Occasionally, you stumble upon a village that is secluded, remote, off the beaten track with surprising allure and little-known assets. Hornos del Segura is one such place. Hornos will welcome you with open arms and take you to the stars
Hornos del Segura
The small serrana village of Hornos can only be approached from the north or south. From either direction the first sighting of this town, sat high on a limestone pinnacle, dominated by its castle, is breath taking.
Hornos is in the Sierra Segura, the northern part of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park, in Jaen province. The village dominates the top end of the valley of the Rio Guadalquivir, now flooded by the Tranco de Beas reservoir. The history of the village is typical for this area.
Altar piece Hornos
The earliest signs of habitation date back to the Neolithic period, there is a necropolis that has been dated to 4830 BC. The following centuries saw the people in the area influenced by the Argaric society, the Tartessians, the Bastetania tribe and the Romans. There are indications of an Iberian settlement in the southern part of Hornos that was later built upon by the Romans.
During the Muslim occupation, the town expanded and gained a tower and a wall. These, together with the precipitous rock, made La Madinat de Furnus almost impregnable.
Nevertheless, during the Christian army advance during the 13th century, Hornos was taken in 1239 by troops belonging to the Order of Santiago and became part of the huge Encomienda de Segura that they controlled.
The tower and walls were strengthened during the 14th century to protect the inhabitants of Hornos from incursions from nearby territories still occupied by the Muslims. A gradual increase in population that peaked in the 19th century, failed to destroy the Mediaeval charm of the ancient town, a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys, many bedecked with flowers. Today the population is less than 700 people.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
In the early part of the 16th century, the local church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion was built. This, on the exterior, fairly plain building, conceals a magnificent Renaissance altar piece. The church also housed an artifact from the Muslim period, a vase.
The Hornos Vase
The Hornos vase is similar to the ‘Gazelle Vase’ in the Alhambra museum, with blue and golden glazed motifs over a white enamel background, with a decoration arranged in vertical strips separated by blue lines alternating Kufic (an Arab calligraphic) inscriptions and floral themes with atauriques (plaster decoration) in the neck. Only one handle is preserved. Nowadays the Horno vase is located in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid, a very rare and important piece.
The big question is; ‘How did such a rare and precious object from the Nasrid era appear in Hornos?’
Hornos is only a small mountain village. It is however, fascinating, with the usual labyrinth of streets lined with whitewashed houses in a typical Muslim fashion. You will find a couple of bar/ventas and miradors overlooking the valley and Sierra de Segura. Foreign tourists are the exception here and the local inhabitants welcome them.
It is during the late 20th and early 21st century that the citizens of Hornos realised they had a unique opportunity.
Hornos is at an altitude of 865 metres above sea level and well away from other towns and villages. The air is clear and, with a few modernisations to the street lighting in the village to reduce ambient light, the view of the nighttime sky is unparalleled in the Sierra de Segura. A cosmolarium was built within the castle walls.
The castle we see today was built during the late 13th century and early 14th century by the Knights of Santiago on the site of the previous Muslim castle. The large keep now houses a museum that concentrates on the development of astronomy and the exploration of space from the building of Stonehenge to the observatory at La Palma.