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The Mar Manor Tourist Board - Costa Calida, Murcia.
The Arabs chose this marvelous beauty spot for their holidays and the rest, and reopened the ancient Roman spas that already existed in this area. They made good use of the excellent therapeutic properties of its waters, and precisely, they were the once who named this place.
LOS ALCAZARES. The word "Alcazares" comes from Arabic (AL Kazar) which means palace or mansion.
The onset of the Christian resettlement period gave Los Alcazares a real important as a fishing port and harbour thanks to the strategic location. However, it was in the early part of this century when the inhabitance of the orchards of Murcia commenced their visits to Los Alcazares to take the famous Novenarios "nine baths" to recharge their bodies. This has been maintained throughout history, although the place has been modernised and offers more select surroundings.
In the region of Murcia situated in the Southeast of Spain, and embraced by the ample contour of the Mar Manor, the visitors find Los Alcazares, which was named after the palaces that stood here in the medieval times looking over the coastline.
It is located in the area with an extension of 20.3km inhabited by a total of 8000 inhabitants taken in a census however as a tourist resort, the numbers go up to 100,000 people who come here to enjoy the sea, taking advantage of the ample hotel facilities as well as a holiday homes and apartments.
Come Dream With Us in Los Alcazares
With seven kilometers of sandy beaches, with average annual temperatures of 18C, a unique sea and the grandeur of the hearts of its people, make this place a paradise on earth, praised and admired by all those who come here.
Los Alcazares offers seven Kilometers of coast line with the town center practically situated on the shores of the Mar Manor. Perhaps, this interchange between different cultures, has left its landmark on the shores of the mar Manor.
The waters of the mar Menor are renowned for their benevolent chemical properties and are classified medicinal. The high concentration of salt and iodine, the absence of the strong waves, shallow waters (maximum 7 meters) and of course, its exceptional temperatures both in summer and winter, form a unique environment and convert the mar Menor into the best therapeutic remedy.
The analysis of its waters shows that the ionic concentration measured to check some elements (magnesium, calcium, sodium, bromine, iodine, and fluoride, are greater than the Mediterranean sea, the therapeutic water treatment with this type of salty waters and application of mud-baths give rise to the elimination of toxic particles, activation of blood circulation and muscle relaxation, and it is highly recommended in cases of stress, rheumatic pains, sciatic, lumbago, and other conditions related to skin and joints.
Enjoy Los Alcazares Murcia .
They made good use of the excellent therapeutic properties of its waters, and precisely, they were the once who named this place LOS ALCAZARES.
The word "Alcazares" comes from Arabic (AL Kazar) which means 2 palace or mansion. The onset of the Christian resettlement period gave Los Alcazares real importance as a fishing port and harbour thanks to the strategic location. However, it was in the early part of this century when the inhabitance of the orchards of Murcia commenced their visits to Los Alcazares to take the famous Novenarios "nine baths" to recharge their bodies. This has been maintained throughout history, although the place has been modernised and offers more select surroundings. In the region of Murcia situated in the Southeast of Spain and embraced by the ample contour of the Mar Manor, the visitors find Los Alcazares, which was named after the palaces that stood here in the medieval times looking over the coastline. It is located in the area with an extension of 20.3km inhabited by a total of 8000 inhabitants taken in a census however as a tourist resort, the numbers go up to 100,000 people who come here to enjoy the sea, taking advantage of the ample hotel facilities as well as a holiday homes and apartments.
Come Dream With Us in Los Alcazares
With seven kilometers of sandy beaches, with average annual temperatures of 18C, a unique sea and the grandeur of the hearts of its people, make this place a paradise on earth, praised and admired by all those who come here.
Los Alcazares offers seven Kilometers of coast line with the town center practically situated on the shores of the Mar Manor. Perhaps, this interchange between different cultures, has left its landmark on the shores of the mar Manor.
The Beaches The waters of the mar Menor are renowned for their benevolent chemical properties and are classified medicinal.
The high concentration of salt and iodine, the absence of the strong waves, shallow waters (maximum 7 meters) and of course, its exceptional temperatures both in summer and winter, form a unique environment and convert the mar Menor into the best therapeutic remedy
=. The analysis of its waters shows that the ionic concentration measured to check some elements (magnesium, calcium, sodium, bromine, iodine, and fluoride, are greater than the Mediterranean sea, therefore therapeutic water treatment with this type of salty waters and application of mud-baths give rise to the elimination of toxic particles, activation of blood circulation and muscle relaxation, and it is highly recommended in cases of stress, rheumatic pains, sciatic, lumbago, and other conditions related to skin and joints.
The Seven Kilometers of coastline is divided into the following beaches from north to south, and some of these with the blue flag awarded by EU: Las Salinas beach Los Narejos beach Las Palmeras beach Espejo beach Manzanares beach Carrion beach La Concha beach
The Mar Menor ; apart from being the biggest open air health spa in the world, is also considered as one of the best areas for regatta and certain water sports which can be practiced all year round. All these beaches are connected by means of a magnificent promenaded.
These are fully equipped with showers, fountains, ways and paths for the handicapped, and also cater for games and sports.
There are also numerous decorative elements that form part of this unique cozy area. Which are used as settings for the celebrations of different types of leisure activities in this area throughout the year.
Enjoy Yourself in Los Alcazares
: Practice any type of water sport in the Mar Menor all year round being considered one of the best regions for all water activities.
: Stroll along the promenade lined with palm trees and enjoy the wonderful sea views and be Refreshed by the sea breeze.
