Santuario de La Fuensanta

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Santuario de La Fuensanta

The building that houses the santuario, or shrine, evokes memories of life on the frontier. The crenellated tower and the robustness of the walls hark back to times in which the dangers of war were a constant factor in the daily lives of the residents of the village of Moraleja. It was the village of Iznatoraf, however, from which the settlements now known as the Sierra de las Cuatro Villas (“Mountain of the Four Villages”) originally grew.

Today, although there are still a number of olive trees growing around the santuario, in the past this area would have been thickly wooded with a number of clearings for cultivation. The nearby village of Iznatoraf was the most important settlement in the Settlement of Cazorla north of the River Guadalquivir.

Little by little, the dangers of war receded and more people came to live in the area, settling in areas that lay beyond the walls of the fortified village and spreading until it became necessary to separate them from the municipality. In 1396, Moraleja became independent from Iznatoraf and the village was known henceforth as Villanueva del Arzobispo.

An old legend recounts that during the times of Moorish occupation there lived a group of Mozarabs in Iznatoraf who were greatly devoted to the Virgin Mary. The wife of the king demonstrated a certain amount of interest in Christianity and helped the group whenever they requested it; but when her husband, who was called Alimenón, found out, he ordered her to be taken to the woods and for her hands to be cut off and her eyes gouged out, so that she might die in absolute isolation. The woman begged for help from the Virgin Mary, who appeared and made a spring gush forth so that the woman could clean her wounds. She was miraculously healed, and the Virgin Mary instructed her to return to her husband so that he might see the miracle and the two of them be baptised in the spring and raise a temple in honour of the Virgin Mary.

The Santuario de la Virgen de la Fuensanta is one of the oldest shrines in Spain and it is known that it was an important place of pilgrimage in the frontier areas as early as 1291. The building consists of three Gothic-style naves, although some Romanesque traces still remain, along with superb examples of medieval Mudéjar tile work. The statue of the Virgin Mary is kept inside a baroque chamber dating from the 17th century.

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