• Itálica

    Diana, Roman goddess. Italica. Santiponce. Sevilla.

    This is another emblematic Roman site, found at 104 km from the city of Cádiz, in the Sevillian town of Santiponce.

    Origins…

    Located in the Lower Guadalquivir between the Roman cities of Hispalis (Seville) and Ilipa (Alcalá del Río), very close to the routes that connected to the mining area of the northern mountains of Seville and Huelva.

    This favorable location made it renowned during the High Roman Empire in all spheres of the empire, a fact that was reflected in the 52 hectares of land it came to occupy.

    The foundation…

    In the year 206 BC, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio “The African,” after proclaiming victory in the Battle of Ilipa (which occurred during the Second Punic War), was in need of a place for his recovery and of his men.

    To achieve this, he established a detachment of legionaries on the Saint Anthony hill. This area was inhabited by a pre-existing Turdetanian population since the 6th century BC.

    Over the years, as usual, the population eventually Romanized. In this way, Italica turn into a residential city for his veterans.

    The name…

    It is said that since most of the men troops of “The African” were Italians, it was decided to name the settlement in honor of their homeland as Italica.

    The first Roman Hispanic colony…

    Soon, in the second half of the 1st century BC, it receives municipal status.

    During the Augustan period, a significant development took place. From this period are the two large Roman gathering spaces: the theater (possibly dating back to the time of Caesar) for 3,000 spectators and the amphitheater, one of the earliest in the Empire with splendid seating capacity.

    Cradle of great emperors and senators…

    Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Italica Museum. Santiponce. Sevilla.
    • Marcus Ulpius Trajan (53-117), emperor from 98 until his death. He was the second of the Antonine dynasty. A successful soldier, emperor of the greatest military expansion in Roman history up to the time of his death, and a significant philanthropist.
    • Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76-138), emperor from 117 until his death. He was deified as “Divus Hadrianus.” A member of the Ulpio-Aelian dynasty, the second of the emperors born in Baetica. A great enthusiast of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy.

    Under Hadrian, Itálica becomes a Colony, which administratively equated it with the metropolis. Additionally, he expanded the city, creating the “nova urbs,” one of the most modern and advanced cities of the time, complete with a sewage system and services. Under his rule, the monumental and residential district of the patricians and nobility, along with the baths, grew. In addiction, he also erected a temple dedicated to his uncle Trajan.

    Between the 3rd and 4th centuries, a collapse occurred in a large part of the public buildings, infrastructure, and domus erected during the period of the greatest development.

    This was brought about by the decline of the Antonine dynasty, followed by the decline of powerful families in the Lower Guadalquivir, exacerbated by the rise to power of Septimius Severus. Italica lost political importance compared to Hispalis or Corduba.

    The truth is that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the city remained in use until the Muslim period when it became a quarry for materials, then known as “Old Sevilla” or “Sevilla la vieja.”

    The route

    Views at the entrance of the Roman city of Italica. Santiponce. Sevilla.
    City walls:
    • The walls encompassed an area of 50 hectares and were built in different phases.
    • Currently, they are marked by a row of cypress trees.
    • They were 1.5 meters thick, with a concrete core covered by ashlar stones. Every 20 meters, a square tower measuring 5 meters in height was erected.

    Sewers:

    • The main sewer, located beneath the entrance gate to the new district, ran beneath the main thoroughfare.
    • An aqueduct was constructed from the sources of the Guadiamar River, later supplemented by springs near Huelva.
    • Through lead pipes, water was channeled to baths and public fountains, with only a few domus being able to afford water supply.
    • The sewers evacuated excess water and consumption waste outside the city walls.

    Domus of Exedra:
    • “Colegium” or Country Club, with baths, focused on worship or a guild.
    • Stone bench attached to the wall with openings (latrines), beneath which a water channel runs to carry away waste.
    • Beside them, they placed buckets with brushes, sponges, and wooden handles for personal hygiene use.
    • The mosaic depicts scenes of Pygmies fighting against cranes.

    “Opus sectile”:
    • One of the most prized floorings in the Roman world.
    • Made from finely crafted marble slabs with geometric designs and regular shapes.
    • The choice of marbles, decoration, and chromatic elements could increase its value.
    • In this case, the marbles are mostly imported, highlighting the social status of the owner.
    • It is adorned with 15 geometric emblems with consistent colors and motifs in each row.
    • Furthermore, the walls feature traces of reddish-colored stucco.

    Neptune Building, thermal area:
    • Possibly, one of the largest constructions in the city.
    • Within the thermal area, a heating system of two rooms is preserved, along with a portion of the frigidarium corresponding to the mosaic that gave the building its name.

    The mosaic:

    • Presided over by the god of the sea on a chariot pulled by sea horses, surrounded by mythological marine figures.
    • Other elements include a conch shell, sea bream, crustaceans, and gilt-head bream.
    • On the outer part, scenes of fishing and battles between pygmies and cranes are depicted. Additionally, there are elements of Egyptian influence such as the hippopotamus and crocodile.

    Neptune Building, domestic área:
    • Remains of the galleries of a large courtyard, peristyle, and rectangular central hall have been documented.
    • On both sides, symmetrical rooms with two interconnected chambers.
    • Some of the best-preserved mosaics are found here: Theseus and the Labyrinth (on the left), the Bacchus mosaic (on the right).

    Hall with Trajan sculpture:
    • “Divus Traianus,” sculpture of the deified emperor.
    • The original is located in the museum of Seville.
    • The “Traianeum,” the temple that Hadrian erected to his uncle, is now a cemetery.

    Cañada Honda:
    • One of the highest points in Italica.
    • From here, you can see the vetus urbs, or old primitive city, now under the houses of Santiponce.
    • This road would have been one of the most traveled, with the “Traianeum” (Temple of Trajan, now a cemetery, on the right).
    • The columns belonged to the Domus of Emparrado, these being from the central courtyard. On its facade, there were several “tabernae,” dedicated to the trade of feminine items such as needles and pins for adornments. Additionally, it had a “thermopolium” or a shop for hot food and drinks.
    • Further on, to the right, the Domus of Hylas preserves an important collection of mosaics.

    Domus of Hylas:
    • Named after Hylas, who becomes ensnared by nymphs while fetching water from a spring, despite Hercules’ attempt to rescue him.
    • This central motif is found in the museum of Seville.
    • The theme is related to Greek mythology, specifically the expedition of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.
    • The entrance door of the domus faces the aforementioned Cañada Honda.
    • It features several rooms at different levels around various courtyards.
    • Noteworthy are the peristyle and the main triclinium, with a triple entrance and over 100 square meters of area.

    House of the Rhodian Courtyard:
    • A domus with rooms at different levels surrounding a large peristyle.
    • It contains tabernae open to the street and a small interior courtyard.
    • The triclinium and private rooms are decorated with mosaics.
    • The use of different marbles on floors and walls is remarkable.
    • In the part closest to the adjoining house, there are preserved pools of unknown use, possibly dedicated to a small workshop.

    The House of the Birds:
    • Occupies 1700 square meters.
    • It contains the public area with access for clients and friends, and the private area for the family.
    • The public area was organized around a peristyle with a garden and a well supplied by a cistern that collected rainwater. Around it, there were rooms for daily activities.
    • Facing the house, the triclinium presides over the ensemble.
    • The more private areas are located at the back, around two small courtyards.

    The mosaic:

    • Gives its name to the domus and is located in one of the main rooms around the peristyle and open to it.
    • In the central part, we can discern remnants of a head with long hair and a Hellenistic-inspired headdress.
    • 33 species of birds in various poses such as sparrow, owl, partridge, peacock, duck… Some in profile, others looking at the viewer.

