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Best Sights of Murcia
Murcia is a province that is located northeast of Andalusia and its capital is also called Murcia. The province is called the "Huerta de Europa". Huerta means orchard or fruit and vegetable garden. The land is very dry, but they practice drip irrigation, and the soil is very rich in minerals. The farmers can get 5 harvests in a year because there are 330 days of sunshine. The produce is shipped to northern Europe. As one drives along the good highways, one can see orange, lemon, almond, and cherry trees. There are also all kinds of vegetables.
1. La Manga del Mar Menor - This town is highly frequented by Madrileños during the summer. On the off season, there are only 10,000 permanent residents. However during summer, the population rises to half a million. This is the primary beach resort in the province of Murcia. The coast is called the Costa Calida (the Hot coast). The Mar Menor is the largest salt water lake in Europe and it has an area of 170 square kilometers, and a depth of only 7 meters. It is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow strip of land called La Manga (the Sleeve), which is 22 km long and has a width that varies from 100m to 1200m. The salinity in the Mar Menor is quite high and the water temperature is about 5 degrees warmer than the Mediterranean, so the buoyancy in the water is very good. The Hollywood actress and swimmer Esther Williams said that it was the largest swimming pool in the world. The Mar Menor is farmed for its salt deposits. The Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors enjoyed the Mar Menor as a resort. There are two small causeways that allow water from the Mediterranean to enter the Mar Menor.
There is a four lane road that runs up La Manga in the middle of the peninsula, and it gives way to a two lane road. At the very end of La Manga is a development called Veneciola, which was going to be a yacht harbor and be like Venice, but at the end the regional government did not give its permission to the project, which has been abandoned. The whole length of La Manga has been developed with hotels, high rise apartment buildings, and houses. At the end of La Manga is the small town of Cabo de Palos, which is also a resort. It has a very high lighthouse to protect shipping off the coast of Murcia, and also a small yacht harbor. Apparently some famous people have houses there.
2. Murcia City - The City of Murcia is the capital of the province and has a population of 434,000 and is the biggest city in the province. It was founded in 825 A.D. by Abd ar-Rahman II, who was the emir of Al-Andalus. They gave it the name of Medinat Mursiya. King Alfonso X conquered the town in the 13th century and it became a part of the Kingdom of Castile. The Moors were not expelled, but there were many immigrants from Catalonia and Provence.
3. Museo Salzillo (Murcia City) - The Museo Salzillo is dedicated to the work of Francisco Salzillo, who was a famous sculptor who lived between 1707 and 1783. He was born in Murcia and is considered one of the best sculptors of the Baroque Age in Spain. This museum contains many of his religious works, which were sculpted out of wood and then polychromed. The sculptures were used in churches and also for the Holy Week processions. This collection is owned by the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno Cofradia. Each piece looks amazingly lifelike. Salzillo made hundreds of sculptures, but many were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. This museum has some of his best work.
4. Cathedral (Murcia City) - The Cathedral was built between 1394 and 1465 in the Castilian Gothic style, on the site of a former mosque. Bishop Fernando de Pedrosa started the construction of the church. The interior of the church is Gothic, but the facade is Baroque, with a design by Jaime Bort. There is a tower that is 93 meters high, the second highest, after the Giralda in Seville, and this took more than two hundred years to finish, being started in 1521 and completed in 1792. This involved many different architects, among them being Ventura Rodriguez. The first two stories of the tower are in the Renaissance style and the third one is Baroque. There is a bell pavilion that has Rococo and Neoclassical influences. There is a chapel called the Velez Chapel that is in the Flamboyant Gothic style, with a vaulted ceiling and star shaped skylights. The artwork in this chapel is incredibly beautiful. It was planned as the mausoleum of the important Velez Family, but later on the family decided on another place.
5. Episcopal Palace (Murcia City) - In front of the Cathedral is the Episcopal Palace, built in 1768. It has a colorful design on the walls that looks like flowers.
6. City Hall (Murcia City) - The City of Murcia has a beautiful City Hall, with a park in front of it. It has a Neo-Classic design and was built in 1848. The area is called the Glorieta and is next to the Segura River, and this has been considered the center of the city.
