An Arab fortress stands on a hill, looking down upon fields of olive groves, while the small town of Moclín spreads on its steep slopes. We are about to discover one of the best-kept secrets of Granada, only 30 kilometres away from its capital. Despite being one of the most beautiful corners of Granada, not that many people know about its existence. Besides, there is an apparent contrast between its sparse population and the valuable historical and cultural heritage it hosts.
Moclín is considered to be the last border of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. Hence, it was a strategic point that played a key role in the battles between Arabs and Christians. Considering how influential it was during the Middle Ages, it is surprisingly not a popular tourist attraction of Andalusia these days.
The fact that Moclín used to be called the “shield of Granada” highlights its importance as a border area back then. Its current name comes from the Arab Hisn al-Muklin, and according to some sources, it means “fortress of the pupils”. That is, doubtlessly, a suitable name for a place overlooking the border, where they built an imposing fortress to protect it from outer attacks. When the nearby Loja fell under the hands of the enemy, the Catholic Monarchs conquered Moclín too. This all happened around 1486.
Currently, Moclín is classified as a población and a municipality. In other words, it is a población with little more than 200 inhabitants that belongs to a municipality with 6 more towns. They all make 3600 inhabitants in total. It seems like they wanted to keep everything that happened in this area a secret.
We already stated that there are slopes in Moclín. Slopes, narrow streets and whitewashed houses that are dotted by colourful flowers and plants scattered throughout the town. However, when someone asks what to see in Moclín, there first answer is clear: the castle.
The castle of Moclín dates back to the middle of the 13th century, and it stands on top of the town, about 1100 metres above sea level. This Nasrid fortress belongs to the fortified town, and one can still visit the walls surrounding Moclín. Standing at the highest point, the castle has walls too, as well as a keep, just like most medieval castles. The fortress or alcazaba is surrounded by 13 masonry towers reinforced with ashlars.
The interior state of the castle might not be excellent, but it is still worth visiting. Its defensive disposition, which applies to other nearby monuments too, is really impressive. In fact, one can also see that in the towers of other towns of the municipality, such as the Torre Atalaya de la Porqueriza in Tózar, the Torre Atalaya de Mingoandrés, the watchtower of La Mesa or Torre de la Gallina, all these in Puerto Lope.
However, there are other interesting things to do in Moclín besides visiting its castle. We are still in Granada, and this province is always full of surprises. While we stroll down its streets, we can make a halt at the Centro de Interpretación Comarcal, a museum on the history of the area that will also make suggestions regarding other places to visit near Moclín. This place has been inhabited since the prehistoric period, but most of the collection of the interpretation centre is focused on the Caliphate of Córdoba. For instance, there are replicas of Nasrid ceramics one can take home as a unique historical souvenir.
This cultural walk will take us to the anthropology museum, another gem built on top of an old hermitage, which keeps from prehistoric arrowheads to the first mobile phones. Apart from the usual ethnographic items, this museum also has a collection on the history of cinema. Indeed, it holds 62 films recorded between 1905 and 1910.
It might come as a surprise, but one of the most interesting things to visit in Moclín is its bread granary. The Reconquista of the Catholic Monarchs had its consequences in the area, as it became one of those places that had to supply the city of Granada with cereal. This is why this granary or warehouse came to be in the mid-15th century. It was one of the first to be built, and it can be found outside the walls of the castle, right where the market used to be in the Middle Ages.
There is one remarkable treasure left: the parish church of La Encarnación, also known as the church of Cristo del Paño. It was built over an old mosque, and it keeps the painting of Cristo del Paño, which they take out every year for the romería of the 5 October. However, it does not matter if we visit the place any other time. The most important tradition here is to bring a cloth (a “paño”, hence the name of the church) and touch the painting with it to ask for favours, wishes, or even miracles.