The city of Murcia was founded in 831 by Abd-Al-Rahman II on a privileged location, in the centre of the Valley of the River Segura. The importance of the city has also been evidenced by the numerous archaeological findings, such as the remains of a palace unearthed at the Las Claras Convent.
However it was from the 16th century, and particularly the 18th century, onwards that Murcia achieved an urban splendour that lead to its expansion beyond the city walls. It was during that period that the numerous churches - mainly baroque in style - that mark the entire urban landscape were built. These churches include La Merced, San Miguel, Santa Ana, Las Claras, Santo Domingo, Santa Eulalia and San Juan de Dios, which combine their artistic and architectural designs with an important pictorial and sculptural heritage, containing numerous important works, including most notably those produced by Francisco Salzillo.
The most important religious building in Murcia is its Cathedral, construction of which began at the end of the 14th Century; this building contains gothic elements, renaissance architecture, and baroque architecture, including most notably its façade, conceived as a gigantic altarpiece by Jaime Bort, with its clever conjugation of sculpture and architecture.
The streets and squares of Murcia also offer magnificent examples of 19th century architecture, such as the Town Hall, the Victoria Hotel, the Romea Theatre and particularly the Casino, built in 1847 and extended after 1902.
All this artistic and historic wealth is on display at the city's museums, such as the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Museum or the Salzillo Museum, where visitors can enjoy the procession images created by this skilled Murcian maker of images for the procession of the morning of Good Friday, as well as his famous Nativity Scene, which marks the start of one of the oldest traditions in Murcia.
Murcian art is not limited to the city boundaries. Magnificent examples of baroque architecture can be found at the La Fuensanta Chapel or the Monastery of San Jerónimo, which is known as El Escorial Murciano, The Escorial of Murcia.
Cartagena is a city with more than 2,500 years of history. Each corner, street and square of the city offers travellers monumental examples of its splendorous historical past, of the civilizations that put in at its port.
The Cartagena inititiative, "Port of Cultures", opens up a wide range of possibilities which enable the visitor to enjoy the city's heritage and cultural riches: to find out about its origins by visiting the Punic Walls, evidence of the founding of the city by the Carthaginian Asdrubal in the year 227 B.C., where a Visitor Activity Centre will explain all about that fundamental part of its history and the local archaeology.
Just by strolling around we soon discover that the city also possesses a military history which takes us right back to mediaeval times when the Castle of the Conception was built. It is here where a Visitor Activity Centre offers information about the city and its history in a place which has been chosen for its privileged setting.
>The visitor will also be able to enjoy the local gastronomy which, in the case of Cartagena, is special in that it is a port, but with the country right nearby. Both fresh and salted fish and seafoods, the very typical "caldero" - a type of fish stew served with rice and garlic - as well as meat and agricultural produce from its fertile inland, all washed down with local wines and accompanied by the traditional drinks of the area such as the asiatico coffee (coffee with condensed milk, cinnamon, lemon and whole coffee beans), which delight the palate of all those who come to find out about its traditional cuisine.
Lorca, whose urban centre was declared -a Town of Historical and Artistic Interest- in 1964, is described as "the baroque city", due to the important baroque heritage of its historical centre, one of the most important in the Region, and the historical events that have shaped modern Lorca from the Iron Age to our time. Mention must be made of the numerous archaeological sites, the Columna Miliaria dating from Roman times, the Espolón Tower and the Alfonsina Tower, a Christian construction dating from after the Reconquest; the "Porche de San Antonio", the gate through the old wall that surrounded the city (in the 10th century), the numerous churches and convents dating from different periods and built in different styles (15th century to the 18th century), the baroque palaces and stately homes, such as the Guevara Palace, the Palace of the Counts of San Julián or Casa de la Mula, the military fortress that restructures the medieval castle on an inexpugnable site, or the paved streets around Plaza de España, with popular architectural buildings imbued with strong traditional character, such as La Zapatería y La Cava. Mention must also be made of the spectacular Biblical-Passion Week procession in Lorca, with the fervour of whites and blues, blues and whites; its traditional craftwork, with items still produced using craft techniques, such as ceramics, wall and floor carpets, intricate embroidery and iron forging.
Caravaca de la Cruz
Caravaca de la Cruz is a town located on the border of Murcia and Granada. The Iberians, Romans and Muslims all passed through this town, which has developed around its Castle, built in the 15th century and commissioned by the Knights Templar. However, Caravaca is essentially the holy town, the town of the cross that carries its name. According to legend, in 1232 the Moorish King Abu Zeid was converted to Christianity when he saw how two angles brought a cross down from heaven to a priest held prisoner in the castle in order for him to give mass. This legend led to the construction, as from 1617 and on the site of the fortress itself, of the main monument of this town in the north-east of Murcia, the Chapel of La Vera Cruz. The most important feature of this building is its luxurious façade, made from red marble excavated in Cehegín and which offers a complete exaltation to the Holy Cross.
In 1998 the Pope awarded Caravaca de la Cruz the Jubilee Year, making this town the fifth in the world, together with four other cities (Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liébana, Roma and Jerusalem), to be allowed to celebrate the Perpetual Jubilee. This means that the Holy See allows the town to celebrate the Holy Year every seven years in perpetuum at the Chapel of La Vera Cruz, the next Jubilee Year at Caravaca de la Cruz being the year 2017. However this Chapel, which also has an interesting Holy Art and History Museum, is not the only religious monument in Caravaca. There are interesting 16th century churches, such as: La Soledad, today converted into an Archaeological Museum; El Salvador, considered to be the most representative work of the Murcian Renaissance; La Purísima; and the Convent of the Carmelites. In terms of civil government, it is worth highlighting the Town Hall building, which dates from the 18th century. Despite its small size, another very important monument in Caravaca is the Temple of the Holy Cross, where the relic is bathed each year on 3 May during the celebration of the popular Festivities of The Holy Cross. Another popular "fiesta" is los Caballos del Vino (Wine horses), in commemoration of a tradition that took place in the 13th century. On that date, the Christian besieged in the fortress by the Arabs managed to break the siege and search for water. When they failed to find any water, they returned to the fortress with the wineskins on their horses filled with wine. The commemoration consists in decoratively harnessed horses galloping up the steep slopes to the Castle. Together with the Moor and Christian processions, these are the main events in the festive calendar of Caravaca. The Uribe Palace (16th century) holds the Festivals Museum where you will be able to live them in first person.