Lucena and its beautiful watchtower

This Villa in Córdoba, which is of great archaeological value, used to be home to a thriving Jewish community. From its Araceli Sanctuary, one can see up to five provinces. Famous Spanish writer Camilo José Cela even described it as “the watchtower of one of the most beautiful Spanish landscapes”. This is the history of Lucena and what to see there.

Plan your trip to Lucena

This beautiful municipality is also important for its oil production. One should probably spend at least one day exploring Lucena, with its Jewish quarters, the castle of Moral, the archaeological museum and its palaces. It is also a good idea to watch the sunset from the Araceli Sanctuary. Other interesting spots in Lucena’s surroundings are the Cave of the Angel and the basilica of Coracho.

Another interesting stop on our trip might be the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. Then we can also visit the beautiful city of Carcabuey. Additionally, Cabra is really close by, as well as Zuheros and its fascinating Bats Cave. Córdoba, the capital of the province, is an obvious choice and a perfect destination too. If you are interested, we can tell you where to sleep and where to eat in Lucena, which is also an excellent place for enjoying active tourism.

History of Lucena

The past of Lucena is certainly interesting, and we suggest learning about it before visiting the place. Indeed, this area holds more than 300 archaeological sites. The Cave of the Angel is worth mentioning here, as well as its Lower Paleolithic remains. Later on, the Romans built the fortress of Laderas de Morana and Factoría de Tejares.

The castle of Moral was built in the 8th century by the Emirate of Córdoba. There was a strong Jewish community there, which played an important role in the local government since the 9th century. As a matter of fact, the name of Lucena might come from the Hebrew Eli ossana: “God save us”. Its remarkable Jewish quarters had a hospital and an important Talmudic school that produced great scientific and cultural output.

King Alfonso I of Aragon passed by Lucena in 1124, when he was embarked on a long expedition. They recruited Mozarabic people on the way, and the arrival of the Almohads marked the end of the previous religious tolerance. As a consequence of this conflict, Lucena was stormed in 1148. The survivors moved to Toledo, and many of them joined the Toledo School of Translators fostered by Alfonso X in the 13th century.

In 1240, Fernando III retrieved Lucena, and he put its defence in the hands of the Diocese of Córdoba. It was probably a rich place, considering that, in 1342, Alfonso XI took it back to hand it to his lover Leonor de Guzmán. Almost 30 years later, her son Enrique II gave Lucena to Juan Martínez de Argote, whose family was linked to the Fernández of Córdoba. One of the members of this lineage took part in the Battle of Martín González, also called the Battle of Lucena, where the last Nasrid ruler Boabdil was captured. His military achievements were eventually rewarded with the marquisate of Comares.

Thanks to its economic prosperity, Lucena reached the number of 15000 inhabitants by 1550. In 1680, it was absorbed by the duchy of Medinacely, which did not sit well with the inhabitants of Lucena. In 1767 they finally regained their independence.

Lucena is currently the second largest olive manufacturer in the world. Besides, it is also the wine-producing centre of the Denominación de Origen Montilla-Moriles. Lucena is home to an important furniture industry too.

What to see in Lucena

Our trip will depart from the castle of Moral, where Sultan Boabdil was kept prisoner after being captured in 1483. Nowadays, it looks like a ducal palace. However, its warrior past still remains in its courtyard, as well as in the keep and the towers of Damas, Moral, and Mediodía.

The interior of the castle holds the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Lucena. There one can see the remains found in the prehistoric Cave of the Angel, as well as learning about the history of the comarca, its Hebrew past and the rich pottery and metal traditions of Lucena. Regarding the latter, we should mention the “velones”, the huge copper candles Lucena is famous for.

Another stop one must make in Lucena is the parochial church of San Mateo, built between the 15th and 16th centuries. Many call this spectacular temple the “Cathedral of the Subbetica”. The construction of this Gothic building designed by the architect Hernán Ruiz el Viejo began in 1498, rising over the remains of an old mosque. In the mid-16th century, they incorporated Renaissance elements, like the portal of San Miguel. We should also mention the mannerist main altarpiece, the Baroque Capilla del Sagrario or the colourful jasper portal.