7. Cartagena - Cartagena is only 18 km away from La Manga and is a beautiful city. It has 211,000 inhabitants and is the second biggest city in Murcia, Murcia City being the largest. Cartagena was founded in 227 B.C. by the Carthaginian general Asdrubal. The Romans under Cornelio Escipion conquered the city in 209 B.C. during the Second Punic War. It became an important Roman city with the name of Carthago Novo (New Carthage) because of its deep water harbor and the mountains at both ends of the entrance to the harbor that were easily fortified. Later conquerors were the Vandals, the Visigoths, and the Moors in 734 A.D. The Christians conquered it in 1245 A.D. by Alfonso X (Alfonso the Wise) and Cartagena became one of the most important ports of Spain since then.
8. Cartagena Esplanade - This is beside the port. There is a very large open area by the port with restaurants and an esplanade that is bordered with palm trees. One can see many yachts in the harbor. There is also the first electric submarine, created by the Spaniard Isaac Peral. The submarine was launched in 1888 and is considered the first U-boat.
9. Monument to the Heroes of Cavite (Cartagena) - Beside the port of Cartagena is the monument to the Spanish Heroes of Cavite. During the Spanish American War of 1898, many Spanish soldiers died in the Battle of Cavite in the Philippines, fighting against American troops. The artist was the sculptor Julio Gonzalez Pola. Beside the plaza is the bronze statue of a soldier, sitting down on a bench. Nearby is the bronze statue of a marine standing up. Also nearby are three bronze statues of young women who are in a Holy Week procession. Cartagena has many beautiful statues and the natives like this type of art.
10. Roman Theater (Cartagena) - The biggest monument in Cartagena is the Roman Theater. The Roman Theater was built in the 1st century B.C. and could hold 6000 people. It has been very well restored. The entrance to the Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena is located in the Pascual de Riquelme Palace, which was a Baroque looking palace built by the architect Tomas Rico. The famous architect Rafael Moneo built a tunnel underground to connect the palace with the Roman theater, which is more than a block away. When one enters the Roman Theater from the top of the stands, one is highly impressed by the theater, one of the best preserved in Spain. Towering above it are the ruins of the walls of the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Vieja. One can enjoy seeing this theater and the atmosphere one finds there.
11. Modernist Buildings in Cartagena - The city has some Modernist buildings that are very beautiful. The City Hall of Cartagena is called the Palacio Consistorial and was built in 1907 by the architect Tomas Rico. It is one of the most impressive city halls in Spain. There is a street called the Calle Mayor that is adjacent. The Casa de Cervantes was built by a rich man who made his fortune in mining. The architect was Victor Beltri and the palace was completed in 1900. It features many miradors, which are large enclosed windows that jut out of the facade. The facade is made of white stone. The Casino is a private club and the building dates from the end of the 19th century. One can take a look at the interior lobby, which is marvelous. Also nearby is the Gran Hotel, built by Victor Beltri in 1916.
12. Cartagena City Walls - The Muralla de Carlos III is the old city wall of Cartagena, built in 1781. The city walls are impressive and are very well maintained. Cartagena has been an important military city because of its past, its port being one of the best in Spain, and today the Spanish military forces are still present in the city.
13. Church of Santo Domingo (Cartagena) - The Church of Santo Domingo has the beautiful Chapel of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth, built in 1642. The church was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and only this chapel was saved. A modern church occupies the site of the destroyed church. The chapel has a gilded main altar that is very beautiful.
14. Caravaca de la Cruz - Caravaca de la Cruz is a beautiful town in the northwest of Murcia, in the mountains, and it has about 25,000 inhabitants. Towering above the town is the medieval Castle of Santa Cruz, that contains the miraculous True Cross, which is supposed to have a healing power, and in whose honor there is a yearly festival on May 3.
The legend of the Caravaca Cross is one of the most interesting stories. The cross is about a foot long and was used in the past to appear on the chests of ecclesiastical patriarchs. There are two horizontal bars on the cross. In 1232 a miracle occurred in the town. Murcia belonged to a Taifa kingdom of the Moors and the town was ruled by a Moorish king, Sayid Abu-Sayid. He was interviewing one of his Christian prisoners, a priest called Gines Perez Chirinos, who was from Cuenca. The king asked him about his profession and the priest told him that he said Mass. The king was curious and told him he wanted to see the priest say Mass at the main chamber of the fort, in front of the court. He arranged that the priest have an altar draped with a cloth, bread and wine, and some candles. However the priest said he could not proceed because he did not have a cross. Suddenly though the window of the chamber, two angels appeared with the True Cross, which they placed on the altar. The king and his whole court were so amazed by the miracle that they all asked to be baptized.