    The lararium:
    • Located in one of the rooms that opened onto the peristyle of the House of the Birds, in the form of a small shrine, adorned with paintings or marble.
    • A small space dedicated to the lares or penates, the protective gods or geniuses of the home, business, and family. Ancestor worship was also conducted here.
    • In addition to bronze figurines of these deities, important family relics were placed in this location, and offerings were made to honor them.
    • They were equipped with an “acerra” for incense, a “salinum” for salt, a “gutus” for milk or wine, a patera for offerings, a “turibulum” for burning incense, and a lamp for the sacred light.

    Private rooms of the House of the Birds:
    • Located on both sides of the triclinium, surrounding two smaller courtyards, the northern one featuring a fountain and a pond with mosaics, among which the ones depicting Medusa and Tellus stand out, symbols related to fertility and family protection.
    • The rooms of the gallery in the courtyard and the side corridor have a more understated decoration, with geometric elements, as was common for decorating transitional spaces.

    The bakery:
    • Highly significant establishments in a Roman city.
    • A place where flour was ground before making bread, the dough was kneaded, and the loaf was baked.
    • They were decorated with molds or stamps for certain festivities or significant events in civic life or the imperial family.

    Domus of the Planetarium:
    • One of the largest excavated areas, occupying half of the block.
    • Built in the 2nd century, extensively modified with new walls and compartments.
    • A domus surrounded by commercial and service establishments.
    • Rooms arranged around a central peristyle, with some being more private around smaller peristyles with an “impluvium.” These rooms are adorned with significant geometric and mythological mosaics.
    • The unexcavated easternmost part may contain the triclinium along with two other rooms decorated with geometric design mosaics.

    The Planetarium mosaic:
    • It contains the days of the week, a tradition of Eastern origin, likely Jewish.
    • The Romans gradually adopted the seven-day week.
    • Previously, they divided the week into eight days, with Constantine in the 4th century imposing the seven-day week.
    • The names are based on astrological observation, formulated in Egypt in the 1st century BC. Astronomers noted that the visible celestial bodies were constant in relation to each other throughout the year, except for seven: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. These gave their names to the days, as they govern the first hours of each new day.
    • Created in the 2nd century.

    The Bacchus and Ariadne Mosaic:
    • Located in one of the private rooms.
    • Bacchus, the god of wine, associated with the origins of theater.
    • The rituals of the god aimed to achieve ecstasy and rebirth, liberated from all social constraints.
    • Bacchus is depicted with Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, abandoned on a beach by Theseus after saving him from the Minotaur. When Bacchus saw her, he fell in love with her beauty, married her, and took her to the Mount Olympus of the gods.

    The Amphitheatre:

    This impressive example of a Roman amphitheater, one of the largest in the entire empire, was constructed outside the city walls to take advantage of the natural space, during the expansion that took place in the reign of Hadrian (2nd century).

    Amphitheatres were technically two connected theaters, hence their oval shape, which allowed for better acoustics.

    It was the venue for games, with a capacity of 25,000 spectators. Since around 10,000 people lived in the “vetus urbs” of Italica, many of those who attended the games in the Italica amphitheater likely came from other places.

    The games were held for free, organized and funded by the Emperor, the Senate, and the soldiers, in order to gain the support of the people.

    The amphitheater hosted:

    • “Munera gladiatores,” or blood games (which usually didn’t end in death).
    • “Venatio,” or hunts.
    • “Naumachiae,” or naval spectacles.

    The seating area was composed of:

    • “Ima cavea,” intended for the “equites,” politicians, and the most important and wealthy classes (close to the spectacle).
    • “Media cavea,” for officials and free citizens (middle zone).
    • “Summa cavea,” for women, children, slaves, and beggars (upper zone).

    The gates:

    • The entrance gate: Triumphalis gate, for the victors.
    • The exit gate: Libitinaria gate, just across, for the deceased and the defeated.
    • Side gates: meant for the spectators, who would head to their respective areas through the vomitoria.

    In the center, the arena:
    • visible bestiary pit. In this area, there was the mechanism that allowed the release of beasts and gladiators into the arena.

    Unfortunately, in the 18th century, the Regional Government of Andalusia dynamited the site to extract stone and to build a necessary retaining wall for the Guadalquivir River.

    Detail of the engraving of the gladiators’ feet:
    • Located just past the Triumphalis entrance.
    • Before entering the arena, they had to place their feet on them to ensure that they left the arena as they entered, walking on their feet, and triumphant.
    • Additionally, on the wall, there was a niche with the statue of the goddess Dea Caelestis (of North African origin, goddess of the sky, possessing the divine balance of justice) on the east side, and another with the goddess Nemesis (of Greek origin, goddess of justice, vengeance, balance, and fortune).

    And finally…

    Don’t forget to pay attention to the “tabulae lusoriae” or the famous game known as Roman tic-tac-toe. It’s assumed that the Romans were quite fond of gaming, so they used the floor and wall slabs to carve these boards and play in the middle of the streets to pass the time. To play, you only needed small pieces of glass, marble, or ceramic that you could carry with you to play anywhere.

    It’s said that in Italica, there are 7 “tabulae lusoriae” scattered throughout the Nova Urbs and the amphitheater.

    BONUS: Did you know that…? Itálica is mentioned in the New Testament.

    1. There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort. 2. He was a devout and God-fearing man, as was all his household. He gave many alms to the people and prayed to God continually.

    3. About the ninth hour of the day, he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.”

    4. And he, staring at him and becoming terrified, said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have gone up as a memorial before God.

    5. Now send men to Joppa and call for a certain Simon, who is also called Peter. 6. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

    7. As soon as the angel who spoke to him had left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him. 8. After he explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

    Acts 10:1-8. New Testament. The Bible. (The Vulgate)

    Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian Cohort II Italica Civium Romanorum, the Italic Cohort, stationed in Caesarea Maritima, the capital of the Roman province of Judea. The event described in these verses led to the conversion of the centurion by the apostle Simon Peter.

    I hope you enjoyed the tour, and don’t forget to also visit the fascinating museum at the site.

    And if you need a guide… Contact us! (more ideas in the tours and services section)

    THANK YOU!

  • A citizen of Jerez, explorer of La Florida (One)

    Ponce de León’s Expedition to Florida. Engraving 1885.

    Continuing from the previous entry… “And on July 17, 1527, Narváez departs with the fleet for Florida from the Port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda towards Santo Domingo…”


    Well, right from the start, during the course of the voyage to Santo Domingo, the fleet encounters a storm that causes the loss of 60 men and a ship. As a result, upon arrival, 140 men decide not to continue the expedition… Given the circumstances, the fleet decides to spend the winter in Cuba and take the opportunity to resupply.

    Months later, in April 1528, they begin the route towards Florida.

    It’s important to note that Pánfilo Narváez had incorrect calculations, the distances weren’t accurate. So, when they set off from Santo Domingo, they again face a challenging voyage. Despite this, they manage to spot the bay of Tampa, not quite sure where to head.

    From the ships, they spot some structures on a hill by present-day San Petersburgo, and Narváez assumes it must be an important village. Driven by impatience, he orders a swift disembarkation.

    Florida expedition with Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez.

    Venturing Inland…


    When Narváez and his men arrive at the village, they are peacefully welcomed by the natives. They set up camp there and venture to explore the surroundings. As night falls and they return, they are astonished to find that the indigenous people had left.

    The next day, after taking possession of the land for King Charles V, they continued their search, finding another village with no riches or food. It’s here that the natives advise the Spaniards to continue northward to reach the lands of the Apalachees, lands rumored to have gold and food.

    Returning to the camp, Narváez organizes the march in the style of Cortés, splitting the expedition by sea and by land, with the idea of reuniting in the north.

    The patience of the explorers was wearing thin, including Álvar’s, as he feared that with the incorrect maritime calculations and the uncertainty of the terrain, the endeavor was headed for disaster.

    The 100 men who began the expedition by sea were searching for the next inlet of the Tampa Bay, but the reality was that it was located to the south. Meanwhile, by land, Narváez, along with Álvar and the other men, trekked for 15 days through dense vegetation with unfamiliar wildlife and waterlogged swamps. Finally, in a village north of the Vitalcoche River, they were able to eat maize.

