I’ve been to the El Chorro area before, but missed these ruins and they’ve been on my list for a while. There is now a visitor information kiosk on the small parking lay-by opposite the site. Here you can buy your 3 euro ticket and also get maps and guides about the area and information on the ancient Bobastro church and community.
Parking opposite is very limited so go off season or be willing o walk from the parking further away. Access is by a 500 metre or so path, steep in places. But the looking out from the narrow path, the view is expansive. It takes in the pine forests of the foreground, and out towards farmland, with the ancient town of Ardales in the distance, at the foot of a dramatic outcrop of rock, topped by a Moorish tower.
All along the path are panel with images, sketches and information in Spanish and English about the site and the history of the time - all very well presented.
The setting is peaceful, relaxing; really regenerative. Yet centuries ago this hidden corner of the Ardales Natural Park, close to the world-class rock climbing area of El Chorro, was once the hub of intrigue and conflict amongst the Al-Andaluz Arabic empire.
We are heading towards the site of the city of Bobastro; a Mozarabic fortified settlement established by Omar Ibn Hafsun. A military leader in the Emirate of Cordoba, he converted to Christianity and defected. He set up a base in these isolated mountains and there created, over a millennia ago, a Christian church.
Not only is the site culturally unique, but it is also architecturally unusual too. The church was built out of the solid rock, and then finished with bricks and timber. This remarkable feat of construction means that although we are now exploring the site over 1100 years later, the church remains recognisable. A good section of the carved rock remains, with amazing Islamic inspired carved arches. It clearly has three naves and a beautifully carved circular sacristy.