The lands of Extremadura are steeped in history.
in Maltravieso Cave are traces preserved of man in the earliest
stages of mankind. There the Celts settled, and in the 1st
c, the proconsul Cayo Urbano Flaco founded one of the five
most important colonies of what used to be Lusitania, which
was later destroyed by the barbarians.
After rebuilding it,
the Arabs called it Quazri, from which the name Cáceres
is derived, and built the walls which still stand today. In
1170, for a short time the Fratres de Cáceres (Friars
of C.), the first members of the Order of St. James, took over
This turbulent period in history came to an end in
1227 when Cáceres became part of the Kingdom of Leon
under the rule of Alfonso IX. But it is much later when Cáceres
and its towns and villages partake in the great Hispanic exploit
during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, viz. the Discovery
Cáceres: The city
It lies 498 m above sea level, and its average temperature
is 9.5o C in winter and 24,6o C in summer. It has around 68,000
inhabitants. Although the modern part has its merits because
it is clean, well laid out and has a lovely park, it is the
old area with its historic sights that will draw the visitor's
attention since there are many palaces, churches and residential
buildings which are perfectly preserved and turn this part
into a real jewel of art, especially of the 15th and 16th c.
But there are also older traces, such as the beautiful Carvajal
Tower of the 13th c.
The curtain walls of this area date from the times of the
Almohads and preserve some Roman sections. Twelve of the thirty
towers protecting the enclosure still stand and especially
outstanding are the ones called Redonda, del Pepito, del Horno,
de la Yerba, del Portigo and de Bujaco, without forgetting
La Estrella Arch, the former Puerta Nueva or New Gate, which
was built by Churriguera in the 18th c. A leisurely visit should
be paid to the 15th c Las Cig?ñas House with its crenellated
tower, the only one of the city built by royal privilege; Las
Veletas House and its Baroque facade on the site of the former
Alcázar or Moorish fortress; Santa Clara Convent of
the 17th c, with beautiful coats-of-arms and a Renaissance
frontispiece; San Mateo, which used to be the main mosque and
stands at the highest point of the city, with its Plateresque
portal and richly decorated sepulchers; the so-called Casa
del Sol (House of the Sun) of the 16th c, with its important
facade and the coat-of-arms of the Solís family; the
Palace of the Golfines de Abajo, which combines Gothic, Mudéjar
and Plateresque and includes beautiful battlements along the
facade, and after all those sights, Santa María Square,
framed by suggestive architecture, such as a Gothic church,
which was finished in the 16th c, where an impressive series
of famous natives of Cáceres lie buried, immortalized
by tombstones, statues and aristocratic coats-of arms. On the
same square stands the Episcopal Palace with its Gothic and
Renaissance facade, the Plateresque Ovando House and the Gothic
Mayoralgo Palace. This complex of historic sights is further
enhanced by other buildings and monuments in its flagstone
streets: Los Espaderos Tower, El Socorro Arch, La Plata Tower,
the Palace of the Golfines de Arriba, the home of the Sánchez
Paredes family and that of the Pereros family, the so-called
Casa del Mono (House of the Monkey), which houses the Provincial
Museum of Paintings, Sculpture and Religious Art with interesting
memorabilia of the city. But not all the monuments remain inside
the walls. Many more of them beautify today's Cáceres
outside the walls: Godoy Palace, the Palace of the Duke of
Abrantes, the Palace of La Isla, the homes of the Carvajales
and Galarza families, the Church of Santiago (St. James), cradle
of the order of the same name, where a magnificent reredos
by Berruguete is found, Los Caballos House, which is today's
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Monastery, the Mudéjar
Hermitage of El Espíritu Santo and the Sanctuary of
its Patron Saint, La Virgen de la Montaña de la Montana,
which towers over the city center.
Itineraries from Cáceres: Trujillo and Guadalupe,
Those who reach the lands of Cáceres from the Spanish
east come across a rich village in the region of Arañuelo:
Navalmoral de la Mata, and a little further on a famous place:
Trujillo, whose sons were the authors of unbelievable feats
in the history of America, such as Francisco Pizarro, who conquered
Peru, Orellana, who discovered the Amazon, García de
Paredes, whose exploits are legend, etc. In Trujillo, the Church
of Santa María la Mayor has a valuable reredos and moving
aristocratic sepulchers. San Martin is a 16th c church. And
there are many residential buildings and palaces. In the center
of the Plaza Mayor stands the equestrian statue of the conqueror,
twin of the one in Lima. A huge Arab castle dominates the city,
which also has a Parador.
Guadalupe witnessed the documents certifying the departure
on the American adventure. And there the first Indians were
baptized. Proof of all this are the famous monuments, which
turned it into the Marian Sanctuary for all of the Spanish
speaking world. This dates from the miraculous appearance of
the Virgin, its Patron Saint, around the year 1300. The huge
Monastery combines Gothic, Mudéjar and Plateresque in
unusual grandeur. There are admirable paintings by Juan de
Flandes, Zurbarán and Lucas Jordan, apart from the miniatures
of its choir books, the rich collection of ornaments and the
buildings which used to be a hostelry, hospital and royal fortress.
Guadalupe has the Parador called "Zurbarán",
which is an invitation to rest after admiring so much beauty.
On the approach from the north, there is Coria, a town surrounded
by solid Roman walls, with an interesting castle and pretty
cathedral. It lies on a rich fertile plain amidst tobacco and
cotton plantations. Plasencia lies on the banks of the Jerte.
This is another town of monumental sights reminiscent of past
grandeur, with small, picturesque streets, aristocratic palaces,
a cathedral an a hunting museum, the latter of the Marquisate
of Mirabel and very beautiful monumental and heraldic signs
on its facades, churches and small hidden places.
The nearby Yuste Monastery cannot be left out on a visit.
It was the last home of Emperor Carlos I of Spain and is breathtakingly
austere. Other places of interest include Jarandilla castle,
where the emperor and his entourage stayed before his definitive
retirement (it is a Parador today), Baños de Montemayor,
Hervás, which has an extremely interesting Jewish quarter,
Garrovilla, with its arcaded main square, El Palancar Monastery,
Brozas with its beautiful palaces, Valencia de Alcántara
with the remains of a citadel and castle as well as the magnificent
Roman bridge at Alcántara, perpetuating the cradle of
the famous Order. Apart from all these places, there are many
more dotting the lovely scenery of the plain where many dolmens
which have survived from prehistoric times can still be found.
Climate, Traditions and Cuisine
In general, the climate is dry with hardly any rain and mild
because of the winds blowing across neighbouring Portugal from
the Atlantic. Popular traditions are Best observed in the large
number of "romerías", i.e., festive excursions
to a saint's shrine, and in the regional costumes which are
sober for men, but very colourful for women, especially the
skirts and flowery kerchiefs and above all the rich, many-coloured
hat of braided straw, the one from Montehermoso.
There is a great variety of fish and game: Boar, Red deer,
Spanish Ibex, Pheasant, Bustard, Heron, Crane, a lot of Partridge
and Rabbit; and in the rivers, Carp, Tench, Trout, Pike and
Perch. Game and fish provide the basis for an uncomplicated
way of cooking, which is very tasty with many recipes coming
from its important monasteries. Especially outstanding are
el frite, la caldereta (a lamb stew) and the typical migas
To round off this list of specialties, special mention must
be made of the famous Montánchez hams and sausage products
as well as of the local wines which are proof of the wine production
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