    They continued through the lands of the Timucua people, making contact with them, until they reached the Apalachee lands in the summer, but… the “promised land” from the earlier indigenous accounts turned out to be a humble village with around 40 poorly constructed huts, inhabited by fierce warriors.

    Narváez and Cabeza de Vaca exploring the land on horseback.

    Three unbearable weeks passed in the territory of the Apalachees, but despite their efforts aided by three hostages, they found nothing more than the skill of those natives’ bows and arrows. Their effective attacks depleted Narváez’s army, which could do little against the heavy crossbows and muskets.

    At the end of the third expedition, Narváez had no choice but to give up, reaching this decision in the area that corresponds to present-day Georgia. He ordered a retreat to the coast, enduring the harsh attacks of the natives in the marshy lands.

    On the coast, near present-day Tallahassee, they stopped in a village where they could nourish themselves with maize, beans, and squashes. With supplies replenished, they resumed their march following the course of the river they named San Marcos, now known as “Saint Marks,” until they reached the coast.

    Finally, our protagonist takes the reins…

    Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez arrival to the coast.

    The dreadful conditions they arrived in, including Narváez who was gravely injured, prompted our man from Jerez to take command. Álvar ordered the construction of 5 barges, about 8 to 12 meters in length, using the weapons and armor, as well as natural resources.

    During the time it took to design them, they survived on maize, fishing, and finally their horses. To honor their valuable horses, they named the bay “Bay of the Horses.”

    In September, with the barges ready, the 242 men divided into groups of 50 and followed the westward coast in search of what is now Tampico, believing it wasn’t too far away… The truth is, they spent many days enduring storms, hunger, thirst, and the pain of their wounds. Finally, a hurricane caused them to shipwreck two days before reaching the Mississippi River.

    The ships separated, some sank, like the one piloted by Narváez; and others were violently thrown against the shore. The barge that Álvar was on had better luck and was carried to what is now Galveston.

    By November 1528, the Florida fleet that initially set out with 600 men was reduced to 80. Upon reaching the island, they coincidentally referred to it as “ill fate,” because if something was definitely not on their side, it was good fortune.

    And that concludes the first part. What will become of our protagonist now? TO BE CONTINUED…

  • A Jerezan explorer in Florida, (two)

    Arrival at Malhado island.

    Álvar Núñez and his solo journey.


    Little or nothing remained of Pánfilo Narváez’s ambitious expedition, which lay in the sea alongside his dreams of glory and riches…

    At this point, our man from Jerez begins his own expedition, this time on his own.

    Injured and sick, he is taken care of by indigenous people who had a settlement on the coast where the ships wrecked. As his health improved, he quickly realized he had to learn something within the tribe to avoid being their slave.

    Álvar set his sights on the tribe’s shamans, thinking that with his medical knowledge gained during his training as a soldier, he might be able to heal.

    And thus, combining his medical know-how with the laying on of hands and prayers, he healed some of the villagers.

    His reputation quickly spread to the nearby settlements, and it wasn’t long before the sick arrived seeking this new healer.

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    Strengthened in his health, Álvar decides to venture inland, to the Charrucos, to engage in trading seashells, leather, flint, reeds… He first traded with the nearest villages and gradually moved towards more distant areas. This is how he survived for six years.

    During this time, he sought news of his companions and managed to reunite with three other survivors in the southern United States.

    These were:

    • Andrés Orantes de Carranza, originally from Béjar.
    • Alonso Castillo Maldonado, from Salamanca.
    • Esteban, a Berber and slave of Alonso, better known as “Estebanico,” the first African man in the Americas.


    Once reunited, over a period of ten months, they devised a plan to escape, during which Álvar taught them everything he had learned as a shaman.

    In the summer of 1535, the four explorers crossed Texas and the Sonora region. There, they encountered indigenous people who had houses made of grass and cultivated beans and squash.

    However, not all the tribes they encountered were civilized. In the Sierra Madre, they encountered one that subsisted on deer hearts, a village they baptized as the “Village of Hearts.”

    Open-heart surgery performed by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    One of the most astonishing feats…


    While passing through Arizona, Álvar successfully performed an open-heart surgery on a Native American who had been wounded by an arrow. Some claim that this was the first recorded instance of open-heart surgery in history.

    The beginning of the journey back to Spain…


    The adventure of these four intrepid men was coming to an end in 1537.

    Following their planned route, they encountered a Native American equipped with a talid, and the horse he was riding wore horseshoes, unmistakable signs that the presence of Spaniards was nearby.

    Indeed, as they ventured southwest into Sinaloa, they came across Diego de Alcaraz, a Spaniard leading a group dedicated to capturing slaves. The pleasant reunion between Spaniards turned into a confrontation when Alcaraz’s men attempted to enslave the indigenous people in the group following the four explorers.

    Continuing their journey, around mid-year, they managed to reach Culiacán and from there to Compostelas, covering a distance of 300 miles.

    Back in Mexico, it was Hernán Cortés himself who received these four fearless survivors of the Florida expedition.

    Before long, they all traveled back to Spain from Veracruz, except for Estebanico, who decided to stay with Cortés.

    The journey to Spain…


    Our man from Jerez set course for the Peninsula from Havana in 1537, ten years after joining Narváez’s expedition.

    And as if ten years of adventures weren’t enough, while sailing near the Azores islands, some French corsairs attempted to seize his ship… Álvar disembarked with the help and escort of several Portuguese vessels in Lisbon.

    Upon returning to Spain, he met with Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo in Madrid to seek explanations for what had happened during those 10 years.

    It was then that Álvar composed a written account of his exploits to provide evidence to the Royal Audiencia of the Council of the Indies, a narrative that he later expanded, giving rise to his work “Naufragios” (“Shipwrecks”).

    And thus concludes the conquest adventure of Florida, but fear not, for the one of the Río de la Plata follows next… TO BE CONTINUED…

  • A Jerezan explorer in Florida (into)

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca portrait.

    I’ve been wanting to write about this fascinating fellow from my hometown for quite some time now, but the truth is that no matter how much I think about it, I don’t know how to approach Álvar’s life and convey everything he experienced in just a simple blog entry.

    A little bit of research is enough to realize that each source adds more and more information. I must confess, this fact only makes me more engrossed.

    With that said, I’ve considered that breaking it down into parts is the best option for both the reader and myself. So, humbly, I’m going to try to do my best.

    Let’s start then with the first stage of Álvar’s life and the background of his adventure to the New World, prior to the grand journey of the renowned Florida expedition.

    Origins, Youth, and First Feats

    Origins

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a native of Jerez de la Frontera, was born in the late 15th century into the midst of two powerful families.

    (as a curiosity, there’s an old manor house on Cabezas Street, located between the ancient neighborhoods of San Mateo and San Lucas in Jerez, whose courtyard features columns with cow head capitals… perhaps the family residence?)

    The great conqueror and governor of Gran Canaria, Pedro de Vera, was Álvar’s paternal grandfather. His father, Francisco de Vera, was a recognized knight of Jerez.

    His mother, Teresa Cabeza de Vaca, came from a noble family. As the story goes, the shepherd who guided the Christian knights by marking the path with a cow head to surprise the enemy in the Battle of Tolosa was an ancestor of his (hence the surname).

    And if that weren’t enough, Álvar’s maternal aunt, Beatriz Cabeza de Vaca, married the conqueror of Melilla, Pedro de Estopiñán.

    Youth

    I don’t lie when I say that difficulties in our protagonist’s life were constant.

    From a very young age, Álvar became an orphan and was under the care of his relatives.

    It’s known that Álvar deeply admired his uncle Pedro de Estopiñán, who took it upon himself to a great extent to educate his nephew.

    Estopiñán took advantage of the good relationship he had with the Medina Sidonia family, a powerful noble family in the province of Cadiz, and placed his nephew as a page and chamberlain in the service of Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, the third Duke of Medina Sidonia.

