Cáceres

Few cities have managed to maintain a tangible sense of their medieval heritage, and also preserve the foot print of previous generations of its inhabitants quite like Cáceres. It is little wonder therefore, that the old quarter of the city was declared a World Heritage Centre by Unesco in 1986.

It was the Almohad Dynasty who were the first to set up strategic defensive battlements here. The city wall is perhaps the most impregnable example of the city’s armaments. (imagen muralla desde la puerta de la Estrella). Up to 25 towers rise up defiantly from the city, such as the Bujaco Tower (plano corto), or the neighbouring Grass Tower, the Oven Tower and the Gate Tower; now these structures are integrated with Cristian temples – like that of Saint Mary, Saint Francis Javier or Saint Matthew (vistas de las torres desde Bujaco, las cristianas a lo mejor se ven mejor desde la torre de Carvajal). The city wall encloses a privileged zone of ancestral homes and seniorial palaces which serve as a reminder of Caceres’ former glory (plano general plaza de Santa María y fachada palacio episcopal). It boasts a legacy rich in noble lineage and of those who made great fortunes in the discovery of America (vista palacio de Ovando). The co-cathedral presides over Saint Mary Square, the nerve centre of the walled enclosure (plano fachada). The Golfines de Abajo Palace (plano fachada) is an extraordinary example of these fortified palaces and visual proof of the defensive nature of Caceres’ palacial strongholds.

The well or “aljibe” (plano) at the Palace of the Weatherveins (fachada) – an ancient Arab fortress, bears witness to the Almohads’ occupation in the city. Though other clues can be found elsewhere (vista de casas blancas por el adarve del Cristo). An intricate network of narrow streets with whitewashed facades introduce the Christian neighbourhood, before leading to the Jewish quarter. This is the zone where the synagogue stood until 1478. The Helga de Alvear Foundation Centre of Visual Arts is the modern day counterpoint to Cáceres’ old quarter. Occupying a modernist building known as the Big House, it contains one of the most important private collections of contemporary art.

We cannot bid farewell to Caceres without a brief stop off at the Mountain Hermitage – a sanctuary where the Patron Saint of the city is worshipped. It provides a viewpoint from where we can contemplate how the old quarter has managed to overcome its limitations and integrate itself with dignity into modern day Cáceres.