Valderredible, a rock art paradise

Few cities and municipalities in Spain can give themselves the privilege of having cave architecture. The town of Valderredible, south of Cantabria, several examples of different typologies of rock art are spread with several churches and hermitages. Due to this fact the area of ​​Valderredible has been sometimes called “Iberian Cappadocia”. In fact, this Cantabrian municipality from 2017 celebrates Cave Architecture Day on 8 of July, with the aim of making the culture and art of the valley more visible and closer to citizens.

This phenomenon of cave architecture was born due to the existence of sandstone rock together with the ease with which this stone is drilled. Throughout this area of ​​the upper Ebro, a good number of anchorites who reproduced a Christianity that had previously developed in the deserts of Egypt were installed.. In Valderredible there are several examples of rock art that we are going to detail below.

Hermitage of Arroyuelos

Hermitage of Arroyuelos
Hermitage of Arroyuelos

It is accessed through the CA-275 road that connects Polientes with Escalada (Burgos), taking the detour in front of San Martín de Elines. The nucleus is located on the left bank of the Ebro, on an outcrop of sandstone rock and overlooking the páramo de la Lora from the front. The place name seems to refer to the "place of the small streams". It appears as Ruyuelos in the Calf of the Behetrías de 1350 and as Arroyuelos from the end of the 16th century (Council Ordinances, 1595).

It consists of two plants with development in height. In the lower one, the ultrasemicircular apse and the contra-apse stand out. In the Arroyuelos style, the characteristics of Mozarabic architecture are clearly appreciated in the systematic use of the horseshoe arch, in plan and elevation, and in the complication of excavated spaces, which allows a clearer dating than in the rest of the hypogean constructions of Valderredible, around the 10th century.

Cadalso cave church

Cadalso cave church
Cadalso cave church

It is located in Cadalso, Valderredible, Cantabria. The cave church of Cadalso is located on the land of the town of Ruerrero, and it is the only cave church, next to the church of Santa María de Valverde, that remains open to worship. It stands out for its simplicity, It is small and has a single nave with a rectangular plan roofed with an irregular barrel vault.. It is accessed through a portico with an upper arch. It has two windows, one rounded and one rectangular.

On the outside of the rock, In its upper part there are two tombs dug in stone, and probably among the vegetation you can find some more.

Formerly on top of the cave church a small bell tower was located on a ledge carved on the stone of the entrance. Later in the years 70 a reform was made and the small bell tower was moved a few meters from the church.

Santa Maria de Valverde

Santa Maria de Valverde

The best option to get to know the rock art of the valley is to travel it from the west. After visiting the caves of El Cuevatón and Peña Horadada, in San Andrés de Valdelomar and San Martín de Valdelomar, respectively, where presumably communities of hermits settled, Santa María de Valverde is reached (and the cave architecture interpretation center). Known as the cathedral of cave churches, incorporates a Romanesque belfry and a medieval necropolis. The temple, where services are held on a regular basis, It has two naves and has a carving of Mary breastfeeding her child, one of the few that survived the destruction decreed by the Council of Trent in 1564.

Semirupestre hermitage, built in a cave partially closed on one side by ashlars. It consists of a single plant formed by a rectangular nave and a quadrangular apse, separated by a semicircular arch, all carved in the rock.

It consists of a single nave, elongated rectangular plan with a protrusion in the middle of the roof. An irregular semicircular triumphal arch gives access through two steps to the quadrangular headboard covered with an imperfectly realized oven vault.. The flat door, located south, it is remodeled with ashlars. On both sides of it two openings open: one is factory with lintel, plus the other is carved out of the rock. The floor of the hermitage is rocky with some patches of slabs. It is perceived that a part of the pavement was removed in an effort to find "treasures".

But in this valley of Valderredible there are more rock architectures such as the Rupestrian Hermitages of the “Tobazo” in Villaescusa de Ebro, the Necropolis of “Saint Pantaleon” in La Puente del Valle, Hermitic complex of the “Cuevaton” in San Andrés de Valdelomar or the Hermitages of “Peña Castrejón” Y “Peña Horacada” in San Martín de Valdelomar. Interesting cave routes to stop along the way and visit the magnificent restaurant scorching Cantabria on the road to Polientes. This Cantabrian restaurant has grilled meat specialties made with organic coconut shell charcoal.

The best hiking trails to enjoy the valley of Valderredible

Valderredible Valley is crossed by the Ebro River, that crosses over 30 kilometers from entering encañonado by Barcena Ebro and widens forming meanders in the central vega, until he leaves in the vicinity of Villaescusa de Ebro being fitted in the Gorges of Ebro. The richness of the valley suggests that human settlements in this area concentrated primitive era.

That is why this valley can be enjoyed in many ways, because you can go by many different hiking routes and each of them treasures its scenic beauty under a common denominator: nature. Then, We describe some of the highlights for hikers.

Route Tobazo

Known for its famous waterfall, Tobazo route begins at the last town of Cantabria, Villascusa. In a first journey of about 12 minutes following the GR99 along the Ebro arrived at the foothills of the idyllic area known as ” the Tobazo”. The setting is spectacular, limestone outcrops, Waterfalls, steep climb where we get to rock together.

Route Tobazo, one of the most beautiful routes paisajísitca Valley

The spring is fed by a karst modeling leading to the waterfall that is formed limestone tufa that gives the place its name. Toba is a rock formed by the precipitation of limestone coming dissolved in water rising from the upwelling. This porous stone has been widely used for construction in the area. It is a porous rock and very manageable.

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Another image of the Ruta del Tobazo

The assembly eremetical found above, caused by the hand of man and natural formations, It leads us to imagine the extent that they could have this set of hermits who settled in this place back in the fourth century.

Route Mardancho

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Mardancho Route is one of the simplest of all given their plain and cirucular route

Considered one of the easiest routes of all, since most of his career is in plain, and also one of the most historic so involved in this route Mardancho, which is Panero is next to the two rivers that join the Ebro in Valderredible. Note that this path is circular and ends at the starting point.

In this first installment we left the crag moorland of Lora. In just 30 minutes you can see the silhouette of the Gothic Church of Susilla., known as Cathedral Valderredible. Its size and print dominate the village. It is the sixteenth century, although it is very reformed. At this point the road the trail official notes that follow Susilla way but still keeps a secret in the bottom of the village. Following a path we will find a gem of rock:” The cave complex of Santa Maria de Peñota.

Noting some stately houses Susilla lined road to the shrine of Our Lady of Mt.. this stretch, in slight rise, It is still a very simple route, It takes us through an environment where oaks are taking center stage. In just 20 minutes we reach a crossroads where we signaled the ascent to the chapel.

After a climb we reach a chapel of the sixteenth century, renovated in the years 60, which you are in a privileged place. We stayed a while watching the excellent view we have, the parrot. Then we headed to the last stretch that leads to the Romanesque church of Villanueva. The twelfth century, only preserves the apse of the time. Sus canecillos, capitals and windows stand out. They say they're made by the same hands as those of the Collegiate Church of Cervatos. His visit is a must and is one of the jewels of the Romanesque of the area.

At the end of any of these routes, You can enjoy a rest stop along the way and have a drink or eat in restaurant Scorching Cantabria, specializing in grilled meat Anoja own rearing veal and Iberian pork bait field, a cozy place, where you can enjoy all of nature offered by the Ebro.