Thursday, 17 May 2012



Murcia, a major city in south-eastern Spain, is the capital and most populous city of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country. It is located on the Segura River, in the Southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, noted by a mild climate with hot summers, tepid winters and scarce precipitation.  Murcia is located near the center of a low-lying fertile plain known as the huerta (orchard or vineyard) of Murcia. 

The city in its present location was founded with the name Medinat Mursiya (city of Murcia) in AD 825 by Abd ar-Rahman II, who was then the emir of Córdoba. Muslims planners, taking advantage of the course of the river Segura, created a complex network of irrigation channels that made the town's agricultural existence prosperous. In the 12th century the traveler and writer Muhammad al-Idrisi described the city of Murcia as populous and strongly fortified. After the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, Murcia passed under the successive rules of the powers seated variously at Almería, Toledo and Seville. After the fall of Almoravide empire, Muhammad Ibn Mardanis made Murcia capital of an independent kingdom. At this time, Murcia was a very prosperous city, famous for its ceramics, exported to Italian towns, as well as for silk and paper industries, the first in Europe. The coinage of Murcia was considered as model in all the continent.

In 1172 Murcia was taken by the Almohades, and from 1223 to 1243 it briefly served as the capital of an independent kingdom. By the treaty of Alcaraz, in 1243, Alfonso X of Castile made Murcia a protectorate, getting access to Mediterrannean sea while Murcia was protected against Granada and Aragon. But the town became rapidly colonized by Christians from almost all parts of the Iberian Peninsula. These Christian populations were brought to the area with the goal of establishing a Christian base here, one that would be loyal to the Crown of Castile and whose culture would supplant that of the subjugated Muslim peoples. During the process of Christianization, many of the city’s mosques were destroyed or converted into Catholic churches.. That is why a revolt spread in 1264-6. In 1296, James II of Aragon conquered the city. In 1304, it was finally incorporated into Castile under the Treaty of Torrellas.

Murcia lost then its prosperity but flourished again in the 18th century, benefiting greatly from a boom in the silk industry. Many of the modern city's landmark churches and monuments date from this period of nascent mercantilism. However, this was to be followed by nearly a century of mishap. In 1810, Murcia was looted by Napoleonic troops; it then suffered a major earthquake in 1829. According to contemporaneous accounts, an estimated 6,000 people died from the disaster's effects across the province. Plague and cholera followed.

The town and surrounding area suffered badly from floods in 1651, 1879, and 1907, though the construction of a levee helped to stave off the repeated floods from the Segura. A popular pedestrian walkway, the Malecon, runs along the top of the levee.

Murcia has been the capital of the province of Murcia since 1838 and, with its creation by the central government in 1982, capital of the autonomous community (which includes only the city and the province).

As a result of its intense historical tradition, the reiterative superposition of cultures, its strategic location as a Mediterranean enclave and its transitional character as a border territory mid-way between the Meseta and Andalusia, the Murcia Region retains innumerable vestiges of the past, making it an ideal meeting-point where History and tradition have been instilled with new life and placed at the visitor's disposal. The abundant remains and archaeological sites include rock-paintings in cave-shelters dating back to the Iberian period, the splendour of Roman antiquity with its urbanistic refinement and penchant for the theatrical, Visigothic cities, Arab medinas, Christian castles, watch-towers, churches and temples, civil and military constructions...

This ample historical, artistic, architectural and cultural heritage can be contemplated and admired in a diversity of natural settings, in the actual locations where the monuments themselves were erected, or within the thematic spaces provided by the region's complete network of museums. The Region of Murcia is thus likened to a rich printed fabric upon which history has been depicted for our contemplation.

Murcia is the perfect city for strolling around (and a terrible one to drive in, with very complicated one-way systems and crowded carparks). Everything worth seeing is within walking distance. The most famous commercial streets are Trapería, Platería and la Avda. Alfonso X el Sabio. The Paseo del Malecón near the River Segura is also a pleasant walk out of the city and then back again.

The Holy Week procession hosted by the city is among the most famous throughout Spain. This traditional festival portrays the events which lead up to and include the Crucifixion according to the New Testament. Life-sized, finely detailed sculptures by Francisco Salzillo (1707–1783) are removed from their museums and carried around the city in elegant processions amid flowers and, at night, candles, pausing at stations which are meant to re-enact the final moments before the crucifixion of Jesus. The most colorful festival in Murcia may come one week after Holy Week, when locals dress up in traditional huertano clothing to celebrate the Bando de la Huerta (Orchard parade) on Tuesday and fill the streets for the Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) parade the following Saturday.

The excellent produce of the huerta, a varied offer of meats and the prized treasures of the sea... a cuisine assimilating the products bequeathed by the peoples who settled here for centuries. The Romans brought the art of making preserves and salted fish; the Arabs, among a thousand other products, introduced rice and how to grow and cook it, together with spices, condiments and aromatic plants.

Murcia offers some of the most interesting tapas in the whole of Spain. There are a large number of bars and taverns with truly great tapas. The most popular are in the area around the Plaza de Flores (Flowers Square) and the University area called Santa Eulalia. Rice dishes such as arroz caldero, fish and seafood from the Mar Menor such as lobster are unique and an absolutely essential gastronomic experience. There are many other Murcian dishes that have become popular throughout Spain. The zarangollo, bean omelette, the michirones, the olla gitana and the arroz with habichuelas, rabbit, potatoes in garlic known as al ajo cabañil. For desserts try the exellent paparajotes - lemon leaves fried in crispy batter and dusted in sugar and cinammon.

                                                        Murcia’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of Santa Maria. or The Cathedral of Murcia was built between 1394 and 1465 in the Castilian Gothic style. Its tower was completed in 1792 and shows a blend of architectural styles. The first two stories were built in the Renaissance style (1521–1546), while the third is Baroque. The bell pavilion exhibits both Rococo and Neoclassical influences. The main façade (1736–1754) is considered a masterpiece of the Spanish Baroque style.
  2. The Bishop's Palace. or the Episcopal Palace rises up next to the majestic front of the cathedral. It is said that bishop Mateo decided he wanted a residence from which he could contemplate the newly finished facade of the cathedral, leading to the construction of his square palace.It is another of the high points of the 18th century in Murcia. Several expert stone masons from other cathedrals collaborated in its construction.
  3. The Monastery of Santa Clara The museum comprises the Santa Clara enclosed convent and the archaeological and architectural remains of old royal palaces, both Moorish and Christian. Highlights include the courtyard and the decoration of the arches. Inside there is a section of art and archaeology from the time of Al-Andalus, and another of religious art. The first features an array of ceramics and utensils from different periods of Islam in Andalusia. The second has many examples of religious art and illustrates the history of the religious community of the Santa Clara convent.
  4. The Salzillo Museum.  Dedicated to the famous sculptor Francisco Salzillo, born in 1707, the museum has various different rooms where you can see large sculptures created by the artist for the Easter week processions.They are property of the the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno brotherhood. The Salzillo Crib is also on display: this is an exquisitely delicate work, comprising more than 500 pieces, which evokes rural Murcia of the period.
  5. The Puente de los Peligros (Spanish for bridge of the hazards) or also known as the Puente Viejo (Spanish for old bridge) is an arched stone bridge, completed in 1742, that spans the River Segura. On 10 September 1718 the first stone of the bridge was laid. The construction stalled many times but resumed in 1739 and this time works would not stop until their completion in 1742. On September 12, 1742 a wooden statue of Our Lady of the hazards, from which the bridge is named after, was placed on the bridge. The neoclassicalniche would be built on the right bank later on. Statues of Saint Michael and Saint Raphael, works of Joaquín Laguna, were also placed on the bridge starlings. In 1850, the bridge was widened to make room for two sidewalks through a metal structure attached to the stalls. This meant the removal of the decorative elements placed on the starlings. This first extension was insufficient and in 1867 the bridge was further widened with a new metal structure, setting the layout of the bridge as it can be seen today.

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