Visigoth and Arab Mérida

Mérida was without any doubt, one of the most important cities of the Hispanic Visigoth era. It was the capital of the kingdom for 65 years, and at political and religious level, was only superseded by Toledo. During that period, many important structures were built which unfortunately do not survive to this day. Proof of that can be found in the remains of the Barroque Saint Clara Church, which today, is the Mérida Visigoth museum where one can view the most important collection of Visigoth artefacts in Spain. Remnants of the time are also hidden under the Saint Eulalia Basilica, named after the city’s patron saint who attracted many pilgrims who descended on the town to follow the footsteps of the young martyr. It was the Muslims who would later make use of parts of the Visigoth structures to decorate their own buildings such as the Alcazaba. Here we can take in numerous Visigoth pillars lining a large, majestic courtyard. If we go down to the basement, we can observe many of these pillars which can be easily identified by clusters of grapes, palm leaves…

At this point it is well worth taking a trip up to the top of the wall itself from where we get a beautiful aerial view of a courtyard that in its day would form the living quarters for up to 2,000 soldiers, distributed into various barracks. A courtyard whose walls rising 10 metres in height made the compound practically impenetrable. We can also see the Xenodoquio, a hostal for pilgrims in which they could find whatever needs they required, regardless of their social status, economic standing or religion. We get a clearer impression of how religion evolved over the passage of the centuries at the Columbarium, where we are taken on a bewitching journey through the burial grounds spanning the various different periods of the city. Here we can take in impressive Roman mausoleums and priceless Visigoth cemeteries. We can also get an idea of the methods used during the era (burial equipment and utensils, funeral rites and explanatory posters) and which give visitors a better understanding of one of the most fascinating periods in Spanish history and one whose legacy served to shape civilizations right up until the present day.