Photography Manuel Martos
It is common that each place hides legends of fabricated stories which usually are supernatural. Here, you will discover the most popular legends of Úbeda and Baeza, which have marked their history and their culture.
Going through the hills of Úbeda (Irse por los cerros de Úbeda)
This legend has become in one really used expression in and out of Spain. When someone goes through the hills of Úbeda means that this person starts to digress (to change the subject without for not reason at all) or also that this person tries to avoid answering one question talking about other thing not related at all.
It seems the origin of this expression comes from a historic event. In 1233, there was an important confrontation in Úbeda between Christians and Almohads. Just before the combat started, one of the high commands of the king Ferdinand III the Saint, Álvar Fáñez, known as “el Mozo” (the Young) disappeared and nobody knew where he went. A few hours later, once the city was conquered and the danger had passed, “the Young” reappeared and, when the king asked him where he was during the combat, he answered he got lost “in those hills of Úbeda”.
According to the legend, there are two versions of the reason he got lost: one version is that he was met in the river a beautiful Arab girl having a bath and he spent the day with her: the other version is he was afraid of the bloody battle and he did not want to fight.
The Johnhorses (Los juancaballos)
It is said that in the deep caverns of Sierra Mágina there are some strange beings hidden and known as the “juancaballo” (Johnhorses). These are half man and half steed and they were characterized by being evil, cruel and be fed with human meat. They liked to live under the sunshine.
During a certain time, the inhabitants of Úbeda were so frightened for their possible misdeeds that a relief was made on the buttresses of the façade in the Sacred Chapel of the Saviour to exorcise and, like this, eradicate the fear and beg to the divine protection. In fact, this relief is the representation of one mythological episode of the Greek literature: Hercules fighting against the centaur.
Likewise, the legend tells also that the hunters decided to kill it, but their attempts were in vain. Due to that, the council of the city offered a reward to mercenaries, but those didn’t succeed. Like this, the monster spent several years frightening the population, until a really strong prisoner condemned to die was offered to be forgiven and live as a free man if he killed the beast. Finally, the tough man finished with its life and, to avoid that other monster go outside the hideout, called the “Huerta del Caballo” (Garden of the Horse), he closed the entrance with a strong grille that still exists today.
The Christ of the Four Nails (El Cristo de los Cuatro Clavos)
In the Collegiate of Saint Mary of the Royal Fortresses there is a sooty Romanesque Christ sculpture which stands out due to the singular bent body to one side. This is the most ancient Christ of the city and, it is said he is as old as his miracles that his devoted confirm he has done. The most popular one, the reason why the body is bent, is the one of the “deeds of the widow”.
In 1850, a woman with the name of Catalina was widowed. In that period, it was normal that the husband, before his death, let his wife under the care of one family member, usually one of his brothers, as it happened in this case. On this occasion, the husband asked his wife to not marry him.
Once he was buried, the brother of the deceased man, Miguel, started with the proposals to his sister-in-law. The young woman knew perfectly the reputation of drinker and scrounger of the brother of her deceased husband. Thinking about the promise to her husband and the life that this man will give her, she refused emphatically to other relationship different from the normal ones between brother and sister-in-law. Nevertheless, Catalina had to bear with the constant and boring gallantry of her husband’s brother. After Catalina denied this continuous gallantry, Miguel though up a plan to force her to get married with him.
One day, Miguel sneaked in the house of his sister-in-law with the intention of steal the property deeds of the house. She hid them behind the image of the Christ of the Four Nails. Next, he went to the courts to accuse his sister-in-law thinking up that she would accept his proposal of marriage once she realised she was evicted and desperate.
After the accusation, the judge arrived with two bailiffs into the house of Catalina. After being asked for the deeds, she looked for them all around the house, but she didn’t find them. When the bailiffs carried her to the courts, Catalina asked for entering in the Church of Saint Peter (in which there was the Christ and nowadays is closed), with the intention to find a miracle from the Christ of the Four Nails.
Once she was in front of the image, while she was praying crestfallen, she started to hear the creak of woods. She raised the view and saw how the body of the Christ was arching to the right and dropped the deeds to the floor. Miguel stayed speechless and, feeling the fear of the divinity, confessed to the judge what he had done. Due to that, the judge ordered his detention.
The Hospital of Santiago
According to the legend, when the sward of the relief of Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor-Slayer), placed in a niche on the top of the main entrance of the building, fall off, Spain will be again invaded by the Arabs.
The woman confined in the wall of the House of the Towers (La mujer emparedada de la Casa de las Torres)
At the beginning of the XX century, after some works of restoration in the basement of the House of the Towers a woman confined in the wall was found. These rests were assigned to Mrs Ana de Orozco, a young lady recently married, which disappeared overnight in the middle of the XVI century. It is said that her husband, the old man Andrés Dávalos, powerful gentleman member of the Order of Santiago and councillor and commander of the city, feeling betrayed and jealous due to the beauty of Ana, didn’t hesitate when he punished his wife. He dressed her with nun’s habits, put a rosary on her hands and confined her alive.
The Twelve Lions
At the hard and long battle of Algeciras where the Moors and Christians of Úbeda were fighting, the Moorish king suggest the Christian king that twelve men from both armies fight in a duel. The Christian king accepted the challenge and ordered his generals to recruit the bravest twelve gentlemen.
Some days after, the duel took place and the Christian gentlemen won with effort and, between them, Pero Gil. Due to that, the king gave to Úbeda the titles of “Muy Noble” and “Muy Leal Ciudad” (very noble and loyal city), taking as coat of arms of the city those twelve lions.
