El Ingenio 1960

The History of Frigiliana

The History of Frigiliana

Archaeological remains were found in the Cueva de los Murciélagos (‘Cave of Bats’) in 1987

Once housed the first human settlement in the area.

Frigiliana History goes back a long time. on the river Higueron, a few dozen metres from the village, archeological remains were found within the Cueva DE los Murciélagos (‘Cave of Bats’) in 1987.

This cave is currently thought to be of crucial importance to Frigiliana. It once housed the primary human settlement within the area. it once was home to the first human settlement in the area.from about 3000 B.C. (the end of the (Neolithic period), till the Chalcolithic period or Copper Age (about 2000 BC). 

Phoenicians to the Romans

The Phoenicians were the primary civilisation to settle within the territory. very close to the village, at Cerrillo de las Sombras (Hill of the Shadows), there’s a necropolis datingfrom Phoenician times (7th and 6th centuries B.C.), of which there are solely 2 samples of this sort in Europe.

This series of tiny tombs, currently referred to as the necropolis del Cortijo de las Sombras, was discovered in 1965 by John Wilkins (Canadian former fighter pilot) throughout the remodelling of his house. He notified the finding to the authorities, and therefore the site was then excavated by professor Antonio Arribas a touch later, (see their report here where the photos were taken from).

The Phoenician pot
The Phoenician pot ,is actually an Egyptian design

The tombs consist of tiny holes dug within the ground during which urns were found with cremated remains within.

History Frigiliana
The spiral brand on the side of the Phoenician pot

Some personal effects were additionally found within the graves like brooches, rings, and bracelets, manufactured from numerous metals together with bronze and silver. The spiral brand on the side of the Phoenician pot, is really an Egyptian style, and is currently used as the museum’s logo.

The Bastulos

After this era, before the Roman invasions, there’s very little proof of occupation, tho’ what there is looks to indicate the presence of a native Iberian tribe referred to as the Bastulos or Bastetanos. The Roman writers Pliny, Strabo and Ptolemy referred to them as the “Bastulos Poenos”. They were a Celtic community living in a region named by the Romans as Bastetania, (with the capital being Basti, 5 kilometres from Baza close to Granada), a neighborhood that corresponded to the modern day provinces of Granada, Almería, yet as parts of malaga, Murcia and Jaén. These Bastulos would have been living alongside the Turdetani, additionally ancient Iberians, the successors to the people of Tartessos, whose region stretched from modern-day Portugal to Almuñecar. Adding to the combination was a Carthaginian presence within the area at the time of the Punic Wars.


The Romans began arriving in 206 B.C., and Frigiliana became a part of Conventus de Gades (modern day Cádiz), one in all four districts for the administration of justice, within the Roman province of Andalusia. The gaditanus conventus territory covered most of the coast of Baetica from Cadiz to the area west of Almería, together with Sexi (Almuñécar), and Malacca (Málaga).

At that time the village was called Frexiniusana, probably a derivation from the name of an individual that owned property within the area – Frexinius – whose identity has been lost to us down the ages. (The suffix ‘ana’, in Spanish indicates origin and property). Frexiniusana has been corrupted down the centuries to Frigiliana.

There is proof that there was a fortress designed during the time of the Romans in Frigiliana, and that in the early years of the fifth century it had been partly destroyed by the Germanic tribe known as the Vandals, who were sweeping over Spain, and would provide Andalusia its name.

The Moors

No correct village settlement came about for hundreds of years till the Moors arrived, some time after their invasion of Spain, in 711. From the ninth century the nucleus of the Moorish settlement grew up around its Roman fort, El Fuerte American state Frigiliana, later becoming referred to as the Castillo American state Lizar.

At this point Frigiliana, that was better-known in the Arabic period as Fixiana, belonged to the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, and its economy was based on the production of oil, raisins, figs, orchards, sugar cane, and manufacturing silk from silk worms.

