Travel Guide to Cuenca

The city of sicklers and contemporary art

The Castillian- Manchega location is situated in a spectacular environments, in the heart of the Serrania, over a pink platform formed by the mouths of the Júcar and Huécar rivers. An ancient place full of works of art and a very singular cathedral make up this travelguide of what to see in Cuenca. It also possesses an interesting offer of contemporary art. A provincial capital that is very attractive, is worth a visit.

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To fully appreciate this travel guide to Cuenca, one must know its history. This one began during the arab times. The mohammedans took advantage of the strategic disposition between the mouths of the two bordering rivers. For that, they designed a castle named Conca, insie the core of Santaver. The plaza kept growing in importance and population, reaching to dispose of the alcázar, plaza mayor and the mosque.

The splendor of the Omeyas favored the city in a putant agriculture and textile productivity. However, the ups and downs of the reconquer and the dissapearance of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, converted it into a frontier plaza. Later, after nine months of the occured, on September 21st 1177 Alfonso VII took possesion of it. Based on the tradition. the pastor Martin Alhaya convinced some Christian attackers to cross the gate of Aljaraz covered with sheep fur.  They did it confused between the herd whic was filled with meat and the Muslim sides. Like this, they took the guards by surprise and opened the doors to the rest of the army.

Once the conquest was over, an episcopal headquarter was constituted along with a council. It was governed by the famous Cuenca Fuero. Retracted in 1190, its 950 laws gave it such a practical value that conduced for it to also be given to many other populations. The King resided in the city for ten years, promoting the works that transformed the Mosque into a Cathedral. These were held back until the beginning of the XIV century. One of the most notable promoters would be Bishop Julian, whose remains were deposited in an a chest of silver in a chapel dedicated to him. Posteriorly, he would be canonized contributing to the influence of pilgrims to the place. The temple would finish being denominated the Cathedral of Santa María and San Julián de Cuenca.

Like int he Muslim times, the production of textile and livestock brought the city a great economical splendor. Clear sign of it is the urban lattisse. This began to extend outside the walls, appearing in the neighborhoods of San Anton and the Tiradores. In the frame of the disputed between King Alfonso XI and his unclel Infante Don Juan Manuel. Cuenca began to form part during some years to the lordship of Villena. With everything, later it returned to be property of Corona.

During the XV and XVI centuries, nobels and Church would give the city a construction impulse without precedents. Palaces, monasteries, and Parishes augmented as a reflection of the political and economical relevance. This conduces the attraction of important artists like the polemic “Jamete”. The famous French sculptor built the monumental renaissance cover netween 1546 and 1550. The arch of Jamete is the most spectacular element in the cathedral and one of the prettiest to see in the capital of Cuenca.

As a disgrace, only one century later, the fall of the clothing industry would take Cuenca to an enormous economic and demographic decadance. The crisis lasted until the XX century. In July 15th 1874 it was produced as one of the most requested stories in history. Cuenca was raided by the Army of Carlista del Centro. It was commanded by Infante Alfonso de Borbón, accompanied by his wilfe María de las Nieves de Braganza. Their stay lasted a couple of days, but they stripped the town of such way that is was nicknamed the “Saco de Cuenca”.

Vista antigua de la Plaza de Canovas en Cuenca
Old view of the Plaza de Canovas

Much more violent was the destruction and raid of the temples by part of the anarchy militians in July of 1936. Since there was no revolt or armed enemies to who beat, these procedeed to assessinate the rightists and loot the Cathedral. They also took out the remains of Saint Julian from the chest of silver that contained them. Next, they proceeded to burn them. After a very lenthy and expensive restauration, the city has recovered the impressive historic site. So effective was the restauration that is was declares a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Up next, do not miss the travel guide of what to see in Cuenca.

Cuenca is an important artistic and monumental city, and to visit and complete this trvel guide in this place requires at least two days. You can even spend three days so you can have time to visit the Serranía de Cuenca Natural Park , mainly its “Ciudad Encantada” (Enchanted City) and the “Callejones de las Majadas”. Finally in your way back, if you drive towards Madrid you should visit Uclés, or the Roman city of Segóbriga.

In the Plaza Mayor there is the Santa María and San Julián Cathedral, built from the 1182 above an old Muslim mosque; it was especially of Gothic-Norman style. This Cathedral is also very important due to its chapels and different rooms.

Next on this travel guide.

In the same square there is the city council, dating back to 1733 of baroque style; and the Petras Convent, building from the XVIII century. In the San Pedro street there are many of the main buildings of the city: the Casa del Canónigo, Angélicas convent – linked to the San Nicolás de Bari Church and the Carmelitas Descalzas Convent; there is also the Menéndez Pelayo International University and the Antonio Pérez Foundation.

In the Trabuco square on this travel guide you can find the San Pedro Church, of Romanic Origins. Close to the viewpoints of the Jucar you can see the San Miguel Church, building from the XII century sheltering today an auditorium; the de los Descalzos Convent; and the Nuestra Señora de las Angustias Sanctuary.

In the Alfonso VIII street you can find the Corregidor and the Arostegui big houses dating back to the XVII centuries.

In the city they are also important the San Jualián Conciliar Seminary and the Mangana Tower, which are important in this travel guide.

Going through the arch door we face the San Pablo Bridge, the most remarkable example of industrial architecture in Cuenca, from where we can see the impressive hanging houses, symbol of this city. A must see on this travel guide.

Cuenca Cathedral

This aforementioned bridge ends in the San Pablo Convent, raised in 1523 and nowadays restored and National Inn.

There are also many museums in this city, but there is an important one in those hanging houses, the Spanish Abstract Art Museum of Cuenca, with a great collection of national paintings from the 50’s and 60’s.

In the Carmelitas Descalzas Convent there is the Antonio Pérez Foundation, sheltering many different artworks; in the Arzobispal Palace the Diocesan Museum, and right in front of it the Cuenca Museum. Finally, in the old town we find the Science Museum of Castilla-La Mancha.

With this, we conclude our travel guide to Cuenca.

Must-see...

Dónde dormir en Cuenca
Casas Colgadas
Convento de San Pablo en Cuenca
Convento de San Pablo

Practical Data

Coordinates

40° 4′ 18″ N, 2° 8′ 6″ W

Distances

Toledo 182 km, Madrid 163 km


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