The Male Nun (“La Monja Varón”)
The current Palace Juan Vázquez de Molina was, for a while, monastery of the Mothers Dominica. It is said that in front of the doors of this palace a Moses basket was found with a little baby. They thought about what to do with this baby for days. The months were passing and they didn’t make any decision. Nevertheless, the nuns were growing more and more fond of the boy. For that reason, one day they decided to keep him on the convent, but there was a problem; they couldn’t admit men so they dressed him as a maid.
However, with the decease of the nuns who gave him refuge, the new ones didn’t know about the secret. One day, one of them discovered without any intention the male body and accused him to the Mother Superior. He insists telling them that he is a woman like them. Despite his pleas and tears and his excellent behaviour, he is expelled and brough to Sabiote. It is said he died a after a short time alone in a house in ruins, maybe for the sorrow or for the hunger.
The Pixie Collegiate Church of Saint Mary of the Royal Fortresses.
The image of Our Father Jesus Nazarene is placed in one of the chapels of the Collegiate of Saint Mary of the Royal Fortresses since 1868.
A Good Friday, day when this brotherhood walk around the city, a seven years old child went with his father, who carried the float, to see the procession coming out the temple. The child wanted to carry the float when he grew up as his father. Given that there were a large number of assistants, the child got lost and he appeared already dead under the float, with an angelic smile.
The legend says that his spirit swarm lively in the naves of the church in company of a choir of witty little angels, watching over the image of the Christ Nazarene.
The house of the Hanged (Gradas de Santo Domingo street, 38)
It is said that there was in Úbeda a young lady who was courted by important lords of the surroundings because she was really pretty and intelligent. Nevertheless, she was the fiancé in secret of the gentleman Pero Gil
Gil went to fight against the Moorish and, for long years, the young lady didn’t know if he was alive or not. However, she was loyal to her love and refused all the proposals of marriage, even if she was continuously pushed by her parents and friends to choose a suitors. Between them, there was Rodrigo Chaves, feudal lord who had the privileges and friendship of the councillor of the area.
In view of the negatives from the lady, one night, the guard of Mr. Rodrigo attacked the family house and kidnapped the young lady. Even if the family went to the councillor, given the friendship existent with the kidnapper, he didn’t help the family.
Then, the father went to Algeciras, where Mr. Pero Gil was, and Gil decided to come back to Úbeda in order to ask for justice once he heard about the horrible news. First, he went to the councillor of the area, who didn’t offer his help, after he took the law into his own hands.
One day, Pero Gil and a group of gentlemen, between them the king Peter I, raided the kidnapper’s house. There, they demanded Mr. Rodrigo to free the young lady. She was emaciated, dishevelled and her clothes in tears.
The young lady begged the king to kill her because she was made a dishonour for her family. The king had a better idea. He ordered the marriage between the young lady and the kidnapper and, after the ceremony, he ordered the kidnapper to be hanged from the tallest window of the house. After his execution, the king gave her to Mr. Pero Gil.
Under the criminal’s body, the king ordered to write the phrase which follows: “This is the way how the king punish his enemies”.
Tower of the Cathedral of Baeza
The tower of the Cathedra of Baeza has a column in each corner, so one of them is hidden by the building’s façade. One of the three visible columns is drilled. According to the legend, a person old enough to get married who passes his/her hand on the top of the column a full moon night would get married in a maximum of one year.
Iberian Bulls of Guisando (Toros ibéricos de Guisando)
The town of Baeza, to commemorate the victory of the Julius Caesar armies against those from Pompeii under the orders of Tito Labieno in the battle of Munda (year 45 b. C.), built some stone bulls placed in the jurisdiction of Baeza near the banks of the river Guadalimar. Those bulls have stayed in this place for 1300 years until the moment when, during the Arab domination, the Emir Abén Jucef , after defeating the Christian in the battle of Alarcos, decided to move these sculptures to Cebreros or place of Guisando (Ávila), that is the reason why the bulls are named like this.
During the last years, by chance, an identical bull to those of Guisando has appeared at the archaeological site Gil de Olid, located in a terrace of a meander in the river, next to the centre of Puente del Obispo, locality close to Baeza.
The miracle of the twelfth legion (El milagro de la legión 12ª)
The Christian religion had left a deep mark on the society of Baeza that the local inhabitants prayed for their army to make them win the different battles they fight in. Like this, Marco Aurelius won against the Sarmatas, Quedos and Marcomans. Due to that, the legion of Baeza was called “the Fulminatrix” (the fulminator).
Cross of the “Appearance” (Cruz de la “Asomá”)
The Croos of the “Asomá”, placed at the exit of Baeza through the road of Begíjar, was erected in memory of the legendary “miraculous cross”.
According to the popular memory, the siege to Baeza produced the cut-off on the supplies of water and quick attacks which took the lives of some and undermined the spirit of the rest. Just a few of Christian where those who resisted waiting for the help of Alphonse VII, which wasn’t arriving. Not more than ten men remained in the city and some women so they decided to escape stealthily.
But, to postpone the fall of the city, they turned around the horseshoes of their horses to make think the Moors there were ten horses going into the city and not leaving it. They did it like this and the Moors fell into the tramp because they didn’t attack the city this day imaging they have rallied the troops.
On the other hand, the Christians camped at night out of danger. Suddenly, the lookout gave the warning note after seeing the shade of a shining cross. All of them saw it and, thinking it was a divine sing, they came back into the city.
The Moors though they were rallying the troops again and, once they saw they were the Christians, they ran away. Since this moment, the city was declared Christian. In addition, the Cross of the “Asomá” was erected. This miraculous cross appears also on the coat of arms of Baeza.
Échale un vistazo
Dos Ciudades Patrimonio de la Humanidad