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Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

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Guernsey, Channel...
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Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

I am visiting friends in Murcia during December and would like to have info regarding cultural sites - I have been to Carthehena and enloyed the wonderful museum and ampthi theatre there, and would like to go further afield. Also are there any day or overnight excursions to say, Alhambra, and the like?

All suggestions welcomed.

Best wishes

Felbridge, United...
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1. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Are you staying in the city itself, and will you have a car or rely on pubic transport?

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2. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Hi

Thanks for response; I am based in Los Erutias, close to the Yacht Club - I will have the use of a car, but happy to look at coach trips and the like, if these exist at this time of the year.

Best wishes

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3. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

You can drive quite easily to Calasparra or to Caravaca de la Cruz (now one of hte World's 5 Holy Cities and in its Holy Year (every 7 years). YOu can visit the Espuna National Park near Condado de Alhama or go up the coast to Guadalest.

There are always the spas in Fortuna as well as the mud baths at Lo Pagan - although December dipping in those would be a bit chilly!

You said you will be staying at Los Urrutias so that is very near to the AP-7 with good connections to all parts of the region. There is a superb tourist office on the N322 in Los Alcazares - go in there and get loads of information . Murcia City is a great place for days out - visit the Cathedral or go to the Sanctuary overlooking the City or visit the fabulous shopping in the City or go to Nueve Condominio - 200 shops under one roof and next ot the football stadium. There are coach trips with pick up point at hte Arches in Los Alcazares - Coach Trips SL offer this service. I hope you have fab time.

Roda Lady

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4. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Stileto:

I went to Murcia last year and enjoyed the province very much. Here are my notes:

Caravaca de la Cruz

Caravaca de la Cruz is a beautiful town in the northwest of Murcia, in the mountains, and it has about 25,000 inhabitants. Towering above the town is the medieval Castle of Santa Cruz, that contains the miraculous True Cross, which is supposed to have a healing power, and in whose honor there is a yearly festival on May 3.

The legend of the Caravaca Cross is one of the most interesting stories. The cross is about a foot long and was used in the past to appear on the chests of ecclesiastical patriarchs. There are two horizontal bars on the cross. In 1232 a miracle occurred in the town. Murcia belonged to a Taifa kingdom of the Moors and the town was ruled by a Moorish king, Sayid Abu-Sayid. He was interviewing one of his Christian prisoners, a priest called Gines Perez Chirinos, who was from Cuenca. The king asked him about his profession and the priest told him that he said Mass. The king was curious and told him he wanted to see the priest say Mass at the main chamber of the fort, in front of the court. He arranged that the priest have an altar draped with a cloth, bread and wine, and some candles. However the priest said he could not proceed because he did not have a cross. Suddenly though the window of the chamber, two angels appeared with the True Cross, which they placed on the altar. The king and his whole court were so amazed by the miracle that they all asked to be baptized.

The Caravaca Cross is called a lignum crucis, because it contains a fragment of the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, was supposed to have found the true cross in Jerusalem in the 4th century. In 1099 this cross was owned by the patriarch Robert of Jerusalem. During the 6th Crusade, in 1230 when Jerusalem fell back into the hands of the Emperor Frederick II, the relic was in the possession of the bishop in that city. It then disappeared and suddenly appeared in Caravaca two years later. Today the town of Caravaca is the 3rd largest pilgrimage center in Spain because of the True Cross. When the Spanish landed in the Americas, the Franciscan missionaries brought copies of the Caravaca Cross to all parts of the New World, where it gained fame and devotion. It has become an amulet, to protect the wearer against all evil. Today it is the custom in Spain and other countries to give a small Caravaca Cross to friends as a symbol of affection, peace and love.

There is another legend about Caravaca. In the 15th century, the town passed to the Knights Templar, who built the castle that still stands over the town. At one time the Knights Templar and the people in the town took refuge in the castle when the Moors put it under siege. The water in the castle became unusable and many people fell sick. Some knights crept out of the castle at night to find water, but many of the neighboring wells had been poisoned by the Moors. The knights only found wine, which they put in wineskins and raced back to the castle on their horses. The Moors spotted them and raced after them, but the knights made it to the castle in time to save themselves. The wine was blessed in the presence of the Caravaca Cross and served to the people who were sick. These people recovered immediately, so the wine was mixed with the undrinkable water in the storage tanks. The water became fresh and the Christians were able to resist the enemy.

