Guide to Arcos de la Frontera one of the most dramatically positioned white villages in Cadiz province Andalucia
Arcos de la Frontera
Perched on a 150 metre high limestone ridge overlooking the river Guadalette, Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most dramatically positioned white villages in Andalucia.
Arcos de la Frontera
The old white village clusters around the castle, Castillo de los Arcos, at the highest part of the ridge. The original castle was built in the 11th century. What you see today is largely the 15th century rebuild and it is still privately owned. An abrupt cliff descends sheer to the valley below affording splendid views over the orange and olive groves that cover the plains either side of the Guadalette. To reach the castle and its views, you must first negotiate the winding alleys, many with arches, that make up the Moorish part of the town. Drivers are advised to leave their cars at the bottom of the ridge, those alleys were only ever meant for mules.
Due to its obvious defensive potential, the ridge has been occupied since the Neolithic times. It is believed that the Romans knew it as Colonia Arcensis although it was the Moors that left the old town you see today. They called it Medina Ar-kosch.
Medina Ar-kotsch was an important frontier town between the Moslem territories and the Christians. It was eventually captured by the Christians in 1250 and came under the control of Ferdinand III. Fourteen years later, the Moslem inhabitants, who had been allowed to remain, revolted and they were expelled by decree of Alfonso X in 1264. The Gothic Cathedral on top of the ridge, the Basilica de Santa Maria de la Asunción, dates to this period. The cathedral has ten bells that, famously, continued ringing throughout the Moorish revolt. It is built on top of a Visigothic temple that in turn lies below a 13th century mosque.
Iglesias San Pedro
Other religious buildings in Arcos de la Frontera testify to its importance as a citadel. The Iglesia de San Pedro was built between the 15th and 17th centuries on the site of a 14th century watchtower and the Iglesia de Sam Miguel was formerly a Moorish fortress.
Arcos de la Frontera as it was then known was ceded to the estate of Ruy Lopez de Avila in 1408 and then became part of the massive estates owned by the house of Ponce de León in 1440. During the War of Succession, (1701 – 1714) between Spain and France and Great Britain and the Holy Roman Empire, Arcos supported the ascendancy to the Spanish throne of Philip of Anjou who eventually became Philip V of Spain. As a gesture of thanks, Philip awarded Arcos de la Frontera the title, ‘noble and most faithful town’. During the War of Independence (1807 – 1814), France was the belligerent party and the United Kingdom were Spanish allies. Despite heroic resistance, Arcos was occupied by French troops of Napolean Bonaparte’s army between 1810 and 1812. Such were the balance of power politics in Europe between the 18th and 20th centuries.
The tourist office that occupies part of the 17th century town hall, is a good place to start a tour of historical Arcos. Do not miss the portrait of King Charles III within the town hall. It is attributed to Goya. The whole of the town centre was declared a Monument of Historical and Artistic Importance in 1962.