Located at 435 metres over the sea level and on the southern side of Sierra de Almijara mountain range, Frigiliana village faces the Mediterranean, bordering north and west with Cómpeta municipal territory, also west with Torrox and finally, east and south with Nerja lands. Its highest peaks are Sierra de Enmedio (1,164 m.), Pico del Fuerte (976 metres) and Los Monederos (937 metres); its lands are crossed by rivers Chillar, natural border with Nerja, and Higuerón. Frigiliana territory has a total extension of 39.74 square kilometres and a population of about three thousand people. Its privileged location, only 6 kilometres from famous Nerja, with its magnificent beaches and breathtaking Caves, 56 km from Málaga city and about 2-hour-drive to the beautiful city of Granada.
Frigiliana lays on the very end of Wine and Sun Route, one of the cultural-touristic routes of the region and important project that the Andalusí Legacy has undertaken, which has included Frigiliana in one of its other routes, the Idrisi Route that starts in Algeciras, crosses the Costa del Sol and ends up in Granada city, thus joining both towns that have the singularity of being the first one (Algeciras) to be occupied by the Arabs on their arrival to the Iberian Peninsula and the last one (Granada) to be left after the Catholic Monarchs’ conquest of the Nasrid Kingdom.
A bit of History
Being in the near of the Caves of Nerja, where palaeolithic human remains are evident, experts deem that also in Frigiliana there were inhabitants during that period, as archaeological excavations have also found ceramic and lithic implements in the open air and at Cueva de los Murciélagos (Bats Cave). The Phoenicians left testimony of their presence in the Tejar hills, known as the Cerrillo de las Sombras or Shadows Hill, where a paleopunic necropolis (7th and 6th century) has been found. Nowadays the objects are on exhibition at the Museo Arqueológico del Apero (the Archaeological Museum).
The Roman civilisation also left its mark in the ruins of the fortress and in coins from the 1st century that have been found. The name of the town is deemed to have a Latin origin, coming from the name of an unkown Roman, Frexinius, and of the suffix "ana", which together with a proper noun means “town”, so originally "frexiniusana" would mean - town of Frexinius.
After the Roman domination, the town of Frexiniusana was known in the Arabic period as Fixiana. The Arabs were the creators of the present old town structure of the village and it would be in this period that the settlement was consolidated around a castle erected in the 11th century on the top of the cliff but unfortunately long gone. The village’s importance would grow in this period until it reached a remarkable influence in the neighbouring towns.
After the Christian troops conquered the territory in 1487, the Moorish inhabitants of Frigiliana lived in peace with their Christian neighbours, until in 1567 the Royal Pragmatic Law of Emperor Philip II and undertaken with ardour by inquisitor Pedro de Leza, forbode the Moors to wear arms, speak and write their language, wear their traditional clothing and keeping their customs and habits, and they were made to give all their books in to be burned. Thus, the revolt started first in the Alpujarras and went on hastily as it were a fire by the whole Granada Kingdom and reaching the town of Bentomiz on April 1569, encouraged by prominent men such as the moorish Almueden, sedellan Andres el Xorairán and captain Abén Audalla, who arrived in Canillas de Aceituno to negotiate the liberty of Almueden’s wife, who was held captive by a Christian man. Believing that they would be helped by the north africans and the alpujarrans, almost the whole region of Axarquía and Málaga Mountains headed towards El Fuerte peaks. Unfortunately for them, on 11th June 1569, Don Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens aided by an army of 6,000 men, started the battle which would mean the Christian victory, known nowadays as the Battle of Peñon de Frigiliana. At present, the chronicle of this battle can be seen on 12 glassed ceramic mosaics in Frigiliana old town.
In the 17th, Frigiliana starts to organise itself politically, economically and socially. In May 1640, the fifth Lord of Frigiliana, Don Iñigo Manrique de Lara obtained the recognition of Villa to the town from King Philip IV. Then, only about 160 inhabitants populated Frigiliana, reaching the maximum population in 1887, totalling 3,200 souls but, the population decreased because of epidemics and the earthquake of 1887.