The Caravaca Cross is called a lignum crucis, because it contains a fragment of the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, was supposed to have found the true cross in Jerusalem in the 4th century. In 1099 this cross was owned by the patriarch Robert of Jerusalem. During the 6th Crusade, in 1230 when Jerusalem fell back into the hands of the Emperor Frederick II, the relic was in the possession of the bishop in that city. It then disappeared and suddenly appeared in Caravaca two years later. Today the town of Caravaca is the 3rd largest pilgrimage center in Spain because of the True Cross. When the Spanish landed in the Americas, the Franciscan missionaries brought copies of the Caravaca Cross to all parts of the New World, where it gained fame and devotion. It has become an amulet, to protect the wearer against all evil. Today it is the custom in Spain and other countries to give a small Caravaca Cross to friends as a symbol of affection, peace and love.
There is another legend about Caravaca. In the 15th century, the town passed to the Knights Templar, who built the castle that still stands over the town. At one time the Knights Templar and the people in the town took refuge in the castle when the Moors put it under siege. The water in the castle became unusable and many people fell sick. Some knights crept out of the castle at night to find water, but many of the neighboring wells had been poisoned by the Moors. The knights only found wine, which they put in wineskins and raced back to the castle on their horses. The Moors spotted them and raced after them, but the knights made it to the castle in time to save themselves. The wine was blessed in the presence of the Caravaca Cross and served to the people who were sick. These people recovered immediately, so the wine was mixed with the undrinkable water in the storage tanks. The water became fresh and the Christians were able to resist the enemy.
15. El Bañadero (Caravaca de la Cruz) - There is a small Baroque building in the town with a hexagonal layout, with pillars and a roof, with open sides, shaped like a lantern with six openings. This is called El Bañadero (the bathing place). Every May 3 since 1384, the True Cross is brought here and bathed in the waters of the river, to give good luck for the harvests. On May 2 there is the festival of the Wine Horse, where a horse covered with an elaborate blanket is raced to reach the castle in 9 seconds. There is also a festival of the Moros and Cristianos, where people parade in either costumes of the Moors or Christians, and have a simulated battle.
16. Museo de las Fiestas (Caravaca de la Cruz) - The Museo de las Fiestas shows costumes of the Moorish king and queen and the Christian king and queen. These are beautiful costumes with embroidery and each costs about 18,000€. There is also a display of a horse with the beautiful blanket that it wears during the Wine Horse Festival.
17. Castle of Santa Cruz - One can ascend the hill on a small simulated train car to see the Castle of Santa Cruz. There is a Museo de la Vera Cruz, which explains the True Cross, with many paintings. The Sanctuario de la Santisima y Vera Cruz has a beautiful altar that is gilded. After the Mass, the priests shows the True Cross and the believers are allowed to kiss it.
18. Church of El Salvador (Caravaca de la Cruz) - Another important church is the Church of El Salvador. This is considered the best example of the Renaissance in Murcia and is considered a Historic-Artistic Site by the Spanish government. The chapels are quite impressive and beautiful. The church was built between the 16th and 18th centuries, and the architect was Pedro de Antequera. It has slim ionic columns that sustain at great height the vaults. There are three naves with seven chapels. There is a Baroque main altar done by Jose Saez. There are many important paintings in the church. End your trip to Caravaca by having a good lunch at the Salon Castillo de la Cruz.
19 . Calasparra - Calasparra is a small town in the northwest mountainous area of the province of Murcia and has a population of about 9,700. The Segura River flows near it and a limited amount of rice is grown there, since the 14th century. This rice is famous and is used for paella. What makes the town famous is that there is a sanctuary carved out of the rock that contains a small image in wood of the Virgin Mary, who is known as "La Pequeñica", because of her small size. The site is one of the most popular Marian centers of pilgrimage in Spain.
The legend is that around 1786, a shepherd tending his flock found a small cave in the rocks, when he sought refuge from the elements. He found the small statue of the Virgin and told the ecclesiastical authorities in the town about his find. These authorities wanted to move the statue to a more appropriate site, to one of the churches in the town. When they tried to lift the statue to take it away, they found that the statue weighed very much and no amount of force could take it out of the cave. The authorities then decided that the Virgin wanted to stay in the cave. So they built a bigger cave in the rock in the form of a chapel and that is where the Virgen de la Esperanza is now found. The facade follows the Baroque style and there are beautiful gardens around the site, leading down steps to the River Segura. The image of the Virgin is said to have caused many miracles since its discovery. It is a beautiful place to visit and the setting is very peaceful.