: Visit the marina, the main building of which and the ancient spa have been restored. : Walking for approximately 1.5 km towards Cartagana you will come across la Torre del Rame which is located in the area lined with palm trees.
: One day trips can be taken to other towns as Los Alcazares is an easy place to reach and there is a good road network.
: Spend a day on the isle of Perdiguera, situated in the Mar Menor, and have a swim in it's crystalline waters.
: Walk or cycle along the routes of the greenhouses, el Cabezo Garbo, Salinas de San Pedro, Calblanque and la Sierra Minera or cycle along the Mar Menor coast.
: Participate in feasts and fiestas organized in Los Alcazares all year round.
: If you prefer fresh water activities, Los Alcazares has 4 swimming-pools, one of which is indoors.
: Sporting activities are available all year round - aerobics, rhythmic gymnastics, volleyball, tennis, squash, basketball, football, horseback riding etc.
What To See - A walk around
: Torre del Rame or Rami. Arab fortress which was a vigilance post on the Mar Menor coast and during the Castilian resettlement period it was redesigned to keep the pirates out, who made incursions from the Mediterranean coast. Except for the battlements, the fortress has hardly ever suffered modification, hence maintaining the thickness of the walls and its height (9 meters).
: Hotel Balneario La Encarnacion. This hotel, built in 1904, is located on the shores of the Mar Menor and has remained as the silent witness of the expansion of this municipality.
The visitor can still appreciate the idiosyncratic features of the beginnings of the century. The hotel accommodates the famous spa baths with renowned curative properties.
: Monument to the Pescador. On the Espejo beach, next to the church of Asuncion, this monumental collection, cast in bronze, pays a homage to the efforts made for many years and the main support of the economy of this municipality i.e. fishery and the fishermen.
The monument represents a fisherman who, on his hard day's labor, drags an empty fishnet. Behind him, there are two seas that embrace Murcian coastline; the Mar Menor and the Mediterranean sea are represented by the mermaids riding on the seahorses and are saddened by the fisherman struggling in vain and help him by filling the fishnet with fish.
: Monolith of Municipal Independence. It is located in the Paseo de Carrion, marking the exact spot where the municipalities of San Javier and Torre Pacheco meet, to which Los Alcazares belonged before segregating. It was built in 1993 in order to celebrate the x anniversary of the municipal autonomy.
: Municipal Aeronautic Museum. It is situated in the Avenida Libertad, next to the airbase. Here the visitor can see all the documentation, photographs and material on the airbase of Los Alcazares since its creation as an airbase in 1915 till present day.
The Festivities - in Los Alcazares.
There are several festivities held in the area, clearly Reflecting on the open character of its people and inviting the visitors to participate in the festivities:
: Carnival, which is held together with the municipalities of San Javier and San Pedro del Piñatar, is called the Carnival of the Mar Menor.
: Berber Incursions in the Mar Menor, bring an end to the Easter festivities. In Los Alcazares, the visitor has the chance to travel back in time, by contemplating a medieval market, partcipating in pirates attack and where they can find several picturesque characters who will take you back to other times.
: Celebrations of Las Lomas del Rame are held in honor of the Virgin of Carmen. These take place during the second half of July. : Day of the Virgin, a land-sea procession in honor of our Lay Asuncian, the Patron Saint of Los Alcazares, and on the 15th. August thousands of believers congregate to pay homage of devotion and love.
: International Week of the Huerta and Mar Menor, an example of folklore, customs, culture, gastronomy and a sign of peace and harmony. It is acknowledged as a Regional tourist attraction and is celebrated annually in the second half of August.
: Festival of Independence - several cultural and sports activities coincide with the anniversary of the municipality's autonomy on the 13th. August. We would like to highlight the most popular feast called the Day of Caldero " fish stock and rice " on the 12th. August, a feast that attracts an array of penas " groups of enthusiasts " who gather on the beach in order to prepare to taste the delicious Caldero, a typical dish from the Mar Menor.
: Patronal feast of Los Narejos, in honor of la Purisma. It is held during the first week of December.
: Different feasts are held in different parts of the municipality, such as Punta Calero, Barrio de San Juan, Oasis, in fact too many to list.
Gastronomy - in Los Alcazares.
The gastronomy of the area is renowned for its simple recipies, as well as for its richness and myriad of ingredients. The typical dish par excellence is the Caldero, originally a seafarer's dish. The famous produce from the orchards of Murcia ( La Huerta ) is ever present in our cuisine, with which we prepare our typical dishes from La Huerta such as Michirones, Zarangollo and many more.
The fish and seafood dishes occupy a privileged place in our gastronomy, with fish such as gilthead, mullet and of course the Mar Menor prawns.
However, we should highlight our salted fish, roe, salted tuna fish and tuna loin that make delicious appetisers. As desserts, the fruit is the star, with an array of varieties, and as far as pastries and cakes are concerned the Cierva pasty and Tocino de Cielo are some of the most savoured and appreciable.
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MURCIA THE "COSTA CALIDA"
The Costa Cálida is not just the Mar Menor, or any of its other summer resort areas.
It is also that long section of the Spanish coast where the rugged landscape of the mountains extends its deserted tranquility to the sea's edge.
It is also a horizon of oleander, prickly pears and wild palmetto and the occasional watchtower in ruins which reminds us of the danger of pirates who sailed to these shores many years ago to fill up their ships with booty. The squawking of the seagulls and the humming of the cicadas are often the only sounds to disturb this bright atmosphere.
There are, however, more reasons for wandering around. The contrast between the old sea-faring towns and the agricultural communities, which owe their personality both to the fertility of their lands and their historical monuments, could make the traveler think that there is more of a distance between one zone and the other than in fact really exists. Murcia is a small region in which the traveler can get to know very different corners on just a short trip of almost 100 km.
