited.
One of the most visited hermitage complexes in Spain is that of Olleros de Pisuerga, in the province of Palencia. Built in the 7th and later centuries, the hermitage, of Romanesque character, is a site worth discovering. It is a diaphanous hermitage, sober, colorful, well preserved, tucked into a cave and has its Christ, its altar and its ecclesiastical mosaic on one side. You can even find a baptismal font. The most believers usually enjoy and enjoy just admiring the hermitage, also the subject of study of historians and anthropologists.
But it is also attractive for its exterior and surroundings. It is a bucolic site where visitors seek peace, rest and reflection. The views from the tower are simply marvelous. All words fall short: you have to go and see it.
In the municipality of Valderredible, south of Cantabria, we can find the famous cave church of Santa María de Valverde, a jewel of Hispano-Visigothic architecture. Visiting it is an experience. You can contemplate one of the best examples of northern eremitism. In the very rock of the area was excavated and built a beautiful and simple temple, today excellently preserved.
When nature, mysticism and religiosity merge, they can lead to temples as spiritual, emotional and suggestive as this one. As in almost all these ancient monasteries, a fascinating necropolis can be observed on the outside. It is the genesis of Christianity in the peninsula, a delightful visit located, moreover, in a privileged environment. In the area next to the church there is an Interpretation Center of the Rupestre of mandatory visit.
A must if you visit Asturias. In the Sanctuary is the popular and visited Santa Cueva, where the virgin of Covadonga resides. This image is also called by the locals and the rest of Asturians ‘la santiña’, reason for pilgrimage and prayer by the popular classes. The original image burned in a fire and was replaced by another, a disinterested donation from the cathedral of Oviedo. Its interior, beautiful, is neo-Romanesque, built in the postwar period.
It is one of the most emblematic places of the Asturian devotional world, but, above all, it is a magnificent place not only for the cave itself, but for the whole complex that surrounds it. A place to take your camera and get lost for a whole day, and then visit the famous lakes.
The ruins of Bobastro, in the area popularly known as ‘Mesa de Villaverde’ located in Ardales, Malaga, are pure history of al-Andalus, a sample of the best cultural tourism. Historians say that the cave church-ruin of Mozarabic style was a place of refuge for Omar Ibn Hafsun and his acolytes, later demolished by the Umayyad caliph of Cordoba Abd al-Rahman III after conquering the area.
Years later it was converted into a Christian church. To walk the emblematic Caminito del Rey and then visit the cave church is a perfect plan for a weekend. There are special guides to go with the family at an economical price.
Also known as the Caves of the Portuguese, as they stayed there during the construction of the Cereceda reservoir. It is a place located in Burgos that represents eremitism like few others. It consists of fourteen caves that were built on the stone.
This site, once a place of prayer and hermitage, where monks lived, today is really abandoned although there is furniture for tourists, such as information panels. It is a shady place, immersed in nature, beautiful, ideal for a day of backpacking and countryside.
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