Úbeda, Jaén, and Baeza

Our first two nights were spent in the small town of Úbeda. As with many of the other towns in the south of Spain, the Moorish heritage was quickly covered up when the northern Christians took over, in what was called the Reconquista. Mosques were demolished or turned into churches and other new buildings rose up. Úbeda is a particularly good example of this trend, because most of its oldest buildings date from the first century after the Christian conquest.

Churches are plentiful in Úbeda and throughout the south of Spain.

At the center of the town is a beautiful square surrounded by impressive public buildings.

One of these buildings, shown here, was a former nun's prison.
(How bad a nun would you have to be to be sent to prison?)

At the center of this square was a statue commemorating the architect
who designed it and its buildings. (Brian's clients, are you listening?)

Equally attractive mansions and churches are dotted throughout the town.

Most of the buildings have beautiful details. The corner balconies were a regular feature of these southern Spanish mansions.

Still, the Moorish heritage was not entirely destroyed.
The fort that guards the town still has its Moorish "horseshoe" arches.

The fort overlooks the rolling hills of the countryside beyond the town, dotted with palm trees but mostly entirely covered with olive groves.
(Olives have been grown in the south of Spain since the Romans introduced them, and it is the world's largest producer of olives and olive oil.)

The view from our hotel apartment--another beautiful mansion!

All in all, Úbeda was a delightful place to spend a few days!

We spent one day in the nearby city of Jaén. It was quite a bit bigger and quite a bit busier.
But it had it own real charms. Foremost among them was its magnificent cathedral. The
Reconquista ended in 1492--the same year, of course, that Columbus set sail--and within
a half-century of that conquest, Spain had also conquered Mexico and Peru. So it was the
gold and silver art treasures of the New World, melted down and shipped across the
Atlantic, that paid for all of the palaces and churches built across the south of Spain.

The exterior of the Jaén cathedral was done in the architectural style that is called Plateresque
(a word meaning "in the manner of a silversmith"--but think wedding cake!).

The interior was even more impressive, with arched vaults set atop soaring columns.

It was Sunday, and lots of people were dressed in traditional southern or Andalusian costume.

We were lucky enough to happen upon a medieval fair
taking place in the square outside the Jaén cathedral.

A woman dressed as a white fairy (or perhaps an angel) stopped as she danced by us and began pointing at Joe's feet and saying
something to another performer in a Spanish too rapid for any of us to understand but to the great amusement of the crowd!

Blooming cactus in a group of windows.

Narrow streets lead down from the center of town to the olive groves beyond.

A decorated wagon for transporting statues of the saints on their feastdays.

Here in Jaén, too, the Moorish fortress looks out from the top of the tallest hill.
It has been converted in part into a luxury state-run hotel (called a parador).

The view from the fortress over the town, its immense cathedral, and the surrounding countryside is, as you can see, breathtaking.

On the way back to Úbeda that same day, we stopped off briefly in the village of Baeza.

Baeza was the first of the Andalusian towns to be conquered (in 1226), so it contains some
medieval buildings: on the left, a church, and on the right, a tower from the town walls.

Others date from the Renaissance, again in the Plateresque style.

The main square of Baeza.

On the left, the tower of the former university and on the right, the tower of the cathedral.


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