The mines, the fertile lands and the mountains have been, along with the coast-line, the protagonists of a history which has been filled with such unusual events that they could well go down as legends.
Our intention here is only to spark the traveler's interest and curiosity: it would be impossible to cover in such a short space each and every one of the attractive features of this area. Though it may be difficult to shake off the laziness one feels beside the beach, it will be worth the effort.
A MEDITERRANEAN PAST.
All of the historical events of the Old World had something to do with these lands. From the legendary times of Tartessos - that powerful state which dominated the southern part of the peninsula - to the fall of Rome, Murcia carried out the dangerous role of war spoils which was only compensated by the cultural vestiges which were left by the different civilization which visited this coast.
The mines were much sought after and ruled out a peaceful existence for this area. The end result of those centuries which were marked by the presence of the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans was not only cultural influences by a very outstanding archaeological patrimony which the traveler can appreciate in the local museums.
When the Moors came to Spain, Murcia remained as a Christian stronghold in lands which were already Andalusian, under the rule of an aristocrat, Todomir, who knew how to negotiate with the invaders.
Soon after, however, it became part of the Moslem Spain and it eventually held a rather privileged position among the southern provinces. In the 13th century, the Re conquest reached this territory, converting the Murcia region - or the territory of Todomir - into a border land under military rule.
The castles which dominate the inland valleys are clear proof of the strategic importance of this territory which, while it closed the circle around the kingdom of Granada, became at the same time a densely populated region. But the presence of the Moslems must have been an important factor in the Christian era as well, not only culturally but also economically. Mudejars (the Moors who remained in Spain after the Re conquest) and Moriscos (Moors who were baptized) continued working the lands which belonged to the nobility which was born from the noble needs of the Re conquest. Murcia, Cartagena, Lorca, Caravaca, Jumilla and other cities began to build fine palaces, large and wealthy convents and monumental churches. The highly cultured currents of the Renaissance were brought to these shores by the artists contracted by certain noblemen who were more concerned with a Refined cultural development than the historic epics of their ancestors. In time, Murcia became one of the capitals of Baroque art, so magnificently represented in the entire region and best personified by the exceptional work of Salzillo, an artist of Italian origin, who has become, today, a symbol of the cities of this region. A great deal still remains from that time. The traveler will discover an artistic repertoire which can often be termed 'spectacular'. The presence of a Baroque taste is very frequently found in the churches, the museums and in the oldest streets of each city. Murcia's contemporary history is very similar to that of the rest of Spain. The extraordinary boom of the mining industry and the episode of the 'Cartagena Cantón' are probably the most important events. In fact the last historical incident was made up of so many skirmishes that it could provide a whole book of anecdotes. We could say that a history of those events is like a brief summary of the history of the 19th Century in Spain. The traveler will find in the next few pages several suggested itineraries and the most relevant information on the traditional Murcian culture, which is still very much alive today. THE COAST FROM NORTH TO SOUTH Our trip through the Costa Cálida cuts across highly varied landscape. The Mar Menor, which covers the whole eastern coastline, is a unique natural phenomenon, with an every surprising horizon. To the South, the Cabo de Palos Cape marks a striking change in the scenery, which now becomes steep and rocky, and its violent beauty grows as we approach the mining areas of the mountainous sierra. In any case, the whole area bears the unmistakable stamp of the well-known, warm waters of the Mediterranean. The last part of our journey unfolds amidst mountains and gullies and over a tapestry-like earth covered with esparto bushes and fragrant plants. The wild palmetto and oleander - which are given here the special name of baladres -, the song of the cicadas and the deep blue of the sky and the sea present the traveler with the image of a warm, virgin land, in which large extensions of unexplored beach and cliff area spread out between each of the popular summer towns. San Pedro del Pinatar is the first town we come to along the coast. A brief detour off the main highway takes us to the beach, surrounded by old aristocratic mansions and more modern structures. The wooden walkways extending into the ocean and the restaurants raised up on pillars so they are practically at sea-level are the first image we have of the Mar Menor.
We suggest that you head on, with the beach to your right, in the direction of the salt deposits which close off a huge lagoon to the north. Due to its enormous iodine concentration and the high temperatures, these salt deposits have become over the years natural spas, very popular with people suffering from rheumatism. But this is not the only reason why we should take a walk along the narrow strip of land which closes off the Mar Menor at this point. From here, the traveler obtains his first, unique impression of a coast which does not become lost on a straight horizon.
The Mar Menor is a broad, salt-water lagoon of 170 square kilometers, almost entirely closed off by a natural breakwater made up of sandy deposits. It seems that it originated as a small bay, like so many other found along the Mediterranean, but with time, the Manga (sleeve) began to progressively close off the cove to the point where today only a system of canals and sluices keep the Mar Menor in direct contact with the open sea. Due to the fact that it is really a dammed up sea, of limited depth and very salty waters, the lagoon has always been home to a very unusual fauna, which proves especially delicious on the dinner table.
This situation also led to a unique form of autochtonous fishing and along the traveler's route - which is a little less than 50 kms.- he will surely see the nets hung vertically and the rectangular cork floats which dot the smooth surface of the water. The beach and the summer holiday buildings extend without interruption until Santiago de la Ribera.
Farther on are the installations of the San Javier military airport, and at this point we should head inland in order to link up once again with the national highway. Eight kilometers away is Los Alcazares, and old health spa. The scenery here is a cross between farmland and seascapes defined by the windmills and the palm and lemon trees.
