Turismo Prerrománico > Countries > España > ORATORIO DE VALDECANALES


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Historic environment

The Valdecanales rock oratory, also called Valdecanales hypogeum, is a hermitage or monastery of Visigothic origin located in the municipality of Rus, in the province of Jaén, about 7 km from the municipality of Rus (Jaén), very close to the Cortijo and Valdecanales stream. It is located near the Giribaile reservoir, close to the Valdecanales stream and also very close to the old Camino Real from Toledo to Granada. More specifically, we found it excavated in the rock of the Fuente de la Alcobilla hill.

Its construction is dated between the 6th and 7th centuries AD. and it is the only set of Visigothic hypogea in southern Spain. Discovered by Rafael Vañó and Cesáeo Pérez in 1968.

The Christian hermitage movement originated in the East from the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, and spread throughout the Roman Empire.

The hermit leaves the population centers in search of solitude, because his isolation in caves in places far from urban centers allowed him, on the one hand, to get away from idolatry and temptation and , on the other, subdue spirits and demons in their own terrain, all through prayer and mortification of the body.

It was precisely during the government of the Visigoths, specifically during the 6th and 7th centuries, when the transformation of the peninsular hermitage movement took place until it became the first monastic movement of which monumental remains have come down to us.

The challenge of a hard spiritual life and the fame of “miraculous” of the ascetics, will generate admiration in the people and will unite around them disciples and pilgrims, in addition to those who saw in these communities the possibility of achieving prestige and a minimum of living. This is the way in which the hermit’s refuge, and the scene of his exploits on the peninsula, is transformed into cenobitic and monastic forms.

We cannot forget, furthermore, the influence that the proximity of important populations or frequently traveled paths could have had on the transformation of hermitages into monasteries or monasteries.


The complex is made up of three caves of different dimensions excavated in a layer of sandstone. The three are very close to each other. The first cave (A) would be the main room, whose façade has an arcade, carved directly into the rock, with about 10 blind arches in total, horseshoe-shaped, and measuring 1.40m. the diameter of the arch and at a height of 5m. Some of them preserve the original decoration in the shape of a scallop, palm or flattened shell with 10 leaves with a rounded tip and whose common center coincides with the arch. The dimensions of the façade give it an aspect of grandeur. This space is large enough to accommodate a relatively large gathering of people.

Inside cave A, we find the space divided into three naves in which rope decorations are preserved. The function attributed to this space is liturgical. Of the three rooms into which cave A is divided, one of the largest with a rectangular plan stands out, while the two smaller naves on both sides have a circular roof. From the naves the entrance to two smaller niches in the form of apses is allowed. The three vaulted naves are separated transversely by arches.

The second cave, Cueva B, which is also important and size, is very close to the main one. It has a quadrangular plan and also has a vaulted ceiling. Next to it we find a second circular-shaped chamber, possibly a side chapel that could have been used as a baptistery, since its dimensions and shape make it suitable for housing a baptismal font.

The third cave, C, is further away from the main one, possibly because it would be the residence of the hermits who were in the place. Likewise, it has a rectangular and vaulted plan. This room is closer to the water spring and its interior layout indicates its suitability as a home.

Neither in cave B nor in C do we find the same decoration as in the main cave, which seems to indicate that the function of the main cave (A) would be a public oratory, and the other two would clearly have a private function.

Although it is considered the only one in the area of the upper Guadalquivir that is currently preserved from this period, we can find some similarities; For example, in the Archaeological Museum of Mérida, Visigoth gates with decorative motifs similar to those preserved on the façade are preserved. Some other examples that we could compare with the rock hermitage of Valdecanales are that of Siete Altares in Segovia, San Baudelio de Berlanga or San Millán de la Cogolla.

In addition to the exceptional historical wealth of the complex, its uniqueness related to the scarcity of similar spaces in the area, its great aesthetic value is surprising, partly related to the natural environment in which it is located. The strong erosion suffered by the hearth of the oratory at the foot of the arches is related to the use of the space in recent centuries, since it has been used as shelter for shepherds, huntsmen and woodcutters. This departure and entry of cattle is what has caused this wear, however, we cannot forget that having had a use has also led to its conservation.

Rafael Caballero and Rubén Lot for URBS REGIA


Other interesting information

It is open to the public permanently
Entrance fee: Free



VAÑO SILVESTRE, R., 1970: “Oratorio rupestre visigodo del Cortijo de Valdecanales, Rus (Jaén)”, Madrider Mitteilungen, 11, 213-222.
DE NAVASCUENDES Y DE JUÁN, J.M., 1970: “El oratorio de Valdecanales (Jaén)”, Boletín de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 31, 82-84.
RIU RIU, M., 1969: “Cuevas-eremitorios y centro cenobíticos rupestres en Andalucía oriental”, Actas VIII Congreso de Arqueología Cristiana, Barcelona, 5-11.
HIGUERAS MUÑOZ, M.; PÉREZ VILLAESCUSA, M.L., 2016-2017: “El eremitorio de Valdecanales (Rus, Jaén). Una propuesta de protección, intervención y puesta en valor sostenible”, Alcazaba, 16-17, 55-74.



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