View of the Sierra Morena range in the Despeñaperros area
|Elevation||1,332 m (4,370 ft)|
|Length||450 km (280 mi) E/W|
|Width||75 km (47 mi) N/S|
|Location||Provinces of Ciudad Real, (Castile-La Mancha) and Córdoba, Jaén, Sevilla and Huelva (Andalusia)|
The Sierra Morena is one of the main systems of mountain ranges in Spain. It stretches for 450 kilometres from east to west across the south of the Iberian Peninsula, forming the southern border of the Meseta Central plateau and providing the watershed between the valleys of the Guadiana to the north and the west, and the Guadalquivir to the south.
The name Sierra Morena has a strong legendary reputation in Spanish culture and tradition, with myths about bandits (Los bandidos de Sierra Morena), a giant snake (El Saetón de Sierra Morena) and a child brought up by wolves (Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja), among others. This range is also mentioned in the famous Mexican song "Cielito Lindo".
The Sierra Morena stretches for 450 Km in an E-W direction from the high course of the Guadalmena River in the Sierra del Relumbrar until northwestern Huelva Province, extending into Portugal. The system is the result of the uplift produced by the pressure of the northward-moving African Plate. It is made up of hard Paleozoic rocks such as granite and quartzite, as well as softer materials such as slate and gneiss.
Its name, roughly meaning 'dark range', is likely derived from the dark color of some of the rocks and vegetation of the ranges that make up the mountainous system. It is also mentioned as Sierra Mariánica in some documents.  Formerly it was a border area, a vast wilderness with little population and its mountain passes were important for the communication between Andalusia and Central Spain.
The peaks of the ranges are not very high on average, in fact Sierra Morena's highest point is the lowest among the mountain systems of the Iberian Peninsula. They are, however, very consistent in altitude, averaging between 600 and 1,300 m all along the system. Since they form the southern edge of the Meseta Central, the Iberian Central Plateau, the northern Sierra Morena ranges barely rise above the level of the surrounding plateau in most places. Nevertheless, the Sierra Morena looks like a true mountain range seen from the Baetic Depression in the south with impressive southward-facing slopes and gorges. Located within the province of Jaén, the Despeñaperros, an abrupt canyon created by the Despeñaperros River, with sheer walls over 500 metres high, is the natural path for crossing the Sierra Morena into Andalusia from the north of the peninsula.
The main ranges of the Sierra Morena system from east to west are:
- Sierra del Relumbrar, Cerro de Pilas Verdes (1,151 m) and Cerro de San Andrés (1,224 m)
- Sierra Madrona or Sierra de Madrona, Bañuela (1,323 m), Corral de Borros (1,312 m), Abulagoso (1,301 m) and Rebollera (1,161 m)
- Sierra de Almadén
- Sierra de Alcudia, Navalmarcos (1,057 m) and Judío (1,107 m)
- Sierra de Tentudía, also known as Sierra de Tudía, Pico de Tentudía (1,104 m)
- Sierra Vieja, also known as Sierra de Feria, El Mirrio (811 m)
- Sierra Grande de Hornachos, also known as Sierra de Hornachos and as Sierra Grande
- Sierra del Pedroso, marking the limit of the Zújar River basin
- Sierra de Maria Andrés
- Sierra de Alconera
- Sierra de los Pedroches
- Sierra de Peñaladrones, near Bélmez, Monte Pelayo, (935 m)
- Sierra Albarrana, a low range within Hornachuelos municipal term
- Sierra de la Marianta, near Villanueva del Rey
- Sierra de los Santos, running west of the Guadiato River
- Sierra de la Aguja, near Fuente Obejuna
- Sierra de Andújar, Cerro del Cabezo (686 m) with the Virgen de la Cabeza shrine on top
- Sierra de Cardeña, Pico Colmena (828 m)
- Sierra de Montoro, Cerro Pingajo (805 m)
- Sierra de los Calderones, Cerro de la Estrella (1,298 m)
- Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Cerro de La Capitana (960 m), Pico Hamapega (910 m)
- Sierra de Aracena, Cerro del Castaño (962 m), Almonaster (915 m)
- Picos de Aroche
In history and literature
The ranges of Sierra Morena have valuable deposits of lead, silver, mercury, and other metals, some of which have been exploited since prehistoric times. The ancient Iberians used the mountain passes as a passage between the high plateau in the north and the Guadalquivir basin.
The bleak Sierra Morena mountains were also notorious in former times for being a haunt of bandits and highwaymen. The Nuevas Poblaciones de Andalucía y Sierra Morena administrative division was started in 1767 during the reign of Charles III of Spain in order to populate the mountainous zone. As a consequence the area around La Carolina was settled with farmers that included German, Swiss and Flemish families. One of the goals of the project was to have safe stopover points for carriages in the desolate region.
The Sierra Morena is mentioned in the Don Quixote novel, wherein Sancho Panza suggests it to be a refuge from the Holy Brotherhood after Don Quixote frees a group of galley slaves. In Voltaire's satire Candide, the main characters stop there on their escape from Lisbon (chapter 9-10).
Nikolay Karamzin's 1793 prose "Sierra-Morena", where the Russian writer tells of a love story between the author and young Elvira, is also dedicated to the mountain range. The forbidding landscape of Sierra Morena was also the setting for the majority of the eerie and supernatural goings-on in Jan Potocki's "The Manuscript Found in Saragossa" written in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
- Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park
- Sierra Norte de Sevilla Natural Park
- Sierra de Hornachuelos Natural Park
- Sierra de Cardeña and Montoro Natural Park
- Sierra de Andújar Natural Park
- Despeñaperros Natural Park
- Peñas de Aroche Natural Site
- Sierra Pelada and Rivera del Aserrador Natural Site
- Cascada de la Cimbarra Natural Site
Main ranges and features
- Mendikat - Bañuela ( 1.332 m )
- El Saetón de Sierra Morena. 20 escapadas de leyenda
- La historia del niño lobo de Sierra Morena
- Leyendas vivientes de Sierra Morena Cordobesa
- Wes Gibbons & Teresa Moreno, The geology of Spain. Geological Society of London, 2003
- Principales unidades de relieve peninsulares
- Gran Enciclopedia de España - Sierra Morena
- Mendikat - Corral de Borros ( 1.312 m )
- Wikiloc - Ascenso a El Mirrio (Sierra Vieja)
- El Poblamiento Prehistórico de Tierra de Barros (Badajoz)
- LIC Sierra De María Andrés
- Plataforma en defensa de la Sierra de Alconera
- La Sierra
- El Mundo - La sierra de los bandidos
- De Bandidos y Bandoleros Sorianos en la Berlanga del XVIII
- La Ilustración de Sierra Morena y Andalucía
- Cayetano Alcázar Molina, Las colonias alemanas de Sierra Morena. Notas y documentos para su historia, Universidad de Murcia, Madrid, 1930
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Sierra Morena.|
- Media related to Sierra Morena at Wikimedia Commons
- Physical geography and geology of Spain
- Virtual Cadastral
- Ordovician -Dobrotivian (Llandeillian Stage) to Ashgill- Crinoids from the Montes de Toledo and Sierra Morena
- Fernando Díaz del Olmo (Universidad de Sevilla), Geomorfología de la Sierra Norte de Sevilla