A secondary highway which runs along the coast will take the traveler past several traditional summer holiday resorts such as Los Urrutias and Los Nietos - built on the very shores of the peaceful beaches of the Mar Menor. Opposite, the islands of Isla Mayor, El Cicero, Isla Prefigure and two lesser islands become lost on the horizon, fusing with the La Manga.
As we approach Cabo de Palos Cape, the landscape takes on a more cosmopolitan air. From Los Belones (very close to the coast) there are only six kilometers to the lighthouse of Cabo de Palos.
We should stop here at the esplanade which crowns the cliffs: several beaches have such difficult access that bathers can be assured of a very solitary swim. Without practically realizing it, the traveler will find himself in La Manga. After the first six kilometers, the urban developments begin to disappear which makes it possible to admire the view of the Mediterranean and the Mar Menor from the highway. To the left, the more tranquil warm waters where one has to walk quite a great deal in order to reach a section of any depth for swimming. To the right, the beaches of the open sea, where the swimmer can enjoy the fun of ocean waves, which are practically non-existent on the Mar Menor. Farther on, past a yacht harbour and El Estacio lighthouse, we come to a network of channels and floodgates which connect one section of the waters with another. A mill beside the highway reminds the traveler that the salt deposits which he visited at the beginning of the trip are not far away.
The state-owned lagoons of La Torre and El Ventorillo are located here. Returning to Cabo de Palos, the mountainous mining area is very close by. This rugged, rocky region, which at times offers dramatic profiles, precedes the city of Cartagena, which will take some time to visit. La Union is a town which was born just a hundred years ago as a direct result of the mines, and it boasts of a couple of very interesting buildings. Lovers of a Modernist style will find in the Mercado (Market) and the Casa del Piñón two splendid examples of an architecture based on iron work which represents the general tastes of the beginning of the century. The famous Festival of the Cante de las Minas (Mine Songs) is held every August in the Market building and this festival is a unique opportunity for experiencing the magnificent flamenco song form.
From La Union, we should continue on the Portman, located just 9 kms. away along a twisting road. The landscape which lies before the visitor now is surprising (it has nothing to do with what is generally classified as picturesque): Gentle slopes of red earth contrast with the yellow sulfur and the ashen tones of lead to make up a splendid dry and impressive scenery.
Portman - the Portus Magnus of the Romans - is a tiny town located on a huge bay, which flashes a variety of mineral residue. Once again we will find ourselves overcome by the impressive beauty of these horizons. Only the large oleander bushes add a note of vibrancy to the unusual tones of the earth.
Once we are back in La Unión, Cartagena is only 8 kms. away. The port, 'to which the Cartago people lent their name' - according to Cervantes - is today a great city in which it is easy to get lost. Our best advice to the traveler here is to park his car on the Alfonso XIII dock (which is easy to find) and make the visit to the old part of the town on foot.
Even before we begin our journey, we will get a rather clear picture of old Cartagena. The port, its fortifications, the monument to the heroes of Cuba and Cavite and also Isaac Peral's submarine are, in and of themselves, highly representative of the city.
Just a short distance away is the enormous Arsenal building with its Classicist façade and the small nucleus around the old Castillo de la Conception (Castle) and the old Cathedral.
The sea ramparts which flank the esplanade of the dock, are a part of the Castle of La Conception, of Roman origin, which was reconstructed between the 14th and 18th centuries. The upper section of the esplanade is a pleasant avenue which affords some excellent views of the surroundings. Before we enter the center of town, however, we should remind the traveler of the special significance of the little submarine which is found on this esplanade: it was the first vessel of its kind, launched in the year 1888 and designed by Cartagena born Isaac Peral. Its size, which today is more 'adorable' than impressive, was moved by two electrical engines of 30 hp. each. The Town Hall recognizes the Calle Mayor and the Calle de los Cuatro Santos (which is called Calle del Duque later on) as the two most important thoroughfares of the old part of town.
The Calle Mayor is the gathering place for all the residents of the city and the out-of-town visitors. The Calle de los Cuatro Santos, perpendicular to Mayor, runs past the Cathedral on the right. The Cathedral is said to stand on the spot where the oldest Basilica in Spain once stood. Whether this is true or not, remains of the Romans, Carthaginians and medieval inhabitants were found in the structure.
A little farther on, the traveler will come to the small 18th century images of the four Cartagena saints: Isidoro, Fulgencio, Leandro and Florentina. They were three brothers and one sister who were born during the Visigothic period, on a spot very close to here, beside the Castle of La Concepción and where the Visilla Gateway now stands. A fine Gothic image of the Virgen del Rosell, Patron Saint of the City, is kept in the Church of Santa María de Gracia, along with Salzillo's carvings of the four saints. It would be impossible for us to mention all of the places of interest in Cartagena.
The traveler will have to discover for himself many of the charming corners of the old historical quarter. We should not, however, neglect to mention its extraordinarily important Archaeological Museum, with its outstanding Roman collection and also the National Museum of Submarine Archaeology, with its valuable collection of amphorae. Lovers of ancient history should not miss the Torre Ciega (Blind Tower) which is an old Roman burial ground, dating from the first century of our era. Several local roads take the traveler to the three fortifications which guarded and protected Cartagena's port: the Castles of La Atalaya and Las Galeras - to the West - and the Castle of San Julián, to the East. From Cartagena to Mazarron (37 kms.), the itinerary unfolds between esparto-covered mountains.