The Arabs reworked the local agriculture through irrigation, designed partly to serve the fort, however additionally for watering the sloping rural area round the village; a procedure that also exists nowadays. Also, given the steepness, the sole means they could farm the hillsides was by carving terraces, additionally still evident these days.

It is curious that the Moors additionally cultivated massive vineyards here, given that Islam expressly forbids its followers to consume wine, however it looks that this ‘waywardness’, (including reports of drunkenness), was restricted largely to this part of southern European country, as apparently near Valencia was quite the opposite, following a much more austere life in accordance with Muslim scripture.

The end of the Moorish era

Centuries of coexistence in Frigiliana

The Moors didn’t forcibly evict the previous inhabitants of Frigiliana, there looks to be some quantity of peaceful coexistence, despite their religious variations. as an example, a couple of miles north of the village within the Cerro de Calixto, there was a eleventh century chapel where Saint Ildefonsus, (a honored Visigothic Bishop of Toledo, who had lived within the seventh century), in the photograph you can see the logo of 3 religions – the cross for Christianity, the crescent moons for Islam, and also the star for Judaism.

From the thirteenth century the village of Frigiliana was a part of the Nasrid Kingdom, the last Moorish and Muslim dynasty in Spain, founded in 1232.

After the autumn of the kingdom of Granada and through the reign of the Catholic Kings, the population continuing being Muslim and its method of life and customs didn’t change much in any respect. of course once the Christian forces first came in 1487, the chronicles say that the last Hispanic-Muslim mayor gave the castle and its grounds to the Castilian soldiers to avoid useless bloodshed. several of the villagers even submitted themselves to religious conversion and were later referred to as Moriscos. Indeed, there was a peaceful co-existence between these 3 distinct cultures – Christians, Moors and Jews – for about a hundred years. The village became the property of the Count Manrique de Lara in 1508, whose house still stands. However, the village was still effectively controlled by the Moors, who still shaped the majority of the inhabitants, though in depleted numbers.

Rebellion of the Alpujarras

As time passed, disagreements ensued because the Christians wanted more and more control over the Moors, like increasing restrictions on their religious beliefs and social practices, however principally thanks to the excessive taxes imposed upon them. In 1567 the ‘Royal Pragmatic Law’ of Emperor Philip II, keenly placed into force by inquisitor Pedro de Leza, forbid the Moors to talk or write their language, wear their traditional clothing, keep their customs, wear arms, and that they were directed to hand over their books to be burned.

The revolt started 1st within the Alpujarras in the Kingdom of Granada, reaching the town of Bentomiz, near to Frigiliana, in April 1569. The malaga conflict covered almost the total region of Axarquía and Malaga Mountains, and was inspired by numerous prominent men believing that they’d be helped by the North Africans and also the Alpujarrans. a local descendant of the governors of Frigiliana, Hernando El Darra, led many thousand rebels gathered within the fortress, El Fuerte de Frigiliana. There they successfullyresisted the primary attacks by forces sent by the governor of Vélez-Málaga, Arevalo de Zuarzo.

Unfortunately for the rebels, the governor then asked for the assistance on saturday, eleventh of June 1569 of Don Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens, great Knight Commander of Castile, whose ships were passing the area with an army of six thousand men. The Commander was already under orders from the King, Philip II, to put down the rebellion in the Alpujarras. He landed on the beaches of Torrox, and the later battle is understood nowadays as the Battle of the Peñon de Frigiliana (Rock of Frigiliana).

Battle of the Peñon de Frigiliana

The reason why the six to seven thousand Moors chose to make a stand at the Rock of Frigiliana was, of course, purely strategic. it had been a natural defensive barrier, troublesome to access and thus simple to defend. Moreover, the mountain chain behind the village, Las Almijaras, were a frontier between the zone that was already at war within the Granada region – Las Alpujarras – and those regions in the West around Vélez, at peace. If all didn’t go according to plan, they could find paths through the mountains and head into the Granada region. Besides, if help was also to come from that direction, they were at the closest point.