Places that are a must
Urban Frigiliana is considered as one of the most genuine Arabic-origined of all those found in Malaga province. Its layout follows an axis from the Plaza de la Iglesia (Church Square), with paralel streets and lanes interconnected to one another by covered passages that sometimes are full of steps, presenting gates that when closed, isolated whole areas, reinforcing the village defence. Experts deem the arabic farmstead to be at the place at present known as Castillo Alto, nowadays industrial area of the municipal territory. At the Old Town entrance stands a building which used to be the Royal Silo of the Antique Granaries, dated from 1767, and the Palace of the Earls of Frigiliana, from the 16th century, which later would be turned into a sugar cane refinery.
San Antonio Parish Church was built in 1676 by the Lords of Frigiliana, the Manrique de Lara family and reformed a hundred years later. It consists of three naves which are separated by pilasters and covered in a wooden armour up to the transept, where there is a semi-spheric vault crowned with a lantern. The front is rather simple presenting an arch stretched over a shield of Fray Alonso de Santo Tomás. Inside there is a wooden sculpture of San Antón which dates from the 18th century and an altarpiece of the Sacred Heart.
Apart from the already mentioned archaeological vestiges that great civilisations have left us, we must add the roman remains of El Fuerte and Castillo de Lizar (Lizar Castle), a medieval fortress which stood on the top point of the village.
If there is a dish that identifies Frigiliana, that is the goat’s kid, which is prepared in many different ways, although the most deliciuos one is with garlic sauce or with almond sauce. The stews, typical from Axarquian cuisine, have in Frigiliana a may varieties that make them different from those of the rest of the region. Thus, superb stews and soups are made, such as fennel soup, sprout soup or the Easter broth, made with cod, egg omelettes and flour damped in cane honey, being the usual menu on Easter nigthts.
The already classical “migas”, consisting of bread and corn flour, sided by fresh fish and vegetables, red sausage and black pudding for the bravest. When it comes to confectionery, the most typical ones are the “arropía” (milk caramel), “marcochas” (pop corn damped in cane honey), sweet potatoes in cane honey and many more.
We must not forget that all the ingredients used on the towns cooking are based almost exclusively the local produces, such as olive oil or cane honey. Wines, known in the whole region as “vinos del terreno” or terrain wines and equally produced locally are the perfect company for the delicious dishes.
Artisany and Shopping
As well as crafted products, such as “jarapas” (rugs) or tapestries, we must remark ceramic objects and vegetable fibre derivatives, olive branch swords, tiles, painted glass, and many more, not forgetting the splendid local Muscatel wine.
Festivals and Celebrations
The first one takes place on January 20th to honour the village saint patron, Saint Sebastian with a procession and fireworks.
During Easter, outstands the procesión of La Soledad and the Apostles feet washing, as well as a representation at the Church, and in which the characters use masks and costumes from the 18th century.
On May 3rd, the Fiesta de la Cruz de Mayo (Day of the Cross of May), indeed the most colourful of all and that honours the flower season. Residents and visitors are smothered with cold metas, omelettes, arropías, marcochas, migas and other delicacies, always washed down with the splendid local wine. In the afternoon, the Town Music Band, a group of verdiales singers and the Town’s Choir and Dances Group visit in turns each one and every cross, paying homage to the neighbours’ efforts and, once they finish, the kermesse starts at the Plaza de la Iglesia to go on until late at night.
On June 13th, the San Antonio de Padua’s romary takes place. San Antonio is co-patron saint of Frigiliana, and with the thundering noise of the fireworks, the five-day celebration starts presenting all kinds of amenities.
Saint John is celebrated on 24th June, keeping the tradition of “sanjuaneo”, that is, going to the countryside and eating the deliciuos “hornazo” (a kind of pie). Other festivities that take place in Frigiliana are the Dance Festival, the Summer Concert and the Three Cultures Festival. Finally, on 7th September, Candlemas is celebrated on the countryside, closing thus Frigiliana’s festivities.