Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Benagil gets its name from the Benicassim archeological site located on the base of the mountain. It’s considered a holy site by the Moors, since it is the site of a ritual ceremony to determine the status of a man’s marriage (he is under the curse of having 14 wives).
Located on the Costa Almeria in Andalusia, Benagil sits atop a broad valley that slopes gently away from the sea to the coast. This gives the area a natural fallow feeling with a deep green topography and sparse vegetation, lending it an evergreen beauty.
Built by the Moors from the 10th century and destroyed by the Christians during the inquisition of the Middle Ages, Benagil’s bold architecture was unapologetically attuned to nature. The imposing town centers were often characterized by beautifully proportioned courtyards and gates, whose solid stone walls enclose courtyards of stone and bronze.
Benagil was the most important city in the Moors empire at the time of its destruction, and surrounded by stunning religious architecture. (Handout/JF Loflin)
An attempt to imitate Mediterranean architecture — like those in Seville, Estepona and Murcia — is prevalent in Benagil’s walled courtyards. Such structures are incorporated by artists all over the country, as evidenced by one of Benagil’s most famous residents, Julio M. Murillo de la Cruz.
Murillo, like many Spanish artists of his time, made his mark across a number of artistic disciplines, including modernism and symbolism. He forged a distinctive style that focuses on the overall look of a building as an abstraction, rather than on its specific design or color.
By keeping each architectural element invisible, the color and scale of every element — whether stone or metal — is fundamentally changed, making each part of the building look merely like part of a larger piece.
Here the individual components of Benagil’s stone ‘marbled halls’ are seen as individual spheres shaped like a deer. (Handout/JF Loflin)
For many years, Benagil’s most popular daily ritual was a tango in a courtyard at the city hall. In the tradition of Spanish dancing, a rhythm is set in motion by a song, usually sung in Spanish and by hand. The rhythm begins with the applause, creating the almost dreamlike ambience of a Spanish dancehall, or taquería.
Some tango positions are more decorative than others, however, the position “perro donoso” — where the dancer holds his head with both hands — is a favorite for those wanting to really let loose and kick around.
The streets of Benagil offer architectural value as well as cultural ones.
Constructed around 1560 by an architect named Pedro Gumina, the central building remains while five of its wings — representing the areas of the city where Benagil was established — are now covered in oriental tiles. The city is made up of 15-hectare of architectural features with 3,200 stone buildings and 4,500 simple timber ones.
High-rise buildings are sprinkled throughout the town including the signature fortresses, while for the more observant, Benagil’s mosques, central cathedral and famous domed synagogue are the foremost monuments of the area.