Bayra is a 12th century Hispanic - Islamic Town that occupied a prominent position overlooking the present town of Vera. It is easily recognised from miles around with its statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Overlooking the modern town of Vera, the Mirador y Ermita del Espiritu Santo on its cone shaped hill is hard to miss with its huge white statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, erected in 1949. For those that take the trouble to climb to the summit, a pleasant ten minute stroll, the views to the east, over the town, southeast to the sea and west to the high Sierras is spectacular. It is for this reason, the all round view, an ideal defensive position, that the Hispano – Islamic town of Bayra was founded here soon after the Muslim occupation.
It is suspected, though not proven, that Bayra was the site of a settlement, certainly during the Roman period, when a section of the Via Augusta, now the N340, passed through and a Carthaginian outpost before that. Artefacts have been found nearby that predate the Carthaginians, going back to the Bronze Age about 2000 BC.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Vera
The first construction was the alcazabar that consisted of a square keep adjoining a tower, surrounded by a defensive wall. That fortification occupied the summit of the hill. At the foot of the hill was a second defensive wall. Between the two were a few habitations and aljibes, cisterns for storing water, and a mezquita. Over the years Bayra grew, with houses being built outside the outer wall, in the shadow of the alcazabar.
The town was reconquered in 1488. One of the cisterns, at the foot of the hill, was converted into a Christian shrine during the late 15th century and into the Visitors Centre for the Mediaeval City of Bayra in the 20th. Meanwhile, in 1518, an earthquake, with its epicentre at Vera, destroyed Bayra.
In 2004, the Junta de Andalucia declared the ruins an Archaeological Area of Cultural Interest. In 2019 it was announced that further excavations would take place but to date (July 2020), nothing has happened. The Coronovirus outbreak and subsequent economic crisis will probably delay any further work. In the meantime there are a few informative posters that can be read when you climb the hill.