Today there is a yearly fiesta to remember these events. There is a small Baroque building in the town with a hexagonal layout, with pillars and a roof, with open sides, shaped like a lantern with six openings. This is called El Bañadero (the bathing place). Every May 3 since 1384, the True Cross is brought here and bathed in the waters of the river, to give good luck for the harvests.

On May 2 there is the festival of the Wine Horse, where a horse covered with an elaborate blanket is raced to reach the castle in 9 seconds. There is also a festival of the Moros and Cristianos, where people parade in either costumes of the Moors or Christians, and have a simulated battle.

When we arrived in the town, we first went to the Museo de las Fiestas, where we saw costumes of the Moorish king and queen and the Christian king and queen. These are beautiful costumes with embroidery and each costs about 18,000€. There is also a display of a horse with the beautiful blanket that it wears during the Wine Horse Festival.

Later we ascended the hill on a small simulated train car to see the Castle of Santa Cruz. We first went to the Museo de la Vera Cruz, which explained the True Cross, with many paintings. We then entered the Sanctuario de la Santisima y Vera Cruz. This has a beautiful altar that is gilded. After the Mass, the priests showed the True Cross and the believers were allowed to kiss it.

Another important church is the Church of El Salvador. This is considered the best example of the Renaissance in Murcia and is considered a Historic-Artistic Site by the Spanish government. The chapels are quite impressive and beautiful. The church was built between the 16th and 18th centuries, and the architect was Pedro de Antequera. It has slim ionic columns that sustain at great height the vaults. There are three naves with seven chapels. There is a Baroque main altar done by Jose Saez. There are many important paintings in the church. We ended our trip to Caravaca by having a good lunch at the Salon Castillo de la Cruz.

Calasparra

Calasparra is a small town in the northwest mountainous area of the province of Murcia and has a population of about 9,700. The Segura River flows near it and a limited amount of rice is grown there, since the 14th century. This rice is famous and is used for paella. What makes the town famous is that there is a sanctuary carved out of the rock that contains a small image in wood of the Virgin Mary, who is known as "La Pequeñica", because of her small size. The site is one of the most popular Marian centers of pilgrimage in Spain.

The legend is that around 1786, a shepherd tending his flock found a small cave in the rocks, when he sought refuge from the elements. He found the small statue of the Virgin and told the ecclesiastical authorities in the town about his find. These authorities wanted to move the statue to a more appropriate site, to one of the churches in the town. When they tried to lift the statue to take it away, they found that the statue weighed very much and no amount of force could take it out of the cave. The authorities then decided that the Virgin wanted to stay in the cave. So they built a bigger cave in the rock in the form of a chapel and that is where the Virgen de la Esperanza is now found. The facade follows the Baroque style and there are beautiful gardens around the site, leading down steps to the River Segura. The image of the Virgin is said to have caused many miracles since its discovery. It is a beautiful place to visit and the setting is very peaceful.

Lorca

Lorca is the third largest city in Murcia, after the City of Murcia and Cartagena, with a population of about 90,000. It is located on the southwestern part of the province of Murcia, close to the boundary with Almeria. It is close to the Guadalentin River and is known as the City of the Sun. The Romans founded the city with the name of Eliocroca and was on the road between Tarragona and Cadiz. During the Visigothic rule, the name changed to Lurga. Later the Moors came, until the city was conquered by Alfonso X. During the Reconquest, Lorca was a border city between the Kingdom of Castile and the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. After Granada was conquered, the city of Lorca became prosperous. The city is dominated by the Castle of Lorca, situated on the highest hill overlooking the city. This castle was built by the Moors in the 13th century.

The Collegiate Church of San Patricio is a beautiful church that was built between 1533 and 1704 to celebrate the victory of the people of Lorca against the Moors in the Battle of Alporchones, which took place on the St. Patrick's Day in 1452. The facade is Baroque and the architect was Jose Valles. The large church has three naves and twelve chapels. There is a Retrochoir that was built in the 18th century by Toribio Martinez de la Vega. The facade is similar to that of the Cathedral of Murcia.