The sea appears immediately before the entrance into the large cove which closes off the Port of Mazarron and Punta de La Azohía. The bay extends along a succession of beaches which are interrupted by an occasional rocky projection. Before we head inland once again, we should visit these peaceful, secluded little corners which never lose their tranquility, even during the busy summer months. A short detour of 5 kms. heading South (with the sea to our left) will take the traveler to the beach of La Reya and to Belnuevo, a town of great scenic beauty.
The town of Mazarron is located 7 kms. inland from the port and its beaches. The Church of San Andrés, with a Mudéjar coffered ceiling and the remains of the Castle of Los Velez, are the monumental landmarks of this old mining town. Once again we must go through oleander and esparto covered slopes until we come to Aquilas, in the southern corner of the region. The traveler will leave the ruins of several fortresses, to the right, which will remind him of the vicissitudes of the Re conquest in this territory.
Sixteen kms. away is a detour which will take us back to the coast. at Puntas de Calnegre, a small fishing town facing a broad beach belonging to the Lorca municipality. Cabo Falcón, to the left, and Cabo Cope mark the horizon.
In order to continue our trip we must return to the national highway. The Castle of Tebar will come up on our right, dominating the hills and gullies which separate the road from the sea. Due to its location, on a direct line in relation with the Cabo Cope fortress, this Castle probably served as a kind of rearguard to defend the territory against attacks from the sea. Aguilas is very close by.
A maritime esplanade which skirts the beach and is lined with some beautiful buildings dating back to the beginning of the century and the ruins of a castle are the town's most outstanding features. The fortress, fought over by Romans and Carthaginians, was reconstructed in the 16th century in view of the danger represented by pirate ships coming from the North of Africa. A beautiful 'Madonna' by Salzillo can be admired in the parish church.
MURCIA AND ITS IRRIGATED PLAINS.
When the traveler reaches Murcia he is presented with a confused panorama which is characteristic of all cities at first glance. Nevertheless, it turns out to be very easy to get to know this small historic community made up equally of charming, intimate corners and the repeated surprise of its monumental buildings, which are at times preceded by small squares and at other times, they stand in narrow streets which are ill-adapted to the fast-paced, noisy life of the capital.
Sometimes the perspectives of modern Murcia break into the warm atmosphere of its urban corners, which overlap one another endlessly. However, we should warn the traveler that the old city, with its Mediterranean character and heir to the cultural currents of the Renaissance and Baroque religious art, continues to form an unmistakable whole on the left bank of the Segura.
The river, which flows between two strips of dense reeds, to remind us that it comes from the fertile, irrigated farmland, represents one of the most classic images of the city as it passes by the Cathedral. It is also one of the best ways to approach Murcia.
When we reach the sector close to the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) and the Glorieta, we can consider our visit underway. The Old Bridge is the best look-out point over the Gran Vía, an important thoroughfare which opens its way through the historic center of the city. La Glorieta, in turn, is a brief landscaped area behind which the city center unfolds.
The Episcopal Palace and the Town Hall close off part of this square which stands beside the river. A few steps away is the Plaza del Cardenal Belluga, presided over by the main façade of the Cathedral, one of Murcia's centers. We should take all the time we need to get to know this great Baroque composition in all its complexity, carried out during the first half of the 18th century by Jaime Bort, one of the most outstanding artists of Murcia's Baroque art.
The Façade was conceived as a perfect synthesis of the elements of Classicist architecture and the profusion of sculptural details endow it with a certain resemblance to the art of making altar-pieces. We would like to draw the traveler's attention to the magnificent set of columns and cornices which line the central body and go to form a gigantic niche.
To the left is the tower which the traveler will have the opportunity to get to know later on. For the moment, we suggest that the visitor start his visit to the right of the immense structure. The Doorway of the Apostles, constructed in the middle of the 15th century, is the only Gothic element to be found on the Cathedral's exterior.
Beside the Doorway is the Chapel of Los Junterones, which is one of the most interesting in the temple. Farther ahead, on the length-wise axis of the building, is the Chapel of Los Vélez, a prismatic element, of which the enormous carved chain which borders the second body and the Fajardo coat of arms are the most outstanding exterior features.
If we continue in the same direction, we come immediately upon La Torre (the tower) and the Doorway of Las Cadenas (Chains), two splendid examples of Renaissance art. The Bell tower (from which a magnificent view is to be had by the visitor) was designed and construction was undertaken by two Italians: Francisco Florentino and Jacobo Florentino; the latter was more popularly known as 'El Indaco' and was not a relative of the former. Its design and decoration have made it, or more precisely speaking, its lower bodies, the most valuable pieces of Spanish art of its time, strongly influenced by the Italian schools. Entrance to the temple is usually through the Puerta de las Cadenas, located at one end of the transept.
The first impression we receive from the interior of Murcia Cathedral is that it is a building which is more in accord with the Gothic concepts of Catalonia and Valencia than with orthodox medieval art. Both its proportions, which are slimmer than the Castilian models, and the purity of its constructive lines, with the moldings which close the vaults, give the Church a more Mediterranean look, which resembles more closely the spatial concepts defined by the classic art of the times. It was built in the first half of the 15th Century upon the ruins of what was the main mosque of the city.
The mosque was converted into a Christian temple upon Jaime I's conquest of the region and it remained almost intact until its destruction in 1320. The present temple was born from an initiative undertaken in 1934. The Main Chapel, seen from the transept, gives the best idea of what this church was before its most influential parishioners began its embellishment by adding sumptuous chapels in different epochs.
Directly behind the presbytery, in the center of the apse aisle, is the Chapel de los Vélez, a splendid example of florid Gothic of the first years of the 16th century. No simple description can do justice to its profuse decoration and so we will spare the reader the useless effort.