20 . Lorca - Lorca is the third largest city in Murcia, after the City of Murcia and Cartagena, with a population of about 90,000. It is located on the southwestern part of the province of Murcia, close to the boundary with Almeria. It is close to the Guadalentin River and is known as the City of the Sun. The Romans founded the city with the name of Eliocroca and was on the road between Tarragona and Cadiz. During the Visigothic rule, the name changed to Lurga. Later the Moors came, until the city was conquered by Alfonso X. During the Reconquest, Lorca was a border city between the Kingdom of Castile and the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. After Granada was conquered, the city of Lorca became prosperous. The city is dominated by the Castle of Lorca, situated on the highest hill overlooking the city. This castle was built by the Moors in the 13th century.
21. Collegiate Church of San Patricio - The Collegiate Church of San Patricio is a beautiful church that was built between 1533 and 1704 to celebrate the victory of the people of Lorca against the Moors in the Battle of Alporchones, which took place on the St. Patrick's Day in 1452. The facade is Baroque and the architect was Jose Valles. The large church has three naves and twelve chapels. There is a Retrochoir that was built in the 18th century by Toribio Martinez de la Vega. The facade is similar to that of the Cathedral of Murcia.
22. Museo de los Barocados del Paso Blanco (Lorca) - There is also a Museo de los Bordados del Paso Blanco, which is the Embroidery Museum. This museum displays clothes with elaborate embroidery, many which are used in the city's processions. Attached to the museum is the Church of Santo Domingo, which has the Capilla del Rosario (Chapel of the Rosary). This has a very beautiful gilded main altar.
23. Alhama de Murcia - Alhama de Murcia is a small town of about 19,000 and is famous for its Roman baths. The Museo Arqueologico Los Baños is the name of the museum that shows the remains of the Roman baths, which were famous during Roman times. When the Moors came, they also enjoyed the baths. Later the Christians did not take baths, as it was not their custom, so the baths were abandoned and fell into disrepair until the museum restored it. There were separate baths for men and women.
24. Fuensanta - Five kilometers from Murcia is the Sanctuary of the Virgin of la Fuensanta, who is the patron saint of the city of Murcia. The church was built at the end of the 17th century and is in the Baroque style. Twice a year, once during Lent and the other during the September fair, the image of the Virgin Mary is brought in procession to the Cathedral of Murcia. The legend is that in 1694, the people of Murcia prayed to this Virgin for rain during a drought and the prayers were answered with a very heavy rain. That is when the people and the Church decided to make her the patron saint of Murcia. At this sanctuary there is a natural fountain where people go to get water because of the Virgin. Murcia is a land full of legends.25. Aguilas - The City of Aguilas is located at the southern end of Murcia and close to the border with Almeria. It has about 28,000 inhabitants and during the Roman times, it was called Urci. At the end of the 18th century, the city of Lorca needed a port to ship its products, so Aguilas was used for this purpose and it prospered. The hill overlooking the city is occupied by a castle called the Castle of St. John of the Eagles. At the end of the 19th century, the port was used to ship iron ore that a British mining company was exploiting. The British South Easter Railway Company built a special pier to load the ships with the iron ore and this started in 1903. The city has also many fine beaches and is a resort. Of interest in the city is the Archaeological Museum.
26. Plaza de España (Aguilas ) - The City Hall is a beautiful building built by the British in the Neo-Mudejar style. It is located at the Plaza de España and around this beautiful plaza are other noteworthy Modernist buildings. The plaza also has a huge ficus tree from Brazil that is more than a hundred years old.
27. Monument of Icarus (Aguilas) - The port has a beautiful sculpture of Icarus at the port of Aguilas. The sculptor was Mariano Gonzalez, and his model was the torero Pepin Lirio.
28. Rincon del Hornillo - Across the Hornillo beach is the Rincon del Hornillo. This is a wide flight of steps leading up to another street that the owner of a house beside it has built with mosaic, using a technique similar to Gaudi, of using brightly colored bits of ceramic. The creator of this fancy was Juan Martinez Casuco and he began the work in 1985.
29. Mazarron - The City of Mazarron is between Aguilas and Cartagena and is also a port and has beaches. It has about 19,000 inhabitants.The town has the Factoria Romana de Salazones de Mazarron, which is a museum that shows how the Romans made garum. The museum actually has the original pits used to make this sauce that the Romans loved. First the insides of some types of fish were cut into small pieces and allowed to decompose partly, which was helped by the digestive enzymes of the fish. Salt was added to prevent decay. The pits and tanks were used to transform it to a sauce and then the sauce was filtered to separate the liquid, which was called garum. This was a very big business along the Mediterranean coasts.