Brief history of Alcalá de Guadaíra

3rd BC - 4th AD

Roman Period

5th - 8th centuries

Visigothic period

8th -13th centuries

Andalusi Period

13th - 15th centuries

Late Middle Ages

From 16th century

Modern Alcalá

Prehistory

In Alcalá de Guadaíra, human presence dates back to 80,000 years ago and has developed discontinuously since then.

Like today, 80,000 years ago Los Alcores was located on the eastern edge of the Guadalquivir valley, but with a completely different landscape. The entire lower course of the valley was a wide maritime gulf, bordered by the foothills of Aljarafe (west) and Los Alcores (east). On the terraces there was abundant raw material for primitive stone tools, which explains the presence of carving areas that have come down to us in the form of archaeological sites.

It was not until the Chalcolithic period (III millennium B.C.) when the settlement became permanent, through the first settlements, among which the settlement of the Mesa de Gandul stands out.

For several centuries, there was a succession of settlements and indigenous societies, until the arrival of Phoenician traders in the Gulf of Guadalquivir, who established relations with the settlements of Gandul and Bencarron.

From the 6th century B.C. onwards, the end of commercial contacts with the eastern Mediterranean turned Tartessian society towards its internal resources (agriculture and livestock), giving way to the Turdetan society.

This period ends with a growing Carthaginian presence in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, reflected in the military control that led to the Second Punic War (219 – 201 B.C.E.). The Carthaginian presence in the Alcalá area is usually pointed out for the Gandul settlement, through the presence of a treasure of Carthaginian coins found in the site.

Neolithic Sites

In the area of Alcalá there are few Neolithic sites, all of them located to the south of the current municipality, in the vicinity of the Guadairilla stream.

Chalcolithic Sites

The most important enclave during the Chalcolithic period is located at the Mesa de Gandul. This is a large group of megalithic burials, made with large stone slabs that cover circular chambers dug into the ground, which are accessed through a covered corridor: Cueva del Vaquero, Dolmen de la Casilla, Cañada Honda burials…

Bronze Age Sites

The Cerro del Castillo settlement was walled with circular huts inside. Its development lasted until 1500 B.C., when it was supposedly destroyed, leaving the hill apparently uninhabited for several centuries.

Phoenicians, Tartessians and Punics

In Gandul and Bencarrón there are some princely burials, as well as an extensive funerary area that tells us about this period in which the Tartessian natives coexisted with merchants and agricultural settlers of Mediterranean origin: the Phoenicians.

Ancient History

After the Roman conquest, the area of Alcalá was included in the province of Ulterior Baetica, with its capital in Corduba (present-day Cordoba), and regional capital in Hispalis (present-day Seville).

The most outstanding feature of the Roman period is the complete reorganization of the agricultural economy, especially from the 1st century B.C. onwards, through the introduction of the villae system.

Along with these rural settlements, urban centers also developed in the surrounding area: the great urban expansion of Carmo (present-day Carmona) took place.

The Mesa de Gandul was also urbanized for good, extending its walls and reusing the surrounding funerary area, with monumental tombs such as the Circular Mausoleum. Despite this urban importance, we do not know the name of the Roman city of the Mesa de Gandul.

Cerro del Castillo would also have been occupied in Roman times, possibly with a minor settlement.

Roman Sites

In the area of Alcalá there are numerous archaeological sites that indicate the possible presence of a Roman villa. These include the Torre de la Membrilla site and the villa located in the vicinity of Pelay Correa, with mosaic areas and productive spaces.

Another settlement of some importance was located on the current road to Morón, in El Rosalejo, where an important deposit of amphorae, ceramic vessels used for the transport of agricultural products, was recovered.

Roman infrastructures

Starting from Hispalis, the road to Antikaria (now Antequera) passed next to the Mesa de Gandul, with a route similar to the current highway between Seville and Granada.

The Romans channeled water from the Santa Lucia fountain (next to the Guadaira River) to Hispalis through a complex system of subway galleries.

Visigothic period

From the s. IV a.C. the Roman world changes in many aspects: society, economy, culture… The Baetica province ceased to be important in the agricultural trade of the Empire, and the urban economy declined in favor of a progressively ruralized society.

Gandul remains as an urban enclave, with a continuous occupation at least until the s. VI a.C. We have no evidence, however, that the occupation of Cerro del Castillo is maintained, and the number of rural sites from this time is also decreasing.

During the Visigothic period (6th – 8th centuries A.D.) the settlement of some of the agricultural centers of the Roman Low-Imperial period was maintained. Among the sites of this time, the Hacienda la Armada or Casilla Guadaíra stand out , places where bricks decorated with geometric impressions, characteristic of this period, have been found.

 

 

Roman and Visigothic site

The site of Santa Lucía, next to the Guadaíra River, is an agricultural settlement between the 4th and 6th centuries A.D., in which the presence of an extensive funerary area stands out, with burials “Roman style” mixed with some examples of Christian worship.