    First feats

    It is in the service of this family that in 1511, Álvar takes part in the Holy League that confronted Italians and French. Later, with King Charles V’s troops, he will fight in the uprising of the comuneros and the French invasion of Navarre.

    Upon his return to Seville, where he resided in the service of the duke, he married María Marmolejo, whose family belonged to the Seville bourgeoisie.

    The influence of the Medina Sidonia family undoubtedly granted him the opportunity to join the expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez to Florida, holding the position of chief constable and treasurer of the expedition.

    The Expedition to Florida, Background.

    Juan Ponce de León y Figueroa, born in Valladolid in 1460.

    Linked to the descendants of Pedro Ponce de Cabrera, husband of Infanta Aldonza, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso IX of León.

    His education was overseen by his relative Ramiro Núñez, in Seville.

    As a page of King Ferdinand the Catholic, he took part in the conquest of Granada alongside his uncle Rodrigo Ponce de León.

    There is uncertainty about whether he encountered the New World with Columbus on his second voyage or later with Nicolás de Ovando.

    Thanks to the intervention of Bartolomé Colón, he managed to obtain a title from King Ferdinand the Catholic to explore the lands north of Cuba.

    In 1513, he set sail with three ships from San Germán, navigating through the Bahamas to reach the island of San Salvador.

    On the feast day of Pascua Florida (Easter), he arrived at a peninsula that he named in honor of the holiday, La Florida.

    Pánfilo de Narváez, possibly born in Segovia in 1470.

    We know he served in Jamaica.

    In 1510, he was promoted to lieutenant under the general governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. He actively assisted in its conquest.

    He carried out expeditions to the westernmost region around the year 1514.

    Faced with the disobedience of Hernán Cortés, the general governor of Cuba once again placed his trust in Narváez and sent him to capture Cortés, either alive or dead. The outcome of the mission was disastrous, as not only was Narváez defeated, but he was also captured in a battle in which he lost an eye, in addition to his honor.

    Once liberated, he managed to obtain from King Charles V the title of Adelantado of Florida, with permission to explore and govern any land he discovered starting from the Las Palmas River.

    Narváez organized an expedition, securing 5 ships and 600 men, among whom was our Jerezan protagonist.

    On July 17, 1527, Narváez departs with the Florida fleet from the Port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda towards Santo Domingo… TO BE CONTINUED

  • A Jerezan explorer in the River Plate (third)

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    As you probably already know from the previous entries, the Jerez-born Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was part of the expedition to Florida led by Pánfilo Narváez, spent 10 years exploring the northern parts of America.

    During that decade, he learned a great deal about the native tribes, earned a good reputation as a shaman, and made a living as a trader among the coastal tribes initially, and later among those inland.

    In 1537, he returns to Spain and writes an account of what happened for the Audience of the Council of the Indies, which he later expanded into his first work, “Shipwrecks” (Naufragios).

    The Recognition

    King Charles V decided to grant the Jerez native the position of General Captain, the governorship, and the title of Adelantado of La Plata.

    These titles were perfectly suited for another expedition that the king was already considering granting him, related to that place…

    Background

    First circumnavigation. Magallanes and Elcano.

    Since the discovery of the New World, the goal was to find the passage that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean towards the Moluccas, the spice islands.

    Between 1515 and 1516, Ferdinand the Catholic orders an expedition led by Juan Díez de Solís.

    During this expedition, the discovery of the Río de la Plata was accurately documented, and it was baptized as the River of Solís.

    It was there that the explorer met his demise, without achieving the objective of the expedition, which had to return to Spain.

    According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, Solís was the first to take possession of the territories to the south of Portuguese Brazil.

    Following Magellan and Elcano’s first circumnavigation and the discovery of the long-awaited passage between the two seas (Strait of Magellan) in 1535, another expedition, led by Pedro de Mendoza, set out for the Río Solís with eleven ships.

    Pedro de Mendoza in the River Plate.

    This expedition also did not end well for Pedro Mendoza, who, like Solís, fell ill and met the same fate, this time while sailing back to Spain.

    The eleven ships of Mendoza’s expedition were scattered by a storm, with some reaching Rio de Janeiro and others the Río de la Plata. Once regrouped, they founded the “Port of Our Lady of Good Air,” an extremely hostile area where attacks were constant.

    Before departing for Spain, Pedro de Mendoza appointed Juan de Ayolas as his lieutenant to assume his position.

    Álvar Núñez departed for the Americas for a second time.


    Due to the desperate situation in the Río de la Plata region, where Juan de Ayolas was exercising his power in an abusive manner without respecting the natives or the Spanish, King Charles V considered Cabeza de Vaca to be the suitable candidate to come to the aid of the unfinished expedition due to Mendoza’s death.

    The Agreement for the Expedition to the Río de la Plata.


    Surprisingly, Álvar was obligated to finance it, having to disburse 8,000 ducats stipulated for weapons, ships, crew, and all necessary supplies. The upside was that the Jerez native would retain one-twelfth of all the profits yielded from the expedition.

    Heading to the Americas for the second time.


    Gathering in Seville two ships and one caravel, along with 400 soldiers and their pilots, along with 40 horses, the expedition set off at the end of 1540 towards the port of Cádiz, and from here to the Canary Islands to proceed to Cape Verde in Africa, as the flagship needed repairs.

    Finally, by early 1541, they set sail with four ships to Santa Catalina, where they arrived five months later.

    In Rio de Janeiro.


    Upon arrival, two friars rushed towards the men on the ships, seeking help, followed by other Spaniards who were suffering from attacks by the natives and the unbearable situation they were enduring.

    Álvar managed to bring peace among the indigenous people and sent the friars to evangelize them. As for the Spaniards, he welcomed them among his men because they possessed good nautical and ship piloting knowledge.

    Towards Asunción

    The expedition along the Río de la Plata by canoe.

    To reach the north, to Asunción, Álvar decides to divide the expedition by land and by sea. Our Jerez native, ignoring the natives who urged them to return to the sea to avoid the fierceness of the Indians in that area, ventured inland for the adventure.

    Discovery of the Iguazu Falls

    Iguazu falls.

    Continuing the journey with the Guarani Indians and equipped with canoes, they navigate the Paraná River, baptized as the River of Solís or the Silver River.

    Upon reaching a certain point, they notice how the navigation becomes much faster, a sign of a potential waterfall. Continuing on foot, they discovered that waterfall, an impressive cascade that they named “Salto de Santa María.”

    Arrival in Asunción.


    The scene that Cabeza de Vaca encountered was truly chaotic due to the abusive mistreatment by Governor Domingo Martínez de Irala.

    Finally, in 1542, Álvar took up his position and attempted to bring peace to the entire region.

    The natives, who already held him in high regard, were pleased to have someone who understood and treated them as equals. Someone who actually upheld the laws given by the Catholic Monarchs to treat the natives as equal to the Spanish.

    However, this displeased Irala’s supporters. These were unscrupulous men, blinded by the pursuit of wealth and fame. And the fair treatment the natives received was a significant obstacle to the realization of their plans.

    Through tricks and schemes, Irala and his followers revolted against Cabeza de Vaca, who ended up being captured and accused of trying to strip them of all their rights and desiring more power than the king, declaring himself as such in the region.

    There was little that the supporters of the Jerez native could do, and even less the natives, who couldn’t provide assistance.

    They held him in prison for eleven months until, in 1545, severely ill, he was sent back to Spain in shackles to stand trial.

    The Shaman Who Calmed Storms.


    As could not be otherwise, the return journey experienced a terrible tempest that terrified every last crew member aboard the ship where Álvar was.

    Amidst the storm, Cabeza de Vaca stood up, without hesitation, and raised his voice proclaiming that if they set him free, he would calm the tempest… We don’t know if this cry was due to his own ill health, but what is certain is that, although he didn’t achieve his goal, the storm subsided instantly.

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    As you probably already know from the previous entries, the Jerez-born Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was part of the expedition to Florida led by Pánfilo Narváez, spent 10 years exploring the northern parts of America.

