The legend of the masked “El Mascarat”

“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!
Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.”
And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Matthew 27, 3-8

Almost everyone who has visited the province of Alicante has passed through the tunnel called “El Mascarat”, This tunnel is located both on the motorway A7 as also on the provincial road N332, near Calpe and Altea.

Most people though do not know the legend behind this tunnel, and I believe that those readers who finish reading this article will never again pass this tunnel with the same feelings!!!

Everyone know the bible history of Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ with a kiss against payment of 30 silver coins. According to the bible he repented himself and tried to return the coins. The priests would not accept this (hence the term “blood money”), and he hung himself…

But according to the legend he did not kill himself but fled the country, as far as possible, through the Hebron Valley and Gaza desert, he finally ended up in Denia (Denia was Roman territory at the time and was called “Dianium”).

He went on and finally, rising the “Collado”, came at the ravine known actually as the “Barranco del Mascarat”.

The story goes on, telling that – tired of soul and body – he sat down on a flat stone trying to get some rest. On this stone a print of his ass remained, the “culada de Judas”. And even though  he fled on, this print supposedly stayed there for all eternity (although I haven’t found any images).

After that there are two different versions:

  • The first one says that he, desperate to find some rest, decided to stay there, hidden in the caves, and finally died of leprosy. According to this version the term “Mascarat” would not come of the word “enmascarado” (= the masked one), but from the Iberian word “maka-as”, which means “piedra cortada” (= broken stone).
  • And according to the second version, once upon a time – centuries later – in the 17th century there was a handsome lad from a poor family living in the “Valle del Pop” area and looking after his sheep. He fell in love with a beautiful maiden from a rich family, was rejected and instead of looking for another love, decided to flee his family home. He decided to “take up residence” in the caves of the ravine area, turn himself into a highway man,  and for several decades afterwards attacked and robbed all passersby and coaches, dressed with a black cape and mask.

At some point it seems a human body was found in one of the caves, seemingly he had died of leprosy. Some people said it was the body of Judas, and others are convinced it’s the body of our favourite bandit “el Mascarat”.

True or false?

I have tried to find pictures and more references of the “Culada de Judas”, but haven’t found anything. About the story of the masked bandit there is much more information, and when you drive through the tunnel it is actually quite easy to imagine someone lurking there. It’s an ideal place for an ambush… Probably 300 years ago that whole area was quite inaccessible and it must have been very easy to hide oneself.

Probably we’ll never know for sure, but every time I pass the tunnel I look up, and sometimes I can almost see him…


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