We will merely advise the traveler to pay special attention to two small canvases by Lucas Jordán. We should also remember that the Capilla de los Vélez is one of the best examples of Isabelline Gothic art, that is truly Hispanic style which was soon, destined to succumb to the Renaissance influences coming from Italy.
Without leaving the apse aisle, the visitor will be able to appreciate fine Renaissance work designed by Jacobo Florentino in the Sacristy, and included in the lower body of the bell tower. The Corpus Christi Chapel (beside that of Los Vélez) was the last work of the Baroque artist Salzillo, who died before he could complete it.
The traveler will become very familiar with the work of this sculptor of a Napolitan family, who was born and became intimately involved in the Murcian culture, as he wandered through the streets of the city.
The Choir, which is also classified within Isabelline Gothic and the Baroque Chapel of Los Junterones (visible from the outside, beside the Doorway of the Apostles) deserves an unrushed visit. The Museum contains some highly valuable pieces of sacred art and is installed in the Chapter House and part of the old Cloister.
If we leave through the Puerta de las Cadenas, the traveler will face the Calle de la Trapería, the main thoroughfare of medieval and Renaissance Murcia. This street has managed to conserve until today that unique appearance of calle mayor (main street). Many small streets from all over the sector converge onto the Calle de la Trapería, which has conserved its customary business and leisure activities.
The Casino, despite the fact that it is a private institution, should also be visited by those who are interested in architecture of the beginning of the century. An Arab patio and another Neoclassic patio, together with a splendid ballroom, reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles, are the most beautiful corners of this relic of times gone-by when people fancied rhetoric and luxury. Farther on, to the left, the façade of the Almodóvar Palace puts and end to the Calle de la Trapería at the Plaza de Santo Domingo, where a temple of the same name stands.
The Romea Theater (of the past century) and the Church of San Bartolom (with a 'Madonna' by Salzillo), the Palace of Riquelme and several other noble structures make up this charming sector, across which the Gran Via cuts rather suddenly. The University and the Church of La Merced (very close to the Plaza de Santo Domingo) also deserve a visit. The University has a Renaissance patio and the Church, a fine decorative collection which includes many images by Salzillo and some fine Baroque paintings.
It would be impossible to name all of the buildings of interest for the traveler, even briefly. However, distances are short and so Murcia can be visited with relative ease. Of special interest is the Church of El Carmen, on the other side of the river, the Church of San Lorenzo, those of San Juan de Dios, San Juan Bautista, San Miguel with a reredos by Salzillo and Santa Catalina, which contain excellent religious images. The convents of Santa Clara and Santa Ana also have their own magnificent temples.
Before we leave the city, we should remind the traveler of the interesting Salzillo Museum (in Calle de San Andrés) and also a visit to the Provincial Archaeological Museum and the Fine Arts Museum as well as the Crafts Center.
THE OUTSKIRTS OF MURCIA.
A visit to the capital would be incomplete without paying due attention to the outskirts of the city. Murcia has always been said to feel a close bond with the irrigated farmland, the huerta, which has affected the character of its people, the city's art, its Easter festivities and the culture of the community in general.
We suggest that the traveler does not pass by this unique countryside where he will find interesting remnants of a past when Hispanic-Moslem chroniclers were ever present in this territory. Before we begin our recommended journey, we should warn the traveler that he will have to leave the main highways, in order to follow a maze of local roads which connect one small farming community with another.
Our first visit will be to the Museo de La Huerta (Farmland Museum) in Alcantarilla. The enormous water-wheel which elevates the water, transferring it from one large canal to another which is higher than the first, is not only a unique emblem of the area, but also a fine engineering feat which is characteristic of the people of the huerta.
The system of canals which begins at the Segura river and extends throughout the plain lands making sure that water reaches even the most distant plot of land, was a highly valuable contribution received from the medieval epoch. The barraca (thatched -roof cottages), the pieces of traditional ceramic, the looms and, in general, all of the contents of this Museum afford the traveler a fine opportunity for getting to know the Huerta.
From here we suggest continuing in the direction of La Ñora. Here is a similar water wheel and fields of fruit trees and vegetable gardens, which are at times surrounded by beds of roses and dahlias. Fig trees, palm trees and reeds grow along the setting where the light and fertility of the soil play a major role.
Near La Ñora, in the direction of Espinardo, is the Monastery of Los Jerónimos, a huge building of sober Baroque lines whose most representative work by Salzillo can be admired in the Cathedral Museum. From Espinardo, the traveler can continue to Monteagudo (near the national highway which joins Murcia and Alicante) without having to return to the capital. Monteagudo has its Castillejo, one of the few constructions remaining from the Almoravid epoch and which still remains standing today. The fortress stands on an abrupt hill from which a broad view of the surrounding country-side can be had.
The Shrine of La Fuensanta, about 5 kms. from Murcia in the direction of Algezares, is without a doubt, a must. In addition to being a point of Reference for the traditional Murcian culture, the Shrine sits on a privileged spot overlooking the greater part of the Huerta. The Sanctuary was constructed at the end of the 17th century and has a fine façade, crowned with two towers with a complex finish, giving it a colonial Baroque air.
There is also an interesting story which surrounds the origin of the temple and which is very much in accord with the exalted piety of Baroque times. It seems that a very beautiful actress called Baltasara and popularly known as 'La Cómica' retired to a nearby cave in order to do penitence.
The Patron Saint of Murcia - the Vigen de la Fuensanta - was installed here, and image which replaced the ancient, medieval devotion to La Arrixaca.
The Fuensanta statue was carved in the 16th century and decorated with a valuable collection of jewels and silk robes embroidered with gold and silver.