The Christians recruited a motley assortment to fight the Moors alongside their regular soldiers. apart from military regiments from Italy (from where Luis de Zanaga had received his orders to put down the Alpujarran conflict), there were convicts that had been let out from a gaol in barcelona, and even a group of three hundred Turkish galley rowers.

During the battle it absolutely was reported that though the 3000 Moors on top of the fortress had few shot guns or crossbows, they had several slingers, in fact so many that the stones they discharged in the air appeared liked ‘a cloud of hail’. They also inserted heavy logs through the holes in the centres of mill stones, and rolled them down the mountain with great effect, scything down the oncoming Christian forces.

But in the end the peasant army couldn’t stand up to the Christian forces, particularly because of the disciplined soldiers from Malaga and Vélez, who had played a far more effective role than the Italian regiments.

The aftermath of the Peñon battle

It was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the region. The Peñon was coated with a blanket of red blood during which more than 2 thousand Moors lay dead. Legend has it that many of the Moorish women who were fighting alongside their husbands, brothers and sons, threw themselves over the cliffs instead of be captured by the Christians once they saw all was lost. Others merely ran with their youngsters on their shoulders trying to get far from the massacre.

It is said that a minimum of 2000 lost their lives in the battle – half of whom were women, and three hundred were youngsters. Thousands of the younger men ran away to join the fighting in the Alpujarras. many afterward died in different battles, and also the remainder either escaped to africa or were captured and made into galley slaves. Finally, half of those who had stood rebelliously at the Rock of Frigiliana – largely Moorish women and boys – were sold as slaves and then given to troops as ‘spoils of war’. many went to Córdoba, Toledo and even as far as Leon.

But the Christians suffered losses too, the Castillian victors lost nearly five hundred dead and over 800 were wounded. of course it’s known that the King of Spain soonexpressed his displeasure at the Commander using his forces during this battle. Don Luis de Zúñiga ordered the destruction of the castle, as well as the burial of the men on his side who had fallen, before sailing off with his galleys to Malaga. while some Moorish bodies might have been disposed of, (most likely cremated), many would have simply been left to rot, only if nobody was left in the village to afford them correct burials. The attachment to this event is so great in Frigiliana, that this battle remainscommemorated on the day of san antonio.

End of an era

The battle at the Peñón de Frigiliana in 1569 ended centuries of coexistence between the 3 completely different cultures in these parts: the Moors, Jews and Christians. The near ghost town of Frigiliana was then repopulated by old Christians, largely from Granada and Valencia.

The Alpujarras revolt finally finished in 1571, and nearly the whole Morisco population was expelled from the previous Kingdom of Granada, and spread around Spain. however that wasn’t the end for the Moors, even those that had coverted to Christianity, because in 1609 King Philip III finally ordered their complete expulsion from Spain.

This Moorish part of the village is understood as the ‘Barribarto’ quarter. ‘Barribarto’ being a contraction of ‘Barrio Alto’ (upper quarter), a term not exclusive to Frigiliana, as different villages in this a part of andalucia use it. as well as Barribarto, the area is also referred to as the Barrio Mudejar. Mudejar was a term used to describe the Moors who stayed in Spain after the reconquest however didn’t convert to Christianity, and also to a style of architecture and decoration in Spain that was powerfully influenced by Moorish style and craftsmanship. therefore once strolling through the old quarter it’s very straightforward to turn back the clock and picture kids running through the slender streets, as men and women went to work on the fields.

Callejo del agua
Callejo del agua

There would have been a cacophony of languages spoken here, Castilian, Berber, Arabic, and Hebrew, among others. are there perhaps descendants of the Moors left in Frigiliana – or any Andalucían village for the matter – wherever they had lived for thirty generations? nobody is sure, however some say it’s extremely possible that some would have stayed and mixed with the Christians who repopulated the area.

17th to the 19th centuries, The slow return

During the seventeenth century, Frigiliana suffered from a period of inactivity with its population declining from its fifteenth and sixteenth century heights of more than 3000 inhabitants, to not much more than 100 people. The expulsion of the Moors meant that many of the local industries disappeared as well as the production of silk.

