Bobastro Ruins and Mozarabic Basilica

Discover the story behind the remains of the mythical Bobastro Fortress

In the municipality of Ardales, in the area known as Mesa de Villaverde, are the ruins of the mythical fortress of Bobastro. There, Omar ibn Hafsún, a rebel descendant of Muladi Visigoths (Christians converted to Islam) created an impregnable fortress for the troops of the Umayyads, the reigning dynasty in Cordoba, which he confronted between 880 and 919.

What is Bobastro and what was it built for?

Bobastro is the most important 9th century cave complex in Malaga. A few metres from what was once the fortress, are the remains of a Mozarabic cave church, destroyed by Abd al-Rahman III after the final capture of the enclave and the defeat of the successors of Omar ibn Hafsún. The existence of a Christian church can be explained by the conversion to Christianity of ibn Hafsún, which contributed to his defeat, as he lost the support of many of his followers.

During the Islamic rule of the Iberian Peninsula, the Mozarabs (Christians living in the Muslim area) were forbidden to build new temples. The cave churches are a way of circumventing this prohibition. Rafael Puertas Tricas, former director of the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology, has investigated for decades excavating the surroundings of the temple to conclude that there was even an annexed monastery.

Stay in La Garganta and visit the Bobastro Ruins, the Caminito del Rey and the Alora Museum

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History of the Bobastro Ruins

Omar Ben Hafsun-ilustraciónThe figure of Omar ibn Hafsún is at the centre of a cultural tourism route. Omar ibn Hafsún led the most important revolt that the emirate of Cordoba had to face in the late ninth and early tenth century. It was the last attempt to maintain privileges of feudal type by the aristocracy of Visigothic origin. Parauta is almost certainly the birthplace of Omar, a descendant of a Visigoth family converted to Islam (Muladies). The importance that his family had in the area is evidenced by the fact that a brother of his father was able to provide him, on two occasions, with a group of forty armed men.

A quarrel that ended in death forced Omar to flee to Tahert, in present-day Algeria, where he worked as a tailor’s apprentice. Legend has it that an old man from Al-Andalus visited his workshop and prostrated himself at his feet, prophesying that he would rule a great kingdom. Back home in 880, he gathered around him those who were unhappy with the taxes that Cordoba imposed on the Muladies. He gathered a party of followers with whom he fortified himself at Bobastro, a real stronghold from which he held Cordoba’s power in check. At first, the Umayyads saw him as a simple bandit, but they soon understood that he was going to be something more.

Things went so well for him that the Emir of Cordoba, Muhammad I, sent a strong contingent and Omar surrendered, agreeing to enter the service of the Emir with his men (883), and within the Umayyad army he participated in a campaign through the lands of Alava. But barely two years later he returns to his rebellious life and to Bobastro where he gathers hundreds of Mozarabic, Muladi and even Berber supporters united against the Cordovan aristocracy of Arab origin. Hafsún went so far as to create an alternative state to the Caliphate, an embryonic state that sought legitimization of power and external recognition. At its peak, it came to dominate the territories of the current provinces of Cadiz, Seville, Cordoba, Jaen, Granada, Almeria, Murcia and, especially, Malaga, where it had its headquarters in Bobastro (Ardales), with the ups and downs caused by the constant struggle against the power of Cordoba.

When Omar ibn Hafsún converts to Christianity, around the year 898, he wins the adhesion of the population of the Malaga mountain, mostly Christian, but other important sector of his followers turns their backs on him.
In the year 891 Omar ibn Hafsún marches on Cordoba and is defeated by Abd Allah in the decisive battle of Poley (Aguilar de la Frontera). Here began his decline. He will still manage to maintain his power for a few more years, but will lose control of some of the places he controls directly or through pacts.

In 912 he arrives at the emirate Abderramán III, who decides to pacify al-Ándalus. After conquering Ecija, Baza and Salobreña, he attacks Bobastro, in an expedition where he will manage to conquer more than 70 fortresses. Attacks will be continuous until 917 when Omar ibn Hafsún dies in Bobastro fortress. His sons kept the flame of the insurrection until 928, when his son Suleyman was definitely defeated in Bobastro by Abderraman III. The body of Omar inb Hafsún was unearthed. Finding him buried in the Christian manner further angered Abderraman III, who had his remains hung on the wall of Cordoba, where they remained for years as an example to the rebels. The Hafsún clan had to take refuge in exile. Omar inb Hafsun’s daughter, Santa Argentea, is remembered in the Catholic Church as a virgin and martyr.

How to get to Bobastro Ruins

Access to the Bobastro ruins is from the Alora-Ardales road, about 2 km north of El Chorro and from the south side of THE desfiladero de los Gaitanes. One piece of advice, if you go on a trip in this area, don’t miss the wonderful Caminito del Rey, which offers you great views and an unforgettable life experience. In this page we tell you everything.

DISCOVER OUR HISTORICAL HERITAGE

Visit the remains of the mythical Bobastro Fortress, the most important cave dwelling from the 9th century in Malaga, which became the headquarters of an alternative state of the Caliphate.

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Bobastro Ruins Schedule

Tuesday   10:00–15:00
Wednesday   10:00–15:00
Thursday   10:00–15:00
Friday   10:00–15:00
Saturday   9:00–15:00
Sunday   9:00–15:00
Monday   Cerrado
Iglesia Rupestre Ruinas de Bobastro

What to see around Bobastro?

Between the regions of Guadalhorce and Guadalteba, El Chorro is a spectacular mountainous enclave in the heart of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park, an area protected by the Autonomous Government of Andalusia since 1989 for its great ecological value and its extraordinary scenic, historical and paleontological richness.

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