The village of Niebla (which means fog or mist in Spanish) is situated on the shores of the river Tinto 30km from Huelva. The town is surrounded by pre-Roman walls which have been declared an Historic, Artistic Monument.
Archaeological finds show that the land has been farmed from the end of the Bronze Age and that the Phoenician’s traded in silver around the 8th century B.C. The silver was mined nearby and the river Tinto used to send it to the sea port.
Trade in silver was lucrative and over the next two centuries stone walls were built around the town for protection. Artefacts from this period show that the residents were wealthy owning jewellery and luxury items.
Tombs and quality weapons have also been uncovered indicating the importance of the local leaders and the political stature of the town. Eventually however the silver ran out and Niebla once again relied on its agricultural background.
During the Roman era Niebla, then called Ilipla from the Tartesios name Ilípula, remained a commercial and political centre. Importantly, the road between the Roman city of Itálica (near Sevilla) and the mouth of the Guadiana river, passed through Ilipla. Further proof of Ilipla’s political and commercial weight is the fact that coins were minted here. The Romans also left artwork, mosaics and aqueducts.
By 713 the town of Ilipla was under Muslim control and was part of the territory ruled by the Emirate of Córdoba and further fortifications were built. Under the Muslim rule the town was now called Lebl and for the next few centuries it prospered. In 929 the Emir of Córdoba proclaimed himself Caliph, this was the heyday of the Muslim rule.
However after years of infighting the Caliphate of Córdoba fractured into a number of independent kingdoms and in 1031 Lebl became part of the kingdom of Sevilla.
After the conquest by Alonzo X in 1253 the land was redistributed among the Christian settlers. The town remained an important strategic point because of its Roman route to the Portuguese Algarve.
In 1369 the town of Niebla gave its name to the to a new county, Condado de Niebla, founded by Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán who was given the territory by King Henry II for faithfulness in the war for the throne and Guzmán became the first Earl of Niebla.
During the 15th century a lot of construction took place in Niebla due to the efforts of the 4th Earl of Niebla. However, this would be the last building work for a long time to come.
From the 17th century Condado de Niebla began a gradual decline in its population caused by feuds. At the same time nearby municipalities and districts gradually gained their independence disbanding the county. Today much of its territory is included in the wine district of El Condado.
The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 which so seriously affected the west of Andalucía wreaked sever destruction on Niebla robbing it of much of its historical and artistic wealth. Nevertheless in 1982 the walls of Niebla were declared an Historic, Artistic Monument.
Today Niebla depends primarily on its industry unlike many other municipalities in the area where agriculture predominates. It has several factories and an industrial transport logistics centre and several metalwork shops. There are also a number of craft workshops such as ‘The Empleíta’ where work is carried out with dried leaves of the palm, drums are also made in the village.
The Walls of Niebla
The defensive walls of Niebla have been awarded the Cultural Property designation and their origins are steeped in history. Two pre-Roman enclosures have been found which date back to around the 9th & 5th centuries B.C.
The Walls have been altered and modified in both the Roman and Muslim eras and also through later conquests of Niebla. They have 48 square and two octagonal towers and access gates to the city.
The castle is located inside the walls of Niebla and the Guzman fortress is on one side of these walls.
The rectangular castle was built in the middle ages with eight differently shaped towers and two main enclosures. The interior is divided into two sections with a courtyard surrounded by columns.
Santa María de la Granada
The 13th century church was built over an Arab mosque and still retains its minaret tower from the eleventh century.
Iglesia de San Martín
The Iglesia de San Martín has several architectural styles from different periods in history. Paleochristian and Visigoth remains have been found within its walls.
The Moors built a large mosque here, which according to tradition, was handed over to the Jewish community by King Alfonso X and was a synagogue before becoming a Christian church. The church was declared an Arquitectónico-Artístico (Artistic Architectural) monument of Huelva in 1922.
The naves were rebuilt in the 14th century with Mudejar designs. The double horseshoe arched brick doorway can still be seen and dates from that period. A new Gothic apse was built in the 15th century.
In October 2012 Niebla Town Council, in a bid to further develop heritage tourism, launched a tourist train that visits the historical sites and monuments of the town. The train has a unique route that departs from the castle gate and runs through the old suburb of la Ronda de Jerusalén. It also takes in the medieval fortress towers and the church of San Martín.
Oficina de turismo de Niebla
Castillo de los Guzmanes
959 36 22 70 - 959 36 38 21
Town Hall Address
Ayuntamiento de Niebla
Plaza de Santa María, 1
Tel: 959 363 175
© 2012 John Powell DiscoverHuelva.com