In Almonaster la Real there is one of those unique constructions that every now and then history leaves with us: up on a hill is the mosque that serves as the symbol of the beautiful town situated at its feet.
The story of Almonaster begins with a Roman settlement that was later occupied by the Visigoths, who built a temple on top of the hill around the sixth century. That religious building was probably also a monastery, and with that and the arrival of the Arabs, sometime later, the origin of the name Almonaster appears to be explained.
So we have the Muslims now dominating that old enclave. And what's the first thing they do? Well, they build a mosque on the same place where the Visigothic church used to be. But as there were still remains of Roman works there, the new builders took advantage of the columns, capitals and other materials. They erected a beautiful sanctuary integrated into a fortification. We are between the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth centuries.
A few hundred years later, the area is reconquered by Christian military orders. But instead of demolishing the Islamic temple, they decide to convert it into a chapel, which becomes known as Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. Among its ancient Muslim archers, Catholic worship begins to be celebrated. This is how, disguised as a church, the only mosque of old al-Àndalus that is preserved, almost entirely, in a rural area, came to be.
Probably this jewel overshadows a little the rest of the town, but we must not forget that we are talking about a village that is among the most beautiful in Spain and has monuments such as the Gothic-Mudejar church of San Martin. A real survivor who suffered the consequences of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and a fire that, in 1936, devastated its interior.
You should also visit two chapels with a lot of charm. One, the La Trinidad hermitage, is in the heart of the urban area. The other is at the exit of the village; the Ermita del Señor Santísimo Cristo de la Humildad y la Paciencia, built, it seems, in the seventeenth century. Finally, we recommend that you go to the bullring located in the Historic Site of the Mosque, and built over the old structure of the castle's courtyard.
These are some of the things you will find in Almonaster, but if you also like hiking, don't worry: the "Parque Natural de la Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche" is just a stone's throw away.