    During that decade, he learned a great deal about the native tribes, earned a good reputation as a shaman, and made a living as a trader among the coastal tribes initially, and later among those inland.

    In 1537, he returns to Spain and writes an account of what happened for the Audience of the Council of the Indies, which he later expanded into his first work, “Shipwrecks” (Naufragios).

    The Recognition

    King Charles V decided to grant the Jerez native the position of General Captain, the governorship, and the title of Adelantado of La Plata.

    These titles were perfectly suited for another expedition that the king was already considering granting him, related to that place…

    Background

    First circumnavigation. Magallanes and Elcano.

    Since the discovery of the New World, the goal was to find the passage that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean towards the Moluccas, the spice islands.

    Between 1515 and 1516, Ferdinand the Catholic orders an expedition led by Juan Díez de Solís.

    During this expedition, the discovery of the Río de la Plata was accurately documented, and it was baptized as the River of Solís.

    It was there that the explorer met his demise, without achieving the objective of the expedition, which had to return to Spain.

    According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, Solís was the first to take possession of the territories to the south of Portuguese Brazil.

    Following Magellan and Elcano’s first circumnavigation and the discovery of the long-awaited passage between the two seas (Strait of Magellan) in 1535, another expedition, led by Pedro de Mendoza, set out for the Río Solís with eleven ships.

    Pedro de Mendoza in the River Plate.

    This expedition also did not end well for Pedro Mendoza, who, like Solís, fell ill and met the same fate, this time while sailing back to Spain.

    The eleven ships of Mendoza’s expedition were scattered by a storm, with some reaching Rio de Janeiro and others the Río de la Plata. Once regrouped, they founded the “Port of Our Lady of Good Air,” an extremely hostile area where attacks were constant.

    Before departing for Spain, Pedro de Mendoza appointed Juan de Ayolas as his lieutenant to assume his position.

    Álvar Núñez departed for the Americas for a second time.


    Due to the desperate situation in the Río de la Plata region, where Juan de Ayolas was exercising his power in an abusive manner without respecting the natives or the Spanish, King Charles V considered Cabeza de Vaca to be the suitable candidate to come to the aid of the unfinished expedition due to Mendoza’s death.

    The Agreement for the Expedition to the Río de la Plata.


    Surprisingly, Álvar was obligated to finance it, having to disburse 8,000 ducats stipulated for weapons, ships, crew, and all necessary supplies. The upside was that the Jerez native would retain one-twelfth of all the profits yielded from the expedition.

    Heading to the Americas for the second time.


    Gathering in Seville two ships and one caravel, along with 400 soldiers and their pilots, along with 40 horses, the expedition set off at the end of 1540 towards the port of Cádiz, and from here to the Canary Islands to proceed to Cape Verde in Africa, as the flagship needed repairs.

    Finally, by early 1541, they set sail with four ships to Santa Catalina, where they arrived five months later.

    In Rio de Janeiro.


    Upon arrival, two friars rushed towards the men on the ships, seeking help, followed by other Spaniards who were suffering from attacks by the natives and the unbearable situation they were enduring.

    Álvar managed to bring peace among the indigenous people and sent the friars to evangelize them. As for the Spaniards, he welcomed them among his men because they possessed good nautical and ship piloting knowledge.

    Towards Asunción

    The expedition along the Río de la Plata by canoe.

    To reach the north, to Asunción, Álvar decides to divide the expedition by land and by sea. Our Jerez native, ignoring the natives who urged them to return to the sea to avoid the fierceness of the Indians in that area, ventured inland for the adventure.

    Discovery of the Iguazu Falls

    Iguazu falls.

    Continuing the journey with the Guarani Indians and equipped with canoes, they navigate the Paraná River, baptized as the River of Solís or the Silver River.

    Upon reaching a certain point, they notice how the navigation becomes much faster, a sign of a potential waterfall. Continuing on foot, they discovered that waterfall, an impressive cascade that they named “Salto de Santa María.”

    Arrival in Asunción.


    The scene that Cabeza de Vaca encountered was truly chaotic due to the abusive mistreatment by Governor Domingo Martínez de Irala.

    Finally, in 1542, Álvar took up his position and attempted to bring peace to the entire region.

    The natives, who already held him in high regard, were pleased to have someone who understood and treated them as equals. Someone who actually upheld the laws given by the Catholic Monarchs to treat the natives as equal to the Spanish.

    However, this displeased Irala’s supporters. These were unscrupulous men, blinded by the pursuit of wealth and fame. And the fair treatment the natives received was a significant obstacle to the realization of their plans.

    Through tricks and schemes, Irala and his followers revolted against Cabeza de Vaca, who ended up being captured and accused of trying to strip them of all their rights and desiring more power than the king, declaring himself as such in the region.

    There was little that the supporters of the Jerez native could do, and even less the natives, who couldn’t provide assistance.

    They held him in prison for eleven months until, in 1545, severely ill, he was sent back to Spain in shackles to stand trial.

    The Shaman Who Calmed Storms.


    As could not be otherwise, the return journey experienced a terrible tempest that terrified every last crew member aboard the ship where Álvar was.

    Amidst the storm, Cabeza de Vaca stood up, without hesitation, and raised his voice proclaiming that if they set him free, he would calm the tempest… We don’t know if this cry was due to his own ill health, but what is certain is that, although he didn’t achieve his goal, the storm subsided instantly.

    In Spain.

    As he was already aware that he would be summoned to testify before the Audience of the Council of the Indies, Álvar drafted the report during the return journey to present upon his arrival. This time, he also had to present his defense effectively.

    The Council of the Indies initially sentenced him to exile from the Americas and to serve in Oran. However, Cabeza de Vaca was not willing to accept either, so he appealed the sentence.

    In 1552, the Council issued a final verdict, now favorable to the Jerez native, granting him an annual stipend of 2,000 ducats and the position of supreme judge of the court in Seville. Nevertheless, he was entirely prohibited from setting foot on American soil again.

    The last years.


    Unable to fulfill his desires of returning, Álvar settled again in Seville and decided to take holy orders. He became a prior in one of the numerous convents in the city, where he likely passed away years later, in 1558.

    And now my review of the life of this courageous fellow countryman of mine truly comes to an end, a mere fraction of what he actually experienced, I’m afraid…

    If you’ve enjoyed it, as a final touch, I will talk about his monuments, especially the one erected in his city.


    THANK YOU!

  • Carteia

    Guadarranque beach views. Algeciras bay. San Roque. Cádiz

    Last year, during my Christmas getaway…

    I decided to visit the closest part of the strait: San Roque, Jimena de la Frontera, Castellar de la Frontera and Algeciras. In this way, I could cross all of them off my list of “places to visit”, including the coveted to this site, the ancient city of Carteia.

    Origins…

    In VII century B. C, the Phoenicians settle in the Cerro del Prado, located 2kms. to the northwest of the present Carteia, to carry out its commercial activity.

    The foundation.

    Three centuries after, the Carthaginians or Punics erect the city where we know it today.

    Punic wars and the fall of Cartague.

    After the famous Punic Wars, the Roman Empire defeated the Carthaginians and in the 3rd century B.C. they settled in Carteia, expanding it considerably and carrying out its monumentalization process.

    Colonia Libertinorum Carteia.

    The population residing in Carteia, fruit of the union of Roman soldiers and Hispanic women, sued Rome in 171 B.C. the granting of the title «Colonia Libertinorum Carteia», becoming the first Latin colony outside Italy.

    The site

    Roman freeze remains, chapitels and columns. Carteia Site. San Roque. Cádiz.

    In the middle of Algeciras bay, a few meters from Guadarranque beach we can…

    Augustan building:
    • Built with large ashlars of oyster stone.
    • Its robustness points to an upper floor and terrace.
    • On the right, the rooms show the existence of «tabernae» or shops, open to the street that rises from the lower part of the city.
    • In the 18th century, a complex was built on it, El Cortijo del Rocadillo, active until the 20th century.

