Old Town of Cáceres
Old Town Of Cáceres
Cultural Spain Europe And North America Province Of Cáceres, Autonomous Community Of Extremadura

Cáceres is an outstanding example of a city that was ruled from the 14th to 16th centuries by powerful rival factions: fortified houses, palaces and towers dominate its spatial configuration. This city in Estremadura bears the traces of highly diverse and contradictory influences, such as Islamic arts, Northern Gothic, Italian Renaissance, arts of the New World, etc. The walls of the city bear exceptional testimony to the fortifications built in Spain by the Almohads. The Torre Desmochada in Cáceres is part of an ensemble of walls and towers which is representative of a civilization and which has been largely conserved.

Few traces of the Colonia Norbensis Caesarina, founded 29 BC, remain in the urban landscape;here and there traces of the cardo and the decumanus can be perceived. All that is left of the Roman wall, substantially reworked by the Arabs, is a few wall sections and some foundation stones.

Caesarina, its name in the 6th century, played only a minor role in the Visigothic Kingdom. It had lost almost all its prominence when the Arabs seized it and made it a fortified city, called Qasri, which in the 12th century Al-Idrisi saw as the principal bridgehead against the Christians. Moreover, during the 12th-century wars, after the Almohads had lost and then retaken the city several times, they built remarkable fortifications which completely changed the appearance of the Roman walls. Flanking towers were positioned externally a few metres from the rampart and connected to it by a wall;five of the towers, rectangular in shape, still stand to the west, including the famous Torre del Bujaco;two polygonal towers can be seen to the south (Torre Redonda and Torre Desmochada);to the east, the Torre de los Pozos, rising 30 m