There is a Visitor's Center which explains some of the history of Lorca. There is also a Museo de los Bordados del Paso Blanco, which is the Embroidery Museum. This museum displays clothes with elaborate embroidery, many which are used in the city's processions. Attached to the museum is the Church of Santo Domingo, which has the Capilla del Rosario (Chapel of the Rosary). This has a very beautiful gilded main altar.

Later we had lunch at a restaurant called La Pradera, on the outskirts of town.

Alhama de Murcia

Alhama de Murcia is a small town of about 19,000 and is famous for its Roman baths. The Museo Arqueologico Los Baños is the name of the museum that shows the remains of the Roman baths, which were famous during Roman times. When the Moors came, they also enjoyed the baths. Later the Christians did not take baths, as it was not their custom, so the baths were abandoned and fell into disrepair until the museum restored it. There were separate baths for men and women.

Murcia City

The City of Murcia is the capital of the province and has a population of 434,000 and is the biggest city in the province. It was founded in 825 A.D. by Abd ar-Rahman II, who was the emir of Al-Andalus. They gave it the name of Medinat Mursiya. King Alfonso X conquered the town in the 13th century and it became a part of the Kingdom of Castile. The Moors were not expelled, but there were many immigrants from Catalonia and Provence.

The Museo Salzillo is dedicated to the work of Francisco Salzillo, who was a famous sculptor who lived between 1707 and 1783. He was born in Murcia and is considered one of the best sculptors of the Baroque Age in Spain. This museum contains many of his religious works, which were sculpted out of wood and then polychromed. The sculptures were used in churches and also for the Holy Week processions. This collection is owned by the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno Cofradia. Each piece looks amazingly lifelike. Salzillo made hundreds of sculptures, but many were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. This museum has some of his best work.

The Cathedral was built between 1394 and 1465 in the Castilian Gothic style, on the site of a former mosque. Bishop Fernando de Pedrosa started the construction of the church. The interior of the church is Gothic, but the facade is Baroque, with a design by Jaime Bort. There is a tower that is 93 meters high, the second highest, after the Giralda in Seville, and this took more than two hundred years to finish, being started in 1521 and completed in 1792. This involved many different architects, among them being Ventura Rodriguez. The first two stories of the tower are in the Renaissance style and the third one is Baroque. There is a bell pavilion that has Rococo and Neoclassical influences. There is a chapel called the Velez Chapel that is in the Flamboyant Gothic style, with a vaulted ceiling and star shaped skylights. The artwork in this chapel is incredibly beautiful. It was planned as the mausoleum of the important Velez Family, but later on the family decided on another place.

In front of the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, built in 1768. It has a colorful design on the walls that looks like flowers. Nearby is a building that is an extension of the City Hall, with a very modern design by the architect Rafael Moneo, that has been controversial.

The City of Murcia has a beautiful City Hall, with a park in front of it. It has a Neo-Classic design and was built in 1848. The area is called the Glorieta and is next to the Segura River, and this has been considered the center of the city.

Fuensanta

For lunch we went to La Meseguera in the outskirts of town called La Alberca. Five kilometers from Murcia is the Sanctuary of the Virgin of la Fuensanta, who is the patron saint of the city of Murcia. The church was built at the end of the 17th century and is in the Baroque style. Twice a year, once during Lent and the other during the September fair, the image of the Virgin Mary is brought in procession to the Cathedral of Murcia. The legend is that in 1694, the people of Murcia prayed to this Virgin for rain during a drought and the prayers were answered with a very heavy rain. That is when the people and the Church decided to make her the patron saint of Murcia. At this sanctuary there is a natural fountain where people go to get water because of the Virgin. Murcia is a land full of legends.

Aguilas

The City of Aguilas is located at the southern end of Murcia and close to the border with Almeria. It has about 28,000 inhabitants and during the Roman times, it was called Urci. At the end of the 18th century, the city of Lorca needed a port to ship its products, so Aguilas was used for this purpose and it prospered. The hill overlooking the city is occupied by a castle called the Castle of St. John of the Eagles. At the end of the 19th century, the port was used to ship iron ore that a British mining company was exploiting. The British South Easter Railway Company built a special pier to load the ships with the iron ore and this started in 1903. The city has also many fine beaches and is a resort. Of interest in the city is the Archaeological Museum. The City Hall is a beautiful building built by the British in the Neo-Mudejar style. It is located at the Plaza de España and around this beautiful plaza are other noteworthy Modernist buildings. The plaza also has a huge ficus tree from Brazil that is more than a hundred years old.

The port has a beautiful sculpture of Icarus at the port of Aguilas. The sculptor was Mariano Gonzalez, and his model was the torero Pepin Lirio. When the sculpture was completed, the torero was very unhappy because he claimed that the sculptor minimized his manly attribute. I thought this story was quite amusing.

Across the Hornillo beach is the Rincon del Hornillo. This is a wide flight of steps leading up to another street that the owner of a house beside it has built with mosaic, using a technique similar to Gaudi, of using brightly colored bits of ceramic. The creator of this fancy was Juan Martinez Casuco and he began the work in 1985.

We went to the Queseria Artesanal La Granja del Fraile, which is a small cheese making shop that uses goat and sheep milk. We were able to try several delicious cheeses and were given wine to accompany the cheese, so this was quite enjoyable.

Mazarron

The City of Mazarron is between Aguilas and Cartagena and is also a port and has beaches. . It has about 19,000 inhabitants. We had lunch at the Hotel Playa Grande. The town has the Factoria Romana de Salazones de Mazarron, which is a museum that shows how the Romans made garum. The museum actually has the original pits used to make this sauce that the Romans loved. First the insides of some types of fish were cut into small pieces and allowed to decompose partly, which was helped by the digestive enzymes of the fish. Salt was added to prevent decay. The pits and tanks were used to transform it to a sauce and then the sauce was filtered to separate the liquid, which was called garum. This was a very big business along the Mediterranean coasts.

Alicante

When we went to Benidorm two year ago, we took an excursion to Alicante, but when we were on top of the Castle of Santa Barbara, a sudden storm came up and we had to leave the castle immediately because of the lightning around it. This time we went to Alicante with the sun shining and our first stop was the Castle of Santa Barbara, where we took some pictures. We later went to the Museo Arqueologico de Alicante, a prize winning museum that explains fully the history of Alicante and its archaeological remains.

Our next stop was the port of the city, with its magnificent esplanade with its palm trees and benches. This is really a wonderful park that one can enjoy. We walked around the downtown area and found that one of the buildings had a beautifully carved wooden door. The doors were so unusual that I had to take a picture of them. Later we saw the City Hall of Alicante, which is a Baroque building finished in 1760. This was a very beautiful building.

We then went to the town of Santa Pola, which is a beach resort that also has a salt industry, where salt is mined from the seawater. Our next stop was Torrevieja, which is a beach resort that is one of the favorite places that Madrileños go to. It has a population of about 104,000. There are many foreign colonies (British, French, and German) here that our guide said do not mix with the Spanish or with each other. They just go to this place for the warm weather.

We had a wonderful lunch at the Cabo Cervera Hotel, close to the sea. Then we went to the port and saw the Museo de Belenes, which has a good collection of the Christmas manger scenes.

Elche

Elche is another destination in Alicante province. In the 5th century B.C. it was an Iberian city with the name of Helike, and the stone sculpture of La Dama de Elche is from this period. The Romans came later and called the city Julia Ilici Augusta. The Moors came and contributed the very important irrigation system, that is still used today. James II of Aragon conquered the city in the 13th century. King Carlos III was so enchanted with the palm trees that he passed a law to protect the trees and no one is allowed to cut any. Today the city has 228,000 inhabitants. The city has many palm tree orchards and have an area of 2 km by 1 km, making it look like a huge palm forest. Because of these palm trees, Elche (also known as Elx) received the World Heritage Award in 2000. There are more than 200,000 palm trees in the city.

Our first stop was El Huerto del Cura. It was the priest Jose Castaño Sanchez who built the gardens at the end of the 19th century. The gardens are named National Artistic Gardens. Another view of the gardens. There were palm trees, bamboo, cactus, and flowers in the gardens. At several places we saw replicas of La Dama de Elche. The gardens have the custom of naming one of the trees after a famous visitor. One famous visitor in 1894 was the Empress Sissy of Austria. They named one palm tree after her and this tree is the most famous now in the garden because from the main trunk, there have grown eight new trunks. The gardens are an enjoyable place to visit.

After that we went to the Salvador Artesano Shoe Factory, supposedly the biggest shoe outlet in Europe. We had seen one of its stores in La Manga and were not impressed by the quality of the shoes, so we did not buy any. Elche has a big shoe industry and produces half of all shoes in Spain. There are more than 1000 shoe factories in the city.

The Santa Maria Basilica is a beautiful church which holds the Mystery of Elche, which is considered a World Humanity Site. It takes place on Aug. 14 and 15 of every year, and is a theatrical presentation of the Assumption of the Virgin to heaven and her Coronation. This is a medieval mystery play and is the only one allowed to be performed in a Catholic Church, given a papal bull in 1632 by Pope Urban VIII. During the play the Virgin is brought up to heaven using ropes that bring the participant towards the false ceiling of the dome. The building is Baroque and dates from the 17th century. The facade is impressive, as is the main altar.

We had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the middle of a park. The restaurant was called the Datil de Oro Restaurant and had big picture windows that brought the outdoors in. The food was very delicious here.

A word about the Dama de Elche (Lady of Elche): In 1897 the Dama de Elche was discovered at L'Alcudia, an archaeological site on a private estate about 2 km south of Elche. Dating says that this polychrome bust is between 5th and 4th century B.C., and this is considered the prime masterpiece of Iberian art.

The bust is of a priestess of the local goddess. The bust is made of limestone and the statue is of a woman measuring about 56 cm. Some red color, blue and white paint remans on the lips of the statue, the veil and the tunic. It is covered with a vei, held together by a wide tiara encrusted with pearls, and held up by two large buns, which hide her braided hair. A shawl covers her shoulders and she wears three beautiful necklaces on her chest. She also wears bracelets. The woman has a serene and enigmatic gaze.

The French archaeologist Pierre Paris bought the statue when it was discovered and sent it to the Louvre, where it became the centerpiece of Iberian art. The government of Franco negotiated with the Vichy government to get back the statue in 1941. In return, it is said that the Spanish government gave the French some very valuable artwork by famous Spanish painters like Goya. What was exchanged remains a mystery today. The Dama de Elche is housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. Many times the Dama de Elche represents the country of Spain in the media.

Orihuela

Orihuela is a small city in Alicante, with a population of about 33,000. It holds the Cathedral of El Salvador since 1564, which is the Cathedral of the province of Alcante. It was built on the site of the Aljama Mosque in the 14th century. The church is Gothic in style and has a Latin cross floor plan. There are three doors. Las Cadenas and Loreto are Gothic, while La Anunciacion is Renaissance in style. One important work of art is the Temptation of Saint Thomas by Velazquez. The church also has an exterior cloister, which is very unusual, since most cloisters are in the interior of buildings.

Orihuela also has its Museo de Semana Santa, which is the Holy Week Museum. It contains many of the thrones and religious statues that are used during that celebration. Most of the thrones are small, compared to the gigantic ones used in Malaga.

Guernsey, Channel...
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5. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Thanks so much posters, for your help and excellent knowledge - I am a great fan of T A and knew this would be the site to give me all the best help.

I hope to visit a wider range of my interests, and will be well armed.

Muy bien

Best wishes

south western...
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6. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Thanks Benny for your comprehensive report on the Murcia region. As you may have seen from my other posts I am visiting Murcia in March on business. I am flying in and out of Madrid, and trying to decide where else to go during our short (8 day) visit to Spain. One possiblity is spending 4 days in Madrid, then flying to Alicante, renting a car, and touring around this region for 4 days before flying back to Madrid. How would this region compare to say, Granada, Sevilla region? I understand it would not be as spectacular, but would it be charming enough to give us a taste of more rural Spain in terms of architecture, history, landscape etc.? Since we will be coming to the area anyway, I thought this could be an option to perhaps simplify our plans and give us more time to enjoy and less time to travel. Would appreciate your comments.

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7. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Cinderella:

The countryside is very scenic in Murcia and it is wonderful to see it so very green, even though they have little water. They manage their water for agriculture very well and do not waste a single drop. I think you will enjoy seeing their countryside. They have very good roads there.

If you have time, go to Caravaca de la Cruz. It is worth seeing this little town in the hills.

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8. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

Thanks Benny. I really appreciate your informative posts and I am sure there are many others who are as well. Having never been to Spain before, I want to make the most of my trip, yet take time to enjoy a variety of settings.

9. Re: Cultural Sites in the Murcia Region

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