    Republican temple:
    • Built on top of ancient religious buildings from the Punic period.
    • Oldest monument of the republican era, II a. C.
    • Raised on a podium and access by a front staircase with two lateral buildings topping the facade.
    • Possibly hexastyle, surrounded by columns except at the rear part.
    • The inner room contained the deity.
    • In I a. C. the facade was remodeled and some buildings were attached, which would mean the end of its religious use.

    Late Roman necropolis:
    • Dated from VI to VII d. C.
    • The graves, concentrated around the temple, reusing previous architectural elements.
    • Mostly, adult men were buried.
    • The grave goods presented the traditional Visigoth handle jugs.
    • On it the Cortijo del Rocadillo (XIX-XX) was established. It is preserved its well and the pavement of the workers’ rooms.

    Basilical shape pool:

    Roman domus:
    • It is next to the temple.
    • It was built on top of older constructions from the republican period, and this on previous Punic ones.
    • Large porticoed building of wealthy class.
    • Atrium house, or central courtyard with access via hallway and two symmetrical rooms on both sides.
    • Atrium of four columns with central «impluvium» with an oculus on the top that communicated with the cistern.
    • Built with limestone tiles joined by mortar. In corners and openings, large blocks of sandstone were used.
    • Plastered walls decorated with wall paintings.
    • Pavement of the type «opus signinum» (mortar with sand and lime, reinforced with ceramics).
    • Next to it stands an «insulae» for people of lower purchasing power.

    Cupa Structilis:
    • Cupa or barrel of masonry covered with a thin layer of lime and a band of red paint surrounding the base.
    • Next to it, on one side and on the front, presents a «mensa» or place for offerings.
    • Burial place of a 2-year-old boy. His body was placed in a lead sarcophagus in a brick receptacle.
    • The elements of the grave goods found on the sarcophagus place it over the second century A.D. C.
    • The lower classes used to use this type of burial.

    Thermal building:
    • Considerable size construction.
    • In use probably from century I to IV d. C.
    • It had all the typical premises of these constructions: «caldarium», «tepidarium», «frigidarium»and «apodyterium.»
    • It was completed with an «palestra» for gymnastic exercise, a «natatio» outdoors, and latrine.
    • The reuse of construction materials point to successive extensions and changes in its structure.
    • Between the 6th and 7th centuries AD. C. was converted into necropolis.
    • In the same place are remains of an absidally building, possibly of a late Roman basilica.

    Roman domus:
    • named «Domus del Rocadillo.»
    • Similar to the one mentioned above.
    • Located at a crossroads, the interior was accessed by climbing a couple of steps.
    • After the small lobby, it had a large room from which you can access others in the same shape and size. Under this first large room a large cistern was built.
    • They used stucco and red colour for their walls, and «opus signinum» for the pavement.
    • The room on the right retains traces of polychrome mosaics, and the rest mosaics with complex geometric spirals.
    • The other rooms were opened to the «perystilum» with central ornamental pond, whose pavement was decorated this time with mosaics.

    Rocadillo tower:
    • The engineer Juan Pedro Livadote, following orders from King Felipe II, builds this watchtower.
    • It is part of the bay’s defense system against recurring attacks by Barbary pirates.
    • It measures 12 meters high and has a strong solid body base.
    • Inside was the guard’s chamber, a vaulted room with a vertical fireplace and a narrow window to watch the mouth of the Guadarranque River.
    • Access to the guard’s chamber was via a rope ladder.

    Fishing industry:
    • Roman activity based on the annual movement of tuna from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
    • In the region, powerful fishing and salting industry established from the first century B. C.
    • Carteia had several industries along the banks of the Guadarranque River and along the Bay.
    • The factories had pools for salting and spaces for the elaboration of the famous, exquisite and very expensive Roman salsa «Garum.»

    Visiting this site fosters imagination and improves our health by touring the natural environment where it is located. Activity suitable for families.

    Remember that in the «tours and services» section of this website you will find many suggestions for your stay in the province of Cadiz, and if not, we create one that suits you.

    THANKS!

  • To Santiago de Compostela from Cadiz

    Cathedral square. Cádiz.

    Guiding the groups in the city of Cadiz and its surroundings, quite a few tourists look at the symbolic scallops tiles that marks the way to Santiago de Compostela and ask me how can one do “the camino” from here.


    Therefore, I will address the subject today to honor the Saint’s day, but not before recommending to read one of the previous posts in which I delve more about the figure of the apostle: https://dejateguiarporcarolina.com/en/saint-james-the-apostle/

    “All roads lead to Rome”, thereafter to Santiago…

    Down to the south of the Spanish peninsula, there are three Jacobean routes:

    • the Mozarabe route (from Malaga, going through Granada, Jaen, Cordoba and Almería, linking to De la plata route)
    • Augusta route
    • De la plata route

    Let’s focuse on the two most interesting to us.

    Augusta route:

    Originally, a Roman road of more than 1.500 kilometers, the longest of all Hispania. The main axis of communications and road network.

    It traveled the Mediterranean coast, from the Pyrenees to Cadiz.

    “Augusta Julia route” was it original name to honor the emperors Julius Caesar and Augustus, interveners of its construction at the end of the first century BC.

    Currently known as the Camino from Cadiz to Seville that connects with the Vía de la Plata to Santiago de Compostela.

    It consists of 170 kilometers divided between 7 to 10 stages.

    De la plata route:

    An ancient Roman roads too, was a set of roads that linked the southwest with the northwestern peninsula.

    In its central section we find the road “Iter Ab Emerita Asturicam” that connected two important Roman towns: “Emerita Augusta» (Mérida) and “Asturica Augusta” (Astorga)

    After the fall of the Roman Empire, their roads were used by the Arabs and later Christians, pilgrims that walked these paved roads to go to venerate the holy Apostle’s tomb.

    It consists of a total of 960 kilometres divided into some 26 stages.

    One step to “the Camino” in Jerez de la Frontera…

    A landmark in tha ancient camino ceretano. Saint James church main facade. Jerez de la Frontera.

    A year ago, just like today, the association Jacobea of Jerez de la Frontera named “Sharish” inaugurated the first official landmark of the Camino Ceretano from the Via Augusta to Santiago de Compostela.

    The idea was born shortly after the creation of this association, with the idea of placing Jerez on the world maps of the roads to Santiago. This would honor the fact that some sources claim that the apostle entered Cadiz and passed through Jerez.

    To this end, the association outlined two routes:

    • the Alfonsino route, inside the city walls, travels the ancient churches built by the Castilian King Alphonse the X.
    • The Patroness route, outside the city walls, all the way to the same Saint James church.

    Both routes connect with the norther exit of Jerez, through Morabita road, which formerly divided the ager of Asta Regia and Ceret, arriving to Gibalbín next to the Cuervo.

    In the nearby Mesas de Asta municipality, the platform by Asta Regia inaugurated two landmarks months earlier, which would form the next stops after the ceretano’s.

    As a curiosity, this milestone hiddes a time capsule, which contains among other things: sherry wines from Bodegas Tradición, the “Diario de Jerez” newspaper of the inauguration day, an informative document with data on the realization of the monument and the inauguration act, and a historical memory of the entity.

    And that’s the end of my little tribute to the Patron Apostle of Spain, the common factor of thousands of stories shared by pilgrims along these ancient peninsula routes.

    And as you already know, don’t miss the chance to visit this and let me know, I’ll be happy to guide you. Take a look at the tours and services section to choose the one you like best, otherwise, relax, we will create it just for you. Follow me for much more on my social media.

    THANKS!

  • A forgotten in time palace in Jerez

    Riquelme Palace. Market square. Jerez de la Frontera

    It history…

    After the definitive conquest of the city of Jerez by the Castilian king Alfonso X the Wise, the monarch had the arduous task of repopulating these frontier lands. For this, he chose the Castilian nobility and brought with him thirty nobel knights, being one of them Mr. Beltrán Riquelme and Mr. Bernal Riquelme.