THE INLAND ROUTES.
The broad section of the region which is found to the west of the capital is made up of a mountainous area and farming communities surrounded by fruit trees and orchards. The difficult period of the Middle Ages is apparent in each one of the small towns, which are towered over, inevitably, by a castle, a fortified church or a keep which makes it possible to scan the horizon against possible attacks from the enemy.
The countryside becomes far simpler to the North: large expanses which climb up an undulated terrain, reminding the traveler that the great La Mancha plateau is not very far away.
We will suggest two possible itineraries, which are by no means complete, but which help to get to know the most characteristic of the Murcia region.
THE WESTERN LANDS.
Puerto Lumbreras, very close to Andalusia and the coast as well (Aguilas is a little over 20 kms. away) is a good starting point. It is also possible to begin this trip from Totana (as long as one does not pass by Lorca), which is easily accessible from Mazarrón and, in general, from any point along the Cartagena coast. In Puerto Lumbreras, set on a small hill, is (at the exit in the direction of Granada) a whole set of dwelling carved out of the mountain slope and with white-washed fronts: those interested in rural architecture have here one of the rare examples of inhabited caves.
If we take national highway 340 in the direction of Murcia for 17 kms. we come to Lorca. The traveler should leave his car in one of the streets on the left of the main avenue and follow the signs to the Castle and the Collegiate Church. The lower part of the town is the most recent section, that is, the part which corresponds to the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Palaces and churches line the Corredera and the Plaza Mayor and their surroundings. The traveler will discover, with great frequency, samples of extraordinarily rich civil architecture, which were at times clearly influenced by the monumental designs of the religious structures (e.g. the House of Guevara, which has a façade made of wreathed columns) and at other times closely affected by the Classicist compositions of the Italicizing tastes of the Renaissance.
The whole formed by the Churches of San Mateo, San Francisco, El Rosario and Santiago, and the palaces which stand nearby deserve more extensive comments than what we have room for here. As we climb up to the castle we will come first to the Plaza de España (or Plaza Mayor) above which towers the noble Collegiate Church of San Patricio and the lovely façade of the Town Hall. The Collegiate Church is, without doubt, one of the major buildings of the region. It was constructed between 1554 and 1776 in accordance with the Classicist molds though the façade displays a very elaborate design which is more in keeping with the Baroque. The visitor should pay special attention to the Church's sculptures.
A little farther on, is the beginning of the road to the Castle, which is flanked by typical houses which follow the same distribution that they had in the Moslem epoch.
From the fortress, which was inhabited in the time of Alfonso X the Wise and which was of great importance during the siege of the Granada kingdom, one has a magnificent view of the whole city and the old temples of Santa María, San Juan and San Pedro in the foreground. The restored towers of 'Alfonsina' and the 'Espolón' also stand out. Twenty-two kms. from Lorca along the same highway is Totana, a farming town which spreads out around an interesting 16th-century church. The parish church of Santiago, with its Baroque façade and a fine Mudéjar ceiling, well deserves a visit. Opposite the church is a very unusual fountain. At this point, we should turn off the main highway and head in the direction of Aledo.
On the road, which cuts through fertile lands which are a cross between crop fields and gardens, we come to the Shrine of Santa Eulalia, set amidst beautiful mountain scenery. Seven kilometers away, surrounded by pines and olive trees, is 'La Santa' (as the Sanctuary is called), whose church has a Mudéjar ceiling. Very close by is Aledo, a medieval town which is highly representative of the typical settlements existing during the Re conquest. Set on a hill which is crowned by a massive tower - the Calahorra - and the Church of Santa María la Real, Aledo affords a magnificent view of terraced farmland and mountains which heralds the beginning of the Sierra de Espuña.
In order to continue our journey, we will have to return to Totana and then go on until Alhama de Murcia (11 km. away). Here again we will find a castle in ruins which presides over the town but this time a rocky mass separates the castle from the pueblo. We suggest that the traveler leave the highway here to take the local road which connects Alhama with Mula.
The mountain scenery gives way, right before we come to the town of Mula, to fruit orchards, which bloom well before the customary season. Mula is a large and prosperous town which has known how to protect and conserve its old city center, which is made up of narrow, steep streets an many aristocratic homes. Above Mula is the castle of Roman origin which was reconstructed by Arabs and Christians.
The Convent of the Reales Descalzas has a church with a fine Mudéjar coffered ceiling. The Shrine of El Niño de Mula and the thermal baths of Baños de Mula and the "El Cigarralejo" Museum are pleasant spots for brief excursions. Our next visit will be Cehegín (27 kms. away), along local road 415 in the direction of Caravaca. Cehegín appears on the right side of the road as a terraced accumulation of roof tops, above which towers a 17th-century church.
Though it is of ancient foundation, Cehegín enjoyed its greatest period of splendor after the Christian conquest when the military orders stationed here began to construct their aristocratic dwellings. Seven kms. away is Caravaca de la Cruz, one of the main landmarks on these inland routes. In addition to its enormous archaeological wealth which evidences a very ancient settlement, Caravaca offers the traveler some valuable pieces from the period of the Re conquest. As an important border town, it was for a long time part of the patrimony of the Knights Templar and as of the 14th century it was turned over to the Knights of Santiago. It was in fact during this period of wars and conversions that, according to tradition, the miraculous appearance of the two-armed patriarchal cross took place, the emblem of the city, which today conserves pieces of the real Lignum Crucis.
