Alcalá la Real (Jaén)

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Alcalá la Real (Jaén)


Alcalá la Real is a town with a population of almost 22,000 within an area of 262 km², located in the province of Jaén, in the autonomous community Andalusia.

The town gained economic and political importance in 713 when the Moors occupied this territory. Alcalá la Real retains numerous archaeological remains that are testament to that period, which the town believes are important to preserve and promote, especially La Mota fortress. Due to its appearance and geographical location, the town was called “al-Qalat”, meaning “the fortress” in Arabic, which influenced its current name.

After the turn of the thirteenth century, Alcalá la Real would experience a period of instability due to its location with constant battles between the Christians and Moors. Finally, it was conquered for Christian territory by Alfonso XI in 1341 and was directly administered by the king, who established a royal patronage abbey there and converted it into his headquarters from which he would undertake the conquest of Granada.


Alcalá la Real’s most emblematic monument is the La Mota fortress, where the town was located until the sixteenth century. The Santa María la Mayor Abbey Church is notable for the tombs that can be observed in the church grounds, as well as the fascinating audiovisual exhibits that narrate its history. The Torre de la Carcel and Plaza Alta are also noteworthy.

The new part of town was gradually constructed beyond the town walls and is based around Calle Real and El Llanillo, where the Abbey Palace, Consolación church and the La Encarnación convent can be found. Other interesting civil buildings are Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the Casas de Enfrente or the Pilar de los Álamos fountain. On the outskirts, at the foot of the La Mota fortress, the San Juan church and La Trinidad church are worth visiting.


Holy Week is Alcalá la Real’s most important event. The rituals that take place combine street performances and traditional processions.

The performances are a fusion of two traditions: Autos Sacramentales or mystery plays (religious plays) and ingenios, festive religious performances of biblical passages reflecting the life, passion and death of Jesus Christ, which were once a way of disseminating the Catholic doctrine.

The town criers, dressed in mourning, traditionally play an important role, as they declaim compositions that mix poetry and prose, each with their own individual musical feel and intonation with Alcalá la Real’s streets and squares as the backdrop.

In addition to Holy Week, Alcalá la Real has other traditions worth witnessing, such as the “Fiesta de la Candelaria” during which Our Lady of Mercy is offered two pigeons in thematic costume and a cake, the Day of the Cross, and the colourful Corpus Christi celebration.