Places to visit - Aledo

Aledo played a big part in Murcia's often bloody history, during times when Murcia was the frontier between Christian Spain and Muslim Granada control of such a vital lookout and choke point was of enormous importance.

Aledo is on a key pass through the Sierra Espuña which leads inland from the Guadalantín valley and from the vital port of Cartagena. It is a tiny settlement perched on a high ridge above the plain through which the busy E-15/A7 motorway now runs.

Aledo has recently been discovered by foreign residents, who have moved into the historic homes and a great deal of restoration work has been done. Although the streets are still narrow and unsuitable for traffic, there are excellent terraces around the ancient tower that offer stupendous views in virtually every direction. It is advised that you leave the car at the entrance to the town unless you are an expert in reversing and 16-point turns.

The first references to Aledo date back to the 11th century when the area was under Muslim rule and the first tower and fortifications were built. In the 13th century, when the Christians took over, Aledo was given into the care of the powerful warrior-religious Order of Santiago.

A short time later a Muslim counter attack saw the fortifications almost destroyed and the population massacred before it was beaten back. The commanders of Aledo and their garrison fought in many battles and skirmishes with raiding parties that crossed the Granada border into Murcia over the centuries. Today the tower stands stark as ever and it can be seen on its ridge from a great distance out in the lowland plains.

During medieval times Aledo retained its importance, under the administration of the Order of Santiago, and its shield features the tower, a sword and a key with the order's dagger-like cross behind the tower. The church of Santa Maria de La Real, is Baroque in style and, with its twin towers, dates back to 1704. Inside there is an effigy of the Virgin of the Dawn, by Murcia's great sculptor, Salzillo.

The cylindrical medieval brick "pillory" which punished local villains has been restored and is set in a little patio. Fragments of the original fortifications have been uncovered between the tower and the church. At the entrance to the town is a rather unusual statue which is dedicated to the region's blood donors. To find Aledo follow the MU502 above Totana.


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