Loja is situated in the heart of Andalucia on the western side of the province of Granada. It is an attractive town with a population of around 22,000. Loja is connected by a railway station and is only about 35 minutes’ journey from the airports of Granada and Malaga.
The beautiful landscape around Loja consists of rolling hills and fertile fields. The heights of Loja range from 487 metres in the town area to 1,615 metres in the Sierra de Loja mountain range. The town is divided in two because it straddles the banks of the Rio Genil, earning it the name “The Town of Water”. The River Genil has a large number of tributaries which stem from the numerous springs in the area. Due to the abundance of water in the area, the land is extremely fertile and produces many different fruits, cereals, olive oil, pulses and vegetables.
Loja, which was initially grouped around the protecting ancient fortress, has grown to the north and west, climbing along two mountain sides; Hacho, in the north, and Sierra de Loja, in the south.
The climate is mild and fairly dry with temperatures ranging from above 40°C in the summer to -5°C on the coldest days. The prevailing winds blow from the east and west. The east winds are known as Solanos and these are dry and cold in winter but very hot in summer.
The History of Loja
Although much of its artistic heritage has been lost, there are still traces of Loja’s remarkable historical past.
The monk Fray Juan Seco, wrote a story about how Loja was founded in 2,163 B.C. by Tubal, a legendary grandson of the biblical Noah. Tricolia, Civis, Illipula Magna or Illipula Laus, among many other names, underline the interest shown by different people in discovering the origins of this town throughout the centuries.
The first historical evidence of human settlements discovered in the town dates back to the XIth century BC, within the final period of the prehistoric cultures of the Bronze Age in the south-eastern area of Andalusia. Later, the commercial contacts with the Phoenician colonies established along the Mediterranean coast of Granada and Malaga began a period of development that reached its peak in the VIIth century BC.
Loja became a remarkable urban settlement under the Islamic power. Medina Lausa, as it was called for the following seven centuries, was to become a military stronghold. It played a key role in the defense of the Vega of Granada, the plain, fertile area along the river valley, from Loja to Granada, which was the natural access to the capital of the Islamic kingdom. Before the town surrendered to the Christian armies in 1486, it already had well defined urban features and important buildings.
The XIXth century saw the historical course of Loja through two particular milestones: the peasants’ revolt of 1861 and the figure of General Narváez. As a precedent of the revolutionary movements that were to come later in this decade, the peasants’ revol, led by Rafael Pérez del Álamo, saw the town occupied by revolting forces for five days. This was an ominous sign of the desperate situation of peasants and share-croppers oppressed by the power of the local gentry.
The XXth century brought a relative decrease in the importance of Loja on a provincial level while it saw lower relative growth when compared to other towns in the province of Granada.