A singular finding is the inscription on stone dedicated to the Visigothic king Hermenegild (564 – 585 A.D.), which mentions the civil conflict that confronted him with his father Leovigild.

Andalusi Period

After the Arab-Berber conquest in the 8th century, the area of Alcalá would be integrated into the dependent territory of Ishbilia (present-day Seville). It is precisely during this period when we have the first written references to Alcalá de Guadaíra (Qalat Yabir), although all of them are quite late.

The circumstances of this military enclave are well known: in 1161, as part of the Almohad offensive against Qarmuna (present-day Carmona), a military camp was set up in Qalat Yabir. Possibly there was some previous fortification, but it is now when the core of the medieval fortification is built, even with some unique additions such as a hammam (bath) for the garrison of the fortress. After the Almohad victory, Qalat Yabir would remain as a tax fortification, in which the surrounding farmsteads annually delivered the tax to the state representatives.

Andalusian sites

Together with Qalat Yabir, other settlements of certain importance (all of them fortifications) arise in this final moment of al-Andalus: Marchenilla, near the road to Mawrur (present-day Morón) or the Torre de la Membrilla, next to the Guadaíra and the road to Antequera.

Water

The importance of Qalat Yabir as a fortress in the surroundings of Seville was reinforced by its role in the control of the water supply to the capital from the 12th century onwards.

In 1172, by order of the Almohad Caliphate, the old aqueduct and water channeling originated in Santa Lucia, which from this moment on would supply Seville practically until the 19th century.

Late Middle Ages

Alcalá de Guadaíra surrenders to the invaders commanded by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1247. Initially, the fortification of Cerro del Castillo would become one of the bases from which the Castilian monarch launched the siege of Seville, which would end up being conquered in 1248.

From written sources we know that King Ferdinand himself had already carried out reconstruction and expansion works on the “castle”, laying the foundations of the powerful late medieval fortification.

From the late thirteenth century, Alcalá de Guadaíra would become dependent on the Council (formerly the City Council) of Seville, responsible among other things for appointing the successive governors in charge of the custody of the castle.

Between the 14th and 15th centuries, Alcalá de Guadaíra developed an important agricultural economy, centered on the cultivation of wheat and olives. The production of cereals boosted the milling industry in Alcalá de Henares, so that during this period numerous mills were built along the course of the Guadaíra and its tributaries (San Juan, El Algarrobo), in addition to reusing some existing mills from the Andalusian period.

In the 15th century, Alcalá de Guadaíra was already one of the most populous towns in the vicinity of Seville, with a powerful castle, numerous inhabitants, a solid agricultural economy and a flourishing processing industry.

The population

After the foundation of 1280, the settlers settled on the Cerro del Castillo, outside the fortification. From this moment on, the town of Alcalá would continue to grow throughout the late Middle Ages (14th and 15th centuries), around the neighborhoods (collaciones) of Santa María and San Miguel, both of which were walled during this period.

Castilian wars

During the noble struggles linked to the coronation of Isabella I of Castile (1474-1504), Alcalá was a battleground between the opposing families of the Ponce de León and Guzmán. The castle would be taken by the Ponce de León between 1471 and 1477, being used as a base from which to harass Seville (held by the Guzmáns). After the “Marchenilla peace”, the castle would return to the Castilian Crown.

 

Modern and contemporary age

From the 16th century onwards, Alcalá de Guadaíra underwent an important transformation: the medieval Villa within the walls (Santa María and San Miguel neighborhoods) was extended outside the walls, while its interior was progressively abandoned due to the isolation that the walls gave to the Villa, which made communications and supplies from the outside difficult.

Throughout the 19th century, Alcalá de Guadaíra consolidated its position as an agricultural town on the outskirts of Seville, playing an important role in the agricultural supply of the capital. This economic development is related to the importance of the olive and cereal farms.

At that time, the bakery industry of Alcalá developed greatly, with a large number of tahonas (bread bakeries) registered in the urban area, and the creation of new mills.

A key factor in the development of this industry and its commercialization would be the arrival of the railroad to Alcalá, starting in 1873, which would come to be known during the 20th century as the “Tren de los Panaderos” (Bakers’ Train).

 

The new neighborhoods

From the 16th century on, new neighborhoods would form the core of today’s Alcalá. From this time on, most of the new settlements are located in relatively low areas, along the roads leading to Seville, La Campiña and the rest of Los Alcores.

One of the first neighborhoods outside the walls was that of Santiago, on the eastern slope of Cerro del Castillo. Other developments from this period are the San Mateo and San Sebastián areas, further away.

During the first third of the twentieth century, a series of popular neighborhoods would emerge around the center of the city (the “Barrio Obrero”), as opposed to the relatively more affluent homes that were concentrated around the axis of La Mina street, or recreational developments of the Sevillian middle class such as those located in the area of Calderón Ponce.