The first thing the traveler will see even before he enters the town proper, is the medieval fortress and the Shrine of La Vera Cruz, a great 18th-century temple included within the castle grounds. Its imposing façade of rather heavy elements, is in contrast with the simple and Classicist designs of the small cloister which is entered through a small doorway located on the left.
The Archaeological Museum of La Soledad and the magnificent Church of El Salvador (of the 16th century) are visits not to be missed. Of great interest also is the Church of La Concepción, the Church of the Jesuits, the Town Hall (under whose arcade the visitor has passed on his way to the castle) and, in general, the entire urban setting of Caravaca.
Two kms. away from the city we find the lovely landscape making up the Fuentes del Marqués, which makes up a nature park. Moratalla is 14 kms. away, surrounded by mountains and spread out at the foot of the fortress, the landscape of pine groves and oak trees and the considerable wealth of its fauna - which includes wild boar, eagles and some capra hispánica (goats) - have made Moratalla an ideal spot for nature lovers. The town (or the old section, to be more exact) dates back to the same period as the rest of the fortified hills of this region; the Moslem epoch and the subsequent domination of the military orders left a deep impression on this area.
In addition to the castle, which has an imposing keep, the visitor should also get to know the Church of La Asunción (dating back to the 16th century except for its tower), the Baroque façade of the Convent of San Francisco and, of course, the very lay-out of Moratalla which dominates a broad view of the surrounding countryside. Nearby, the remains of the Convent of Las Mercedarias, with a Shrine, known as the House of Christ and the Shrine of La Rogativa in Inazares, are of interest.
In order to complete this trip in Calasparra, we should continue along the same local road (C-145) in the direction of Elche de la Sierra and then take a detour 9 kms. away on the right. Amidst the rice paddies, eight kms. along the way, is the Shrine of La Esperanza, located high in the mountains. If the traveller is coming from Moratalla he will find the signs for the Shrine just a short distance before Calasparra.
The Shrine, carved right out of the rock, beside the source of the Segura River, combines its natural beauty with its great religious significance and is the object of popular pilgrimages. In the town itself, we should visit the House of La Encomienda (under restoration), and the Churches of Los Santos and San Pedro.
THE NORTH OF THE REGION.
In this small sector, we find two well known Murcian health spas and two towns which provide the most wine for this region. The itinerary we are proposing begins in the capital and follows the Segura between Archena and Cieza until it reaches Jumilla and Yecla.
We should leave Murcia heading in the direction of Madrid. After 20 kms. we will find a detour on the left which goes to Archena. A little farther on with very clear indications is the balneario (spa), a group of hotels and special installations, which attract a great number of bathers. The river flows among leafy trees creating an ideal setting for taking a pleasant walk.
Our journey should continue on to Ulea, Ojós and Villanueva: the Segura Valley appears on this route. The small, bare hills accentuate the contrast with the fertile fields which are dotted with palm trees. We should warn the travelers that the network of small roads can become rather confusing and it would be best to continue on to Blanca or go up to the town of Ricote.
The fertile fields continue on to Abarán and Cieza (about 25 kms. from Archena) where our itinerary will separate from the course of the Segura. Set on a fertile plain, Cieza is backed by esparto-covered mountains which were the primary materials in another period for its very important craft work.
The 18th century Church of La Asunción and the Convent of the Franciscan order deserve a visit. If we continue in the direction of Madrid for eleven kms. on the local highway we will come to Jumilla. The endless extension of vineyards removes any possible doubt as to the main source of wealth of these lands which are now closer to the La Mancha region.
Jumilla is a large town, spread out at the foot of a castle which towers over the surrounding fields. It is not necessary for us to give a lot of explanation as to the main structures in Jumilla as they arewell-marked.
We will merely advise the traveler not to miss the Church of Santiago, which is a National Monument, and the Town Hall - more popularly known as La Cárcel (The Prison)- both of which are in the higher part of the town.
The church is an excellent work of art which includes both Gothic and Renaissance features as well as an occasional Baroque contribution.
The Prison is a Renaissance structure which is furnished with a gallery whose columns resemble a medieval rather than orthodox Classicist design. The highway which skirts Jumilla also indicates the way to Casón and the Convent of Santa Ana. The Casón is a small Paleo-Christian burial ground which is dated sometime in the 4th century and which can only be seen through a gate. The Convent of Santa Ana, 6 kms. away, is found in a lovely mountain area surrounded by pines. The 16th century church and in general the whole setting makes up a highly recommended visit. A 'Christ at the Column' by Salzillo and another 'Christ' of the 15th century are on exhibit in the temple along with some fine paintings and 18th century tiles.
The Municipal Museum is worth a visit where one can admire many interesting objects including the 'Iberian horsemen'. Twenty-six kilometers away is Yecla, which also sits at the foot of a castle, surrounded by vineyards.
Two churches stand out above the town roofs, one of which is finished off with a tower and a pyramidal chapter and the other is crowned by a high, tile-covered dome. The first church is the oldest for it dates from the 16th century and follows basically Gothic lines.
The second church is dedicated to La Purísima and is a 17th century building with a Classicist style. A 'Madonna' by Salzillo is found in the Church of San Francisco.
We cannot end this itinerary without making mention of the Balneario de Fortuna, which is located just 20 kms. from the Archena spa, heading in the direction of Levante. It can be reached from the capital by taking a turn-off from the Murcia-Alicante highway.
This spa of thermal waters has been used since the Moslem epoch and is a very pleasant spot for spending a period of rest and relaxation, amidst palm groves.
FESTIVITIES AND TRADITIONS.
Without a doubt the key dates for visiting Murcia and getting to know its folklore is during Holy Week and its spring festivities. The splendour of the pasos (religious floats) carried
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