However, one of the Moors agricultural innovations, that of the growing and refinement of sugar cane was maintained, and so intensified. The business became so prosperous that they took over the largest building in the village, El Ingenio Nuestra Senora del Carmen (photo left), an old sixteenth century mansion, and converted it into a factory to refine the cane into sweet molasses. it’s still operational nowadays, and is the last of its kind in Europe. there’s currently a special occasion to commemorate the cane honey produced there, known as dia de la Miel de Caña held in late Gregorian calendar month / early may.

Moreover, from the middle of the seventeenth century, Frigiliana began to organise itself politically, economically and socially. In may 1640, the fifth Lord of Frigiliana, Don Iñigo Manrique de Lara, obtained official recognition of the village from King Philip IV. The municipality was created and also the initial population census was administered, that showed that there were one hundred sixty inhabitants at the time. however over the next sixty years the village began to expand once more, and some five hundred individuals were registered in the year 1700.

While the eighteenth century was a century of mixed fortunes in foreign policy, there was a gradual recovery and increase in prosperity through a lot of of Spain as the new Bourbon monarchy followed the French system of modernising the economy. nearby Torre del Mar experienced such a rise in business that its port was expanded in order to better ship the grape and citrus harvests to northern europe. By the end of this century and into the next, Malaga became the second most significant industrial centre of Spain, thanks to the high-class middle class that had been formed – chiefly the Larios and also the Heredia families. The growth of the sugar cane fields under the auspices of the Larios family, was of great benefit to the people of Frigiliana, Nerja and Maro.

Yellow fever

Nineteenth century wasn’t a good one for the Malaga area. It started off tragically with an outbreak of yellow fever that swept Malaga in 1803 and 1804, devastating the population. in fact the municipal government in Vélez-Málaga was so depleted that its powers were assumed by the military.

War of Independence

Then from 1808, Spain was involved in a war against Napoleon and his French forces, (The peninsular War,  British and also the War of Independence to the Spanish). In 1808, Napoleon put in his elder brother Joseph as the King of Spain and his troops occupied the country. Napoleon’s troops captured villages like Frigiliana and nearby Nerja. The French forces created coastal defences in the castle at Nerja. This emplacement and an identical tower nearby were destroyed with the assistance of British led forces in 1811 / 1812 so as to deny their use to the French occupying forces. [The sequence of events has continually been contentious, tho’ new proof helps build a more accurate narrative.

Málaga rebelled against the French troops and this era left the region in a} very unhealthy state economically once the French troops left, (around 1812). Napoleon later aforementioned that his intervention in Spain was among his worst mistakes, pertaining to it as ‘the Spanish wasps nest’ or ‘the Spanish ulcer’, that had divided and exhausted his military capability. 

The war of Independence was one of the foremost prosperous wars fought by resistance fighters in history, and is the origin of the word guerrilla in the English language, (from ‘guerra de guerrillas’ or ‘war of little wars’). 


Just as in several other villages within Axarquía, Frigiliana was subjected to the bandits that roamed the countryside towards the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1844, the activities of the bandits led the government to set up the Guardia Civil: Spain’s paramilitary national police force. several bandits were forced into the service of local land owners or the Guardia Civil itself.


In late 1884 and early 1885, 2 successive earthquakes hit the region, with an epicenter in Zafarraya, devastating several villages. [Illustration left of the after effects of the earthquake in Nerja].


If that wasn’t bad enough, the economy was further appalled by the blight that wiped out several of the vineyards in Spain

Phylloxera pest which had reached Malaga by 1876. several families were ruined as a result.

Despite all this Frigiliana reached its maximum population of 3200 in 1887, before going into decline once more.

20th century and beyond

Although the twentieth century brought a number of its advances to the previous Axarquían villages such as public lighting, the area continuing to be gripped in aneconomic crisis. One that had started at the end of the previous century thanks to the region’s inability to contend with Catalan industries, and the high price of coal.

Frigiliana street early 20th century

The country’s stability had also greatly deteriorated with the Spanish–American War in 1898, with its resulting loss of Cuba. The island of Cuba was regarded more as a province of Spain than as a colony, being a part of it for nearly four hundred hundred years. it had been also one of Spain’s most prosperous territories, and so its loss was quite humiliating for Spain. However, within the finish it had been more of a blow to Spain’s pride rather than its fortunes as large quantities of capital held by spanish people not solely in Cuba however everywhere America began to be returned to the peninsula and invested in Spain.

However, the political consequences were serious. The defeat within the war began the weakening of the country’s fragile political stability, that was still reeling after the loss of most of its colonies within the Americas earlier in the century. furthermore the money being invested was far from Spain’s south, that was still mostly agricultural based.

las bancales now calle real where bus, taxi,train and horse and cart stop

At this time, demonstrators in Frigiliana congregated round the town hall calling for ‘bread and work’. Then, beyond the hands of any politician, the village suffered at the hand of nature. The village was rocked by 3 earthquakes in 1921, 1922, and 1924, and following that, a cyclone in 1928 that caused one death, many wounded and immeasurable damage to the encompassing fields.

Agriculture within the south of Spain consisted mostly of estates where occasional work was offered to the landless peasants who perpetually struggled against starvation. after all nearly 3 quarters of them were described in the 1930 census as ‘day labourers’. And there was very little spiritual comfort for them either because thelocal clergymen aligned themselves with the ‘latifundistas’ (landowners); thus the Church was seen as a perpetuator of their oppression. alongside the landowners and therefore the clergymen, were people who were charged to keep the established order, the police. so Spain’s poor had a sense of being marginalised in society, one thingthat will shortly have serious consequences. In 1936, life in Frigiliana, along with the remainder of the country, was turned upside down within the civil war.

Spanish Civil War and aftermath

In Feb 1937, refugees from Frigiliana joined the thousands of families, youngsters and militia fleeing the area from the encroaching Nationalists. several were bombarded by Italian planes and warships on the road to Almería from Malaga, where an estimated 3000 to 5000 individuals died. However, a number of the Frigiliana refugees were saved this fate and ordered to return to their homes.

Frigiliana Maquis

The Nationalists then formed an armed ‘Falange’ (a pseudo Fascist group) within the village, and anybody connected with the Republican regime was rounded up. Some were forced onto trucks and driven to nearby Torrox, never to be seen again. The streets in Frigiliana were renamed, such as Generalísimo franco and José Antonio, (renamed againin 1986 as Calle Real and Plaza de la Iglesia).

Just as at the Battle of Peñon de Frigiliana, a nationalist military force allied with catholicism entered Frigiliana seeking to affirm the old order. They were the new reyesCatólicos eager to purge the state of disenters and make a new Spain.

The Spanish civil war ended on first of April 1939. In Frigiliana repression was swift and violent for consequent twenty years. However, the Sierra Almijara that had provided a refuge and base for resistance throughout Frigiliana’s history, did so once more for the Maquis or guerrilla fighters who continued to fight back. Regarding five hundred communist guerrillas waged a final resistance to franco, of which twenty three were natives of Frigiliana. Kidnapping, murder, theft, and robbery were frequent occurrences and also the civilian population was as frightened by a number of the Civil Guard forces as of the bandits. both would take revenge on anybody they considered unsympathetic to their cause.

Tourism and boom at last

From the 1960’s, with the gradual boom in tourism and a general rise in prosperity, several public works and improvements in Frigiliana’s infrastructure have been carried out; however always with respect to the design of the village, particularly its Moorish past. The 1970’s and 80’s were crucial within the promotion of the village, and it garnered several awards.

1960 Calle Zacatín (Frigiliana)
1960 Calle Zacatín (Frigiliana)

Meanwhile, with an eye to the longer term of the village, youngsters pursued higher education and thenceforth engaged in numerous occupations throughout the country. although several did not have to travel very far to seek out work given the economic boom that came in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, with the evolving residential touristmarket.

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