    This was one of the relevant family names in medieval times, in competition to other important families such as the Ponce de León or the Villavicencio.

    To show their power, they chose the ancient nobility medieval centre to establish, the Market Square in the Saint Matthew district, betting on the construction for an advanced art style that would break the moulds of the city medieval architecture.

    In the 15th century they acquired a block of houses in the aforementioned square. Don Hernán Riquel, perhaps amazed by the splendid corner window of the Ponce de León Grace palace (https://dejateguiarporcarolina.com/en/the-most-charming-corner-of-jerez/) contacted for his palace’s facade with the same architect, Fernando Álvarez.

    As result, this beautiful and harmonious Renaissance inspiration palace was the most important civil building, for hosting on numerous occasions the city council sessions, due to epidemics and other calamities that constantly threatened Jerez.

    The facade…

    Palace main facade. Guided tour organized by Jerez tourism department.

    It is a magnificent work piece with historical and mythological features, worthy of the glorification of tRiquelme family lineage.

    We know from a very deteriorated cartela, that the completion date of the sculptural part was in 1543.

    Let’s start from the bottom to the top…

    The entrance door is flanked by two pairs of Corinthian Roman capital columns raised on plinths. The scrolls have been replaced by masks with reduced grotesque heads, winged, with elongated necks, mixed with normal ones.

    On the jambs, four reliefs of portraits in medallions or tondos, identifiable thanks to the signs surrounding them:

    On the left:

    • “Nabucodonosor Rex Babylon” Depiction of the King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar. Bearded and crowned face. The crown is made up of the figure of a naked man who crawls through the center, flanked by serpents and dragons at the ends, casting fire (chapter we can read in the Bible, The book of Daniel 4,30)
    • Roman Emperor Constantine

    On the right:

    • “Camila Regina Magna.” Camila’s profile, wearing a helmet. The front of it consists of the face of an old man, perhaps his father, and a small scene of the fights between centaurs and lapites (Virgil speaks of Camilla in the Aeneid, she was the daughter of King Metaboo, and was consecrated to the goddess Diana, therefore, trained in hunting and war arts). The helmet scene corresponds to the episode of the mythological wedding between Hypodamia and Peritoo.
    • Romulus and Remus. Legendary founders of Rome.

    On the lintel: the coat of arms of the family, helm worn by two tenants, men with vegetable legs (grutesco decoration)

    The Frieze: profusely decorated, formed by three tondos with portraits and fantastic hybrid animals among them.

    The fantastic hybrid animals:

    • Flanking the central portrait with bird upper body and vegetable lower body, the tail of the one on the left finishes in a feline (the one on the right is not appreciated by deterioration)
    • The farthest ones are equally hybrid, the left one half upper wolf with wings and lower vegetable finished in lion head tail. The other, top half feline with wings and goatee and bottom vegetable with tail finished in monkey head.


    The tondos:

    • Central: beautiful young woman with wavy hair with flowers and fruits. From her neck hangs a medal that seems to be half a heart.
    • To the left and to the right we see tondos with reliefs of busts of man and woman.

    The central tondo could represent several goddesses or allegories, but the closer situation of crows, the panther and the half-heart of pendant, makes us choose the representation of the Concord. However, there is another possible interpretation, the Virtue being attacked by the Vices, the same decorative motif is found in Villamarta palace.

    At the ends, on the capitals of the columns:

    • on the left side: rectangular relief where a strong man fights with a lion. It is Hercules fighting the Nemea lion
    • on the right side: similarly shaped, representing the rapture of Deyanira by Neso Centaur, where we see Hercules again, here wielding the bow and arrow to prevent it. Deyanira sits on the centaur over the waters of the river, among trees.

    On the sides of these reliefs: four faces are sculpted, one on each side.

    • On the left: female figure with cap, in Renaissance clothing, and young bearded man with winged helmet.
    • On the right: Woman’s bust with two small side caps, and man with angular features with hat.


    Of the four, we can identify the winged figure as the god Mercury.

    On the top

    In the center, blind span flanked by three columns on each side, being the interiors ones with smooth shaft and classical capital; and the exteriors of abalaustrado shaft and grutesco capitals.

    The columns are flanked by human and animal figures of practically real size.

    • On the left, there is a strong bearded man, of good musculature, dressed only of ribbon or turban on the forehead and chlamsy by the thighs covering his intimate parts. Between his hands at the height of the head that looks to the front, a sledgehammer to defend himself from the lion that stands next to him with the body looking towards the column, but the head turned looking at him, one paw is resting on the column and the other on the plinth.
    • On the right, a character with the same physical characteristics and ribbon on the forehead. The chlamys now falls from shoulder to back, being held with one hand towards the hips for the same purpose as the previous one. The sledgehammer is held by the other hand, also at head level. His gaze, this time, directed to the sky. The lion has the same posture as the previous one, looking forward though.

    We may be either seeing the symmetrical representation of Hercules against the Nemea lion, or two savages fighting against two beasts.

    Above the blinded gap: reliefs of fantastic zoomorphic figures, some of difficult interpretation. At the ends, the reliefs of two children playing a tuba, and among them another frieze, smaller than the previous one.

    Frieze of the upper span:

    • On the left we see a unicorn with its front paws bent. At the other end, a female figure with a floral crown, kneeling, trying to cover herself with a cloak (unicorns were difficult to hunt, being only attracted by the singing of young virgins)
    • In the center, relief of female bust, with crown of fruits, leaves and flowers. Accompanied by figures with bird body and elongated neck with head in the form of a deformed and contorted mask. The tail long and tangled vegetable. The tail of the figure on the left ends in the shape of an ape’s head and the one on the right in the form of a ram’s.

    Surmounts the top two panther-shaped animals covered with leaves and joined by the neck with bell necklace. As tenants, they hold a shield with a deformed human head with the empty eye socket, semi-covered by bangs, huge ears with two branches finished in flower coming out of their mouth.

    If you want to visit it yourself…

    Recently, the tourism department on the town hall hasbeen offering guided tours in which they explain what I have said in this section, in addiction you have also the possibility to enter the palace and visit the ruins, through which you can get a lot of information about the original building, like how it changed throughout time, its functions… So if you feel like, contact the city hall website and register as I did. You will enjoy the visit!

    If you want to see videos of the inside and many more photos, look for me in the social media to watch a Reel I made about the whole visit, do not miss it!

    If you wish to see the facade and take a walk through the city, do not forget to visit the tours and services section of this website to find interestings tours options. However, if you don’t find something you like, no problem! Just tell me your ideas and we will design one that suits you.

    Thank you!

  • The most charming corner of Jerez

    Palace of Grace. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The origin…

    In the 15th century, the Spanish monarch Henry IV wanted to visit the city.

    Unable to stay in the ancient arab fortress as usual due to its serious ruinous state, he ordered the construction of some houses to be donated to the city mayor, Don Esteban de Villacreces.

    The palace was erected next to Santa María de Gracia Convent, therefore it received the popular name «Palace of Grace.»

    Over the years, the heirs made modifications to the building.

    The beautiful decoration of this corner on the facade was added in the 16th century, when María de la Cueva y Zurita inherited the house of her aunt Luisa de Villavicencio y Zurita. When Maria marries Francisco Ponce de León and Basurto, the couple decides to execute the real jewel of the building.

    They chose the architect Fernando Álvarez, known in the city for the impressive facade, the Riquelme Palace one.

    Style and composition

    We know that this artwork dates from the sixteenth century by the lower right side banner, which marks the date 1537.

    The style, therefore, is Renaissance. However, due to the profusion, type of decoration and iconography, we can speak of plateresque style.

    The window is structured as follows:

    • Bottom: double frieze or podium.
    • Middle part, on the frieze or podium: germinated span with arches and a mullion. Another arch surrounds them, resting on two pilasters stacked with candelieri decoration. On the sides, two balustrade columns close the composition.
    • Top: frieze topped by cornice.

    The iconography

    Bottom part:

    • right side: banner with the date of 1537.
    • left side: representation of the word «year» by the face of an old man shouting, with wings, flanked by two tenants half man, half vegetal, who pull rings on both sides of the old man by ropes.

    The cry of the old man shows concern for the passage of time.

    The wings indicates that “time flies.”

    Frieze between banners with latin sentences:

    • “Omnia pretereunt preter amare Deum”: everything pass by, except the love of God.
    • “Vanitas vanitatu um et Omnia vanitas”: vanity of vanities and everything is vanity.

    Frieze:

    • to the left: two putti hold baskets with flowers and fruits on their heads, separated by a cup full of the same. On the head of another putti, rests a bust of a young woman with ribbon in the hair and front, which is intermixed with a fruit ornaments crown. The young woman is flanked by small fruit cornucopias.
    • right side: a disproportionate putti head with an undulating body steps on the head of another putti. His right hand holds a torch from which a helmet hangs, and his left hand holds a spear or bow from which a breastplate hangs. The head of the putti serves as the base of a bust of an elderly woman with a crescent headpiece or bow, holding a torch in the left hand.

    Both women could be allegorical figures of “Hémera” and “Nicte”, that is, day and night. When Hémera appears on the horizon, Nicte disappears in Tartarus.

    Middle part:

    This place is occupied by three coat of arms of the families:

    • Villavicencio-Zurita
    • Ponce de León
    • De la Cueva

    Between the coat of arms, holding them, there are two tenants or angels. They are youthful and virile, so they can be angels or the childish representation of the Niké or Victory .The spaces between the lower and upper semicircular arches are occupied by two figures surrounded by floral crowns with poppy blossom:

    • the one on the left looking like a mature bearded male.
    • the one on the right, a beautiful maiden, with a chain that adorns her headdress from which hangs a medal that rests on her forehead.

    These may well represent the owners of the palace.

    However, another interpretation could be the mythological figures of Hades and Persephone: Hades, a man of advanced age in the care of the underworld, fell in love with the beautiful nymph Persephone. Hades came up with something to deceive Persephone (here comes into play the poppy blossom) and took her to the underworld. Once her mother found her, she had to accept an agreement with Hades: during fall and winter time, her daughter would stay with Hades and later on, by spring and summer she would remain with her mother. Hence the origin of the year seasons.

    The pilasters and the arch containing the reliefs above are profusely decorated with grutesco.

    • the one on the left shows two superimposed portraits on animal heads, fruits and leaves. The portraits show a mature man and a young woman.
    • the one on the right shows mythological beings half winged rams, half snakes, on candelieri decoration, with fruit motifs, weapons, helm, shield, drum…


    The main arch containing the one above, is also decorated with candelieri motifs, with heads of hyena, putti, vases, fruits, heads of rams… In the center there is a vessel «lekythos» shaped (similar to the vases we use for flowers)

    The spandrels of the arches show two medallions with portraits accompanied by starving deformed figures:

    • the one on the left shows a young person with a helmet in the shape of a hawk with wings unfolded. Because of the smoothness of the facial features it could be both male or female. It may be the representation of the god Mercury.
    • the one on the right shows a young man dressed as they used at that time, with a hat and chain on the neck.

    Top part:

    In the frieze there is a relief decorated with grutesco:

    • composition of old man bodies with plant legs, children on fantastic beings, weapons surrounding the head of a child shaped like a vase from which a small cornucopia comes out, masks with dreadful expressions…
    • central part (corner of the window): it is occupied by the head of a putti with closed eyes next to a winged insect. On his head rests a crater-shaped vessel.


    This composition could be telling us about good and evil, as well as the «Pandora’s Box» story, since it seems that the whole representation comes from inside the central crater-shaped vessel.

    What do you think?

    I’m sure Jerez rings a bell for many things, but few unveil these treasures scattered around the city.

    If you want to discover the city, you have many options in the section «tours and services», and not only Jerez, but the whole province and its surroundings.

    And if you have another idea in mind, please let me know so I will design your perfect plan.

    Thank you.

  • From cattle fair to Horse Fair

    Horse Fair lights. Jerez de la Frontera.

    A few hours from the beginning of one of the most important festivals of the city of Jerez de la Frontera, declared international turistic interest festival, I want to tell you a bit about the history of this great event.

    Fairs hold in the city

    For centuries, the city has been holding different fairs:

    One of them took place in August, originally celebrated in the quarter of “La Merced”, being transferred then to “Saint Telmo beaches” (yes, your read well, formerly it was not necessary for the citizens to take the car and drive to the nearest beaches of El Puerto de Santa Maria to have a bath because the sea waters reached the city, specifically the current neighborhood of San Telmo, located at the south of the city)

    The other was celebrated in May, in Caulina’s pasture, named “Hato de la Carne”, far from the city centre. This fair was the most important and over centuries and years has been developing to our current Horse Fair.

    Jerez has always enjoyed a good reputation as a cattle breeder- Even today we can see good specimens of bulls, cows and certainly our famous horse, a horse that was cared for in the beautiful La Cartuja Monastery, therefore named Carthusian horse.

    Cattle fair

    Ancient cattle fair. Jerez de la Frontera

    As I said, it was always the most relevant fair.

    It was celebrated between the last days of August and the first of September, originally on San Telmo beaches, until the city mayor, Julio González Hontoria, inaugurated the park that bears his name in 1902, a name that still persists.

    It is known that in the 19th Century it was the most important fair in lower Andalusia, whose purpose was the livestock sale and purchase.

    In Caulina’s lands gathered thousands of cattle, reaching more than fifty thousand for sale in the last days of April and early May.

    To welcome curious and merchants, they set up drinks and food stands, where there was singing and dancing too, since it was (and still is) customary to close businesses with joy and a good sherry wine glass.

    The proximity to the railroad track from the place where the fair was hosted made it possible for the large public to comfortably attend the event by using special trains organized for the event.

    A central park for the May fair

    González Hontoria Park. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The distance of the cattle fair epicenter from the city centre was weighing more and more, so it was decided to think about a remedy.

    The proyect…

    they chose the area known as “Campo de Instrucción” and the proyect was commissioned to Francisco Hernández Rubio. This architect worked not only in the enclosure, but also designed several fixed “casetas” the fairground until the renovation of 1987.

    The solemn inauguration of González Hontoria Park took place in September 1902, being this original blueprint the one which coincided with the Camino de Espera, the ancient road that crossed these lands.

    Over time, as said before, the fairground went through renovations. The one performed in 1952 was to open the “Paseo Nuevo” that separated the fair from the the market of cattle area, and thus extended the “Paseo de las Palmeras.”

    In the 60s, during the time when Miguel Primo de Rivera was the city mayor, they set warehouses using part of the park destined to the Cattle Fair to create a place to hold the “Mercado Nacional Permanente de Ganados”, a national cattle market place. These warehouses were demolished in order to set the buildings destined for “IFECA” an exhibition centre, restored in 1987.

    This current year, 2023…


    the Horse Fair begins today, on Saturday May 6th, until next Saturday May 13th.

    The inauguration takes place tonight, at 10 pm, with the traditional lighting of one million three hundred thousand light bulbs, followed by fireworks and the opening of the total of 173 casetas, free entry with few exceptions.

    Whether on foot or on horseback or sitting in one of its traditional horse carriages, strolling through the fair, living its atmosphere, singing, dancing and enjoy the gastronomy is an experience not to be missed.

    If you come with the kids or you like adventure, the fun is guaranteed in the “cacharritos” (as the citizens name the amusement park)

    As a curious fact, if you walk through its gardens, located to the right of the main entrance, you will see this bronze bust made in 1931 by the spanish sculptor Ramón Chaveli, dedicated to the city mayor Julio González Hontoria.

    And if you need a versatile tour guide to show you the Horse Fair and Jerez city or even its surroundings, do not hesitate…

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