Teba, worth a stop after all?

la estrellaMost of our guests – and we – take the Teba ‘short cut’ when we go to Malaga, or return. So just a place to pass by. Still… From many kilometers away one can see the ruins of the town’s castle ‘Castillo de la Estrella’ (the castle of the Star). As far as I know only one pair of guests ever visited and weren’t that impressed, a pity as it turns out when you dig in to its history.

Teba sits on a river bed. The Castle is of course the highest point in town. Its remaining tower is quite impressive. You drive up to the town centre and follow the signs to the La Estrella, climbing up a series of steep, winding streets to reach a parking area next to the wall. La Estrella played an important role in the Muslim-Christian war. Built in the twelfth century under Almohad rule (when they were building La Giralda and the Torre del Oro in Seville), the fortress used to have 18 towers and three gates (one of them was octagonal and another, square). In the late seventeenth century, the church inside was dismantled and the materials were used to build a new church in the centre of town.  La Estrella was probably built somewhere in the 10th century by the Moors. During the 12th and 13th century, under Almohad rule, the castle was strengthened and enlarged.

In 1330 La Estrella was besieged by the Christian troops of Alfonso XI, King of Castile. At that time the castle was known as Hisn Atiba to the Moors and simply as Teba to the Christians. When Muhammed IV, Sultan of Granada, reacted by sending an army led by a Berber general, Uthman bin Abi-l-Ulá, to relieve the defenders, the Battle of Teba ensued in the valley below the castle. This battle was won by Alfonso and La Estrella fell into Christian hands. Alfonso ceded the castle to the Order of Santiago.

Fighting in the army of Alfonso were also several foreign knights, Scottish, English and Portuguese, led by the Scottish Sir John Douglas, the ‘Black Douglas’. He carried with him a silver casket containing the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Robert the Bruce had died the year before and had asked his friend and lieutenant, Sir James Douglas, t0 after his death James should take the king’s embalmed heart and bear it with him on a crusade, thus fulfilling the pledge that Bruce had been unable to fulfil in his lifetime. Complying to his king’s last wish James Douglas, together with some 30 other Scottish knights, had offered his services to Alfonso. However, the Black Douglas and most of the other Scottish knights died during the Battle of Teba.

Early August, there’re Scottish Days in Teba. The two-day celebrations include games, cultural activities, and festive events, drawing many visitors from the British community on the Costa del Sol and Gibraltar. The town becomes a Medieval village and the street market sells local foods. There’s Celtic music thanks to the Gibraltar Scottish Pipe Band Association and the Teba Music Band. (Source: the Town Hall website).

So, not a bad story after all and worth while visiting in August?


About The El Guarda Posts

We are a Dutch couple - Miranda and Hans - that has after having searched for a small hotel to buy in several countries around the world we came across El Guarda and fell in love with it straight away. We would love to share our excitement for the place and its surroundings with our guests and invite you to stay with us for some days when travelling through gorgeous Andalucía.
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3 Responses to Teba, worth a stop after all?

  1. Anko Lubach says:

    Hi Hans!
    Thanks for bringing us up-to-date with this background story explaining the fact of the Scottish link of Teba! I really love these local stories because old ruins really “come to life’ as a result! On http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk i came across some interesting info about the life of our “hero” ….

    Sir James ‘Black’ Douglas:
    The Black Douglas or Good Sir James Douglas was a staunch ally of Robert the Bruce. He became a skilled and battle-hardened knight, known for his courage and his ferocity.

    James Douglas was born in 1286. The young James was sent to safety in Paris. His father, Sir William Douglas the Hardy, was a supporter of Wallace who died a prisoner in the Tower of London when his son was 12 years old. The Douglas lands were taken by Edward I and given to Robert Clifford. James Douglas became the squire of William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews. When Lamberton took Douglas to the English court in 1306 to petition for the return of his birthright Edward I reacted angrily and Douglas was forced to return to Scotland empty handed.

    The 20-year-old Douglas met Robert the Bruce on the road near Moffat. Bruce had killed Red Comyn and was on his way to take the throne. Douglas offered to fight alongside Bruce. They fought a guerrilla war against Edward’s men and their own Scots enemies.

    In 1307 Douglas harried the English forces in Douglasdale. His attack on the English garrison in his family seat, Douglas Castle, had become legendary.

    Douglas and his men hid with the help of a local farmer until Palm Sunday. Most of the English soldiers left the castle to attend mass at the nearby church. With a cry of ‘Douglas! Douglas!’ the Scots attacked. The English soldiers that survived were dragged back to the castle’s cellar. There Douglas had them beheaded. Their heads were left atop a heap of broken wine casks and food stores. The gruesome pile was set alight and Douglas had the wells salted and poisoned with the bodies of dead horses as the castle burned.

    The massacre became known as ‘the Douglas Larder’.

    Douglas and small force took Roxburgh Castle in 1314. They crept up to the castle under cover of night and scaled the walls with rope ladders on hooks. The captured castle was ‘slighted’ so it could not be used in future by Edward’s men.

    James Douglas fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. Bruce made Douglas a ‘knight banneret’ (a knight who could lead men in battle under his own banner) on the morning of 24 June. After Bannockburn, Douglas cut a bloody swathe across the English border – burning crops and villages, and terrorising the local population. It is said that mothers in the north of England would sing to their children:

    Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye,
    Hush ye, hush ye, do not fret ye,
    The Black Douglas shall not get ye.

    To the English he was ‘Black Douglas’ – a terrible bogeyman. To the Scots he was the Good Sir James Douglas – a great lord who became one of the Bruce’s most trusted lieutenants.

    When Bruce lay dying in 1329 he asked Douglas to take his heart on crusade. James Douglas and a handful of Scots knights took Bruce’s heart to Spain where Douglas died fighting the Moors at Teba. His bones and heart were returned to Scotland and buried at St Bride’s Kirk, at Douglas, Lanarkshire. (source: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk)

    So, indeed Hans, not a bad story after all and definitely worth while visiting! 😉

    Anko Lubach.

  2. Excellent post. I certainly appreciate this website. Keep writing!

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