|Holy Chapel of El Salvador|
|A Tourist Map of Úbeda by yours truly (click to enlarge)|
I’ve made a fancy new interactive Google Maps Engine map with all these cafés, restaurants, and more you can check out here!
Itinerary #1: Monuments
|Roof of one of the towers of the Hospital de Santiago|
|Plaza de Andalucía with the clock tower|
|Church of the Santísima Trinidad|
|Plaza 1º de Mayo|
|Old town hall|
|Church of San Pablo|
|Plaza del Ayuntamiento|
Now, close your eyes, take C/ Juan Montilla south, and open them once you’ve passed the town hall. BOOM. The Plaza Vázquez de Molina is the climax of this route, and really shows how Spaniards are such experts at public spaces. Let’s take it bit by bit.
In 1869, however, the city seized this palace from the Church as part of a 19th-century trend of anticlerical confiscations. The town council soon moved here from the old casas consistoriales, and it has served as the town hall ever since.
|Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares|
If you enter the church via the angled north façade, you’re actually facing Mecca; the cloister that you’re now in was once the ablutions courtyard for the old mosque. But once you enter the main naves of the church, things are reoriented toward Jerusalem and the rising of the sun. Look up—the marvelous, geometric ceiling was crafted in the Mudéjar style, an architectural period in which Christian Spaniards imitated Islamic trends. But the dome over the main altar is decidedly Baroque.
Wrap around, glancing at an old palace which now houses the police station. Further south of here is the old Jewish quarter, where you can still see a house or two with a Jewish star engraved on its lintel.
|Parador and Holy Chapel of El Salvador|
This Renaissance palace, again designed by Andrés de Vandelvira, lodged King Alfonso XIII in 1926 on a royal visit to Úbeda, a visit that prompted the state to convert the building into the country’s second official Parador hotel in 1930. I can’t think of a more romantic or historic setting to stay at in town, although you will have to shell out the big bucks, of course.
|Interior of the chapel|
The plateresque main façade is completely covered in statuary and sculpture depicting classical and biblical themes. A triumphal arch outlines the western portal and a great, triangular pediment caps everything off. In true Renaissance form, golden rectangles abound, both horizontally and vertically, and give a well-proportioned feel to the whole church.
|Rotunda, Holy Chapel of El Salvador|
Itinerary #2: Murallas
|The southern edge of town|
Look up at the old walls. They protect a formidable outcropping, but today said hilltop is mostly empty, for in 1507 the Catholic Monarchs—Ferdinand & Isabella—ordered the local alcázar (Moorish-era palace) destroyed because rival bands of nobles were using it as a fortress during a period of fighting that lasted over a hundred years. One can only wonder what the city profile would look like today had the alcázar not been demolished.
Alternate route: Instead of turning right at the lookout point, head left through the Gate of Santa Lucía and hug the formidable city walls to the north. They’ve built a really nice shaded park with some trails and gardens that are relaxing to walk through, and a Moorish tower from the Almohad era juts out at a corner. You’ll end up at the Losal Gate (see below), a pointy Mudéjar-style entryway into the old town.
Itinerary #3: Museums
|House-Museum of Andalusian Art|
At C/ Roque Rojas 2, the Synagogue of Water (Sinagoga del Agua) is one of the most fascinating—and controversial—sights in Úbeda. Seven years ago, an apartment developer had bought the current property and was in the process of razing the site when, lo and behold, medieval ruins were stumbled upon that looked suspiciously like they would have belonged to a Jewish synagogue. Thankfully, the owner sensibly switched construction excavation for the achaeological kind, and work was done to rebuild the old structure.
What you see today is a recreation of what a synagogue would have looked like, as all the artifacts have been brought in from elsewhere. Although historical records from the time period were lost in an archives fire, and while there is little tangible evidence of a synagogue, a women’s gallery and a subterranean bodega for ritual bathing are nevertheless convincing.
I know I already mentioned them in my food tour of Úbeda post, but make sure to stop by the Carmelitas Descalzas Convent (Convento de Carmelitas Descalzas) on C/ Montiel for some top-notch sweets!
Due west from the Plaza 1º de Mayo, the San Juan de la Cruz Museum-Oratory (Museo-Oratorio de San Juan de la Cruz) will be interesting to Catholics or anyone interested in the life of St. John of the Cross, author of the famous Christian spiritual work, Dark Night of the Soul. One of Spain’s most important saints, John of the Cross stayed in Úbeda a short time until dying here in 1591. (He was buried up north in Segovia.) This sprawling museum dedicated to his life covers multiple floors of what is also a monastery, houses plenty of relics, and ends in the balcony of a soaring Baroque chapel. I recommend this only if you’re a completionist, a Catholic, or a Spanish-speaker; it’s at C/ Carmen Nº 13.
|Decorative ceramic plates in traditional Úbeda green|
What in Úbeda are you most excited to see now that you’ve been taken on a virtual tour through town? Let me know below in the comments section!
For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.