Over the old entrance door to the Ermitas (The Hermitage) a brief inscription summarises in just two words what the visitor will experience in his or her visit: “Holy Solitude“. Right after entering, in the entrance hall, some inscriptions make us think: “Stop your walking and observe / that this place invites you / to die in life / to live in death“.
The hermits who had lived in this desert of hermitages since the beginning of the 18th century, thanks to Cardinal Salazar giving them the land, disappeared from this place in 1958, when their religious model started to decline, and at the end of that same year, the last of them died, Juan Vicente de la Madre de Dios. It was at this moment when the bishopric decided to donate the land to discalced carmelites, the religious order which was closer to that way of life.
But the memory of the hermits, although absent, is still present in the place, and it is fed by eschatological texts and the peace of the cemetery inspired by the high cypresses pointing at the ceiling. A stoned path, called of the Cypresses, leads us to the hermitage along a gentle slope. At the end of the walk there is a red bricked skirting board as a base for the simple Wayside Cross, erected “in remembrance of the Excellent Federico Martel de Bernuy, Count of Torres-Cabrera, and of the protector of this holy retirement“. Under the plaque there is a small alcove with a skull next to an inscription that reads: “As you see me, I saw me; /as you see me, you will see yourself. / Everything stops right here. / Think about it and you will not sin“.
Before getting to the church, a great land with palm trees catches our attention, where we can highlight the Hermitage of Magdalena, erected in 1798 “under the devotion and with the expenses by Excellent Duke of Arión“, according to an inscription. It still preserves the stick and bed of its last tenant, as well as other objects used by the hermits. The hermitage has two niches, which, after being occupied, were bricked up and finally whitewashed without including any name. It is surprising that there is always an open niche, waiting to be occupied by another deceased.
“Silence” is the letter of introduction of the humble but at the same time attractive church, whose entrance has simple Neoclassical lines. It has a small Latin-cross-shaped floor, with a vault over pendentives and marble pavement. The temple has three altars; the Main Altar, from the beginning of the 19th century, substitutes a former one which was burnt in a fire. It has a half-bodied Virgin of Bethlehem with Baby Jesus in her arms at the front. On both sides of the transept there are two more altars, one dedicated to San Pablo (Saint Paul) and San Antonio Abad, and the other one to San José (Saint Joseph). Behind the apse of the temple, they have preserved the room used by the hermits as Chapter Room, with a beautiful niche with the image of the Virgin of Victories.
When going out, we go down a gentle slope until reaching a new plain, known as the Balcony of the World, a magnificent viewpoint from where the whole city can be seen, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful views of Córdoba. A massive statue with a great pedestal is at the front of the place: the Monument of Jesus’s Sacred Heart, carved in 1929 by sculptor Lorenzo Coullaut Valera from Seville.
Near the area, on the right, we can see a steep cliff popularly known as “Rodadero de los Lobos” (Cliff of the Wolves) where there is a big white stone cross over a pedestal. Next to it, there is a surprising armchair, also made of stone, which was commissioned to be put there in 1803 by Pedro Antonio de Trevilla, who later became Bishop of Córdoba between 1805 and 1832. He was easily remembered as he banned the processions in Holy Week for several years. Going back to the armchair, it is known as “Sillón del Obispo” (Bishop’s Armchair) for obvious reasons. According to tradition, marriageable girls would sit there hoping to find a future husband.
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