In the street of San Pedro, we will find the Baroque palace of Condes de Santa Ana, which dates back to the 18th century. Its arcaded courtyard has a gorgeous staircase and a spectacular octagonal vault decorated with plasterwork.

Behind the castle of Moral, we will find the neoclassical palace of Marqueses de Campo de Aras, whereas the Jewish quarter holds the seventeenth-century palace of Condes de Hust. It displays an outstanding portal of white stone and beautifully trellised windows and balconies. The parochial church of Santiago, dating back to 1503, rests nearby. This temple of Gothic-Mudejar architectural style has three different naves, and it keeps a seventeenth-century picture of Cristo de la Columna by Baroque sculptor Pedro Roldán.

The parish church of Santo Domingo, dating back to the 18th century, is another must-see in Lucena. It has an interesting dome decorated with plasterwork, as well as a Baroque altarpiece and eye-catching paintings like Cristo de la Sangre. The hospital of San Juan de Dios, dating back to the 18th century, stands out for its spectacular portal, the plasterwork of the dome and the altarpieces designed by Francisco José Guerrero. There is also the church of San Martín, from the 17th century, resting in the street of San Pedro. The main altarpiece of this temple dates back to 1730, and it was designed by Martín de los Reyes.

Additionally, there are half a dozen chapels in Lucena, like the neoclassical chapel of Jesús Nazareno, from the 18th century, which has a Baroque camarín with a sixteenth-century painting called Jesús, along with San Juan Evangelista, Santo Entierro and Cristo yacente.

If we visit the street of San Francisco, we will find the church of Madre de Dios, standing there since the 16th century. It exhibits a remarkable mannerist portal and a spectacular Baroque altarpiece. It hosts artworks like Crucificado de Pasión and San Pedro Alcántara, attributed to Pedro de Mena. We will also find there an extremely beautiful courtyard.

The neighbourhood of Barrera holds the parochial church of El Carmen, which was born in 1630. Its mannerist style not only shows a Herrerian influence, but also elements of Baroque architecture. Inside the church, we will find an outstanding Baroque altarpiece and interesting paintings. Moreover, the small Old Vehicle Museum displays a wide range of antique cars, motorbikes, and miniatures.

An old picture of a sanctuary

The Araceli Sanctuary in Lucena.

The sanctuary of Virgen de Araceli is another landmark in Lucena. It stands only six kilometres away, and its lookout lets us admire the lands of up to five different provinces: Málaga, Córdoba, Seville, Granada, and Jaén. Indeed, it is called “the watchtower of Andalusia” for a reason.

The Cave of the Angel lies on the outskirts of Lucena too. Apart from its geological value, the cave stands out for having a chasm with prehistoric remains. In fact, this archaeological site is considered one of the most important ones in Europe after the archaeological site of Atapuerca. Lastly, the cortijo of Corancho has an interpretation centre focused on the basilica of Coracho, which keeps the remains of a temple and a necropolis from the 4th century.


A church

The church of San Pedro Mártir in Lucena.

Palacio de las Cortes.

Practical data

Some useful information


37° 24′ 32.88″ N, 4° 29′ 9.65″ W


Córdoba 68 km, Seville 156 km, Madrid 423 km


There is an underground car park right in the middle of the city, in Plaza Nueva.




42 712 (2021)


These are some of the most popular celebrations of Lucena: Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (5 January), Semana Santa (also called Santería), Procesiones Infantiles, Fiestas Aracelitanas (usually every first Sunday of May).

Other events

Other remarkable event in Lucena is Feria Real de Nuestra Señora del Valle in September.


Bronze, brass and copper items: the “velones”, mortars, braseros, chocolateras, stills… Also clay jars and other pottery products.

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