Rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva


No one is surprised if we tell you that we are lovers of the authentic and invulnerable over time. In fact, the logo itself with that Indiana Jones hat refers, in part, to that spirit that many of us have inside and that sometimes makes us feel that we were born in the wrong century. That afternoon in Arredondo we were looking for a Hermitage but we only heard the locals talking about a cave lost in the mountains. At that time we did not know yet that the Rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva it was a treasure ...

We enter one of those places that make us breathe mysticism in your rooms ... and more if you visit them completely alone

In search of the rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva

In a remote enclave near Arredondo, taking advantage of the limestone overhang of one of the many caves that nature leaves in this area, history tells us that some Christian settlers sought their gathering in the mountains fleeing the dominance of Al-Andalus by Muslims.

There we headed with the car, direction Socueva.

Socueva may not even reach the category of town. It is just a mountain area where several houses without reasonable logical organization are connected by a bad road which ends in some posters next to the Ermita de la Magdalena

Although the path narrows, and the locals speak of a cave, it seems that an asphalted road still continues between the houses towards the cave hermitage of San Juan de Socueva. Maybe with old tourist intentions?

Hardly and by steep slopes that a bus could not climb, we reached a kind of esplanade where the road ends. A closed gate indicates the direction to follow, although I do not invite the less daring too much ...

We climb a stretch of what should have been an access, now hidden by the vegetation, which leads us to the limestone wall of the mountain. What could our ancestors of interest find in such a place?

At one point, large rocks strategically placed on a karst wall end in what appears to be a small entrance finished in a tile roof. !We have arrived!

The Rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva is shown before us, isolated, abandoned to its fate... emanating halos of spirituality as we approach before the only silence of nature

A cave hermitage of S.IX with a story to tell

There were many who fled to the mountains. Some escaping death, others looking for a place of prayer and recollection where they can cultivate their own vocation. We have seen them before in the fascinating Monastery of San Jorge de Coziba near Jericho in Palestine, the Church of San Simeón in the ill-fated Syria or Chak chak, cradle of Zoroastrianism in Iran, embedded in a cliff, and the end was always the same

What led the friar or hermit here in Spain to occupy these caves? It seems thatCantabria has more than 50 hermitages and churches of this type whose enclave was chosen between the 8th and 10th centuries, although more oriented to the Valderredible Valley. We are very far from this place so perhaps the relationship is not so clear in this case.

All of them sought to escape the influence of the conquest of the Peninsula in the Al-Andalus era, and the Cantabrian valleys were conducive to it. The typology was the same, take advantage the morphology of the rock to camouflage itself in the landscape and avoid being discovered For the Islamic expansion. And then we enter!

The Church or Hermitage of San Juan de Socueva presents that rock character that takes advantage of an existing cave to settle. Under the roof we saw before, and where we entered very slowly something fearful of what we are going to find, and the state of the place, we discovered a true wooden atrium still preserved although in poor condition. On its left it still has remains of what should have been the place to light fire and maintain the temperature of the place

He altarpiece, from the 19th century, is a historical jewel of incalculable value that, although very deteriorated, could be perfectly in any museum, it is the perfect piece that gives that unique atmosphere of places where you feel an explorer who enters his own "Petra" finding his chalice. Two candles, small images and a bowl to leave a donation, complete the simplest Christian symbology that accompanied this place in times of more intense vocation

Surely its location and orientation are not casual. The cave is closely related to San Juan Bautista and although today suffers the erosion of the passage of time and the roots of the fig trees that accompany it, ancient excavations discovered elements inside that served to date it as well as to confirm previous occupations in the Paleolithic age. Did it happen by chance or did the cave already have a special energy?

A small door-shaped cavity gives way to the most interesting part of the visit ...

Inside the cave of the cave hermitage of San Juan de Socueva

We have dreamed on many occasions with moments like this, "discover" treasures in all our trips and, although it is not real, enter such unadulterated places For the massive tourism that we have found these days in Eastern Cantabria has served to recover that spirit as we were willing to "crawl" inland

A very deteriorated frame embedded in the rock, a recognizable structure of carefully placed stones and a clamping beam topped with stone and a rejostra, give communication with the last room.

The light enters through a flared window creating a beam in a last room finished in an arch. I have read that there are those who believe that it may be of Visigothic influence, although it would dismantle all sense of its dating. How much mystery! As if that were not enough, here is the altar !! of Mozarabic influence? !! Does all this make sense?

A small book, which looks like a space for a candle and a figure complete a building declared Cultural Good but included in the red list of Heritage in danger.

No one is coming yet. We are alone, and we believe that few people should pass through this place ... this treasure. A place on which one should put at least one eye, because it retains the magic that few places in the world enjoy and that we had the privilege of knowing today, while we retrace our steps leaving that atrium behind and what looks like an old door away on one of the sides of the Hermitage, close to the height that rises above the cavity that gives access to the cave

While we return to Arredondo we cannot stop thinking about how many incongruities still to fit. Possibly this hypothesis formulation is part of the poetry of these enclaves, without which they would not conserve that atmosphere of energy that only certain places collect ...

Practical information useful for the visit

How to get to the rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva

Although the indications are diluted as you approach, there is very good signaling from Arredondo towards Socuevo and even from the rock hermitage of San Juan itself.

If someone prefers to use a map to access, we leave the exact location below ...

Arredondo is located just 15 minutes (12 km) from Ramales de la Victoria on a road in very good condition.

Schedules and prices of the visit

No schedules, no prices. We are facing one of those unique places that remains under the respect of the people for their Heritage. A simple fence separates the access road from the makeshift parking lot. A donation will always be welcome

Is the climb hike difficult?

No, just 10 minutes for a stretch of stones and vegetation but that has no loss

An anecdote that made us very excited

That same night we would sleep in the Posada del Campo in Secadura, a magnificent place that we will talk about later. One of the women who runs it told us that many years ago he was part of a team that completely cleaned the cave hermitage of San Juan de Socueva. It was completely hidden from the world, between rocks and vegetation. Thanks to them today we can still visit it. !Thank you!

And you, Do you like these magical places where you feel a true explorer? The rock hermitage of San Juan de Socueva awaits you

Paula and Isaac, from Socueva (Cantabria)