miércoles, 11 de septiembre de 2013

Natural Heritage of Valencia and Valencian Community: A Visit to "Les Agulles de Santa Agueda", Benicasim and castellon, Official Tourist guided Visits.

This summer we had the opportunity to guide a mountain group to "Agulles of St. Agatha" in the natural park of Desierto de las Palmas.

 The amazing surprise come early for everybody because of its micro-reserve of Mediterranean flora from one side, to the other for the most remarkable religious past about the presence of the order of Carmel since ancient times with poetical names. As the word "desert" which alludes to the soul in mystical language struggling to meet God in solitary places for praying, known as hermitages in the mountain. And the last reason because of the mixture of pink and grey stones that gives to it an special colour during the dawn break and sunset with splendid overviews of the Mediterranean Sea from this natural Platform
Bahía de Benicassim desde el Bartolo

The name of the highest peak, "bartolo" (729mt) owes its name to the brother Bartolomé. One of the most famous monks who lived here, of which it is said he used to enjoy during springtime the landscape at the top and have a nap or siesta.The second important formation are Santa Águeda needles"with its pinkish and reddish forms that give a particular ghost charm by its presence next to the intense blue of the sea and the soft green of the palms and Mediterranean plants. This pink-colour formation comes from the Triassic, about 250 million years ago, as a conglomerate of Red stones (rodeno) resting on grey slates. Its pyramid shapes, pointed cusps and angled slopes formed by Triassic red and pink sandstones makes them so striking and responsible for its name of Agulles (spires).

Pink finger-like agulles

Organ-tube agulles

The name Santa Agueda was not given by a geologist but by an imaginative carmelite order religious man who lived once in the area. Santa Águeda was a martyr of Catania, in Sicily, in the first centuries of Christianity, in the mountains of Sicily. He was born in Palermo towards 230aD, a fervent Christian with whom he felt in love Quintian, Governor of Sicily. Agueda fled to Catania but Quintilian captured her and applied the torment in her body. Among the instruments needles were used to destroy the breast of the poor Virgin. San Peter appeared in her cell in jail to heal her. But she finally died February 5h of the year 251. According to some witness Etna volcano erupted one year later at the same day. In the vicinity of les Agulles is located an Hermitage in honour of two feminine saints, the hermitage of Les Santes,dedicated to Santa Lucia and Santa Agatha,restored in 1617 by the bishop of Cabanes, a nearly town.. 
Hermitage of Les Santes

 It was a priest of Cabanes, who recommended the Carmelite order to found in the desert of las Palmas around 1698. Saint Lucia is the patroness of a healthy sight and Agatha, a patroness and advocate of women. Some festivals area dedicated to St. Agatha in the Iberian Peninsula confirming her role as defender against any abuse concerning gender equality, as in Castile where ladies are given the batons for a day.

We finish this blog talking about the origins of such curiosity name as Agulles of Santa Agueda Spires of Saint Agatha). Twin chest-shaped mountains are common in the Iberian Peninsula. In this case, should it be a religious member who baptized them as dedicated mountains to Saint Agatha to relate them to the nearby Hermitage. And the form of "needles" of course remind us the instruments of torment with which Sicilian executioners wanted to deprive the santa of her feminity. If we look from the agulles to the Bartolo's mountain we can observe that the peak recalls as the head of the Virgin while the needles should look like a body lying down towards the calmed waters of the Mediterranean sea while receiving her martyrdom.    

The big spire

Smaller spire formations

The Monte Bartolo, 200 meters high, gives us amazing views around the 180 km of the Valencian Gulf from the river Ebro mouth at north mouth to the Montgo mountain at Javea to the south . In front of us the silhouette of Columbretes Islands. Behind us the first Hermitage ruins and the current Carmelite convent. A joy for the senses. A real trip to cultural Valencia and Castellon.

Roman arch at Via Augusta

Jose Vicente Niclos
Tourist Official Guide, Pt. Of Apit

Vicente Sos Babyat, El valle de Miravet y “Les Agulles de Santa Agueda” (sep. Del Boletín de la Sociedad Castellonense de Cultura t. xxxv e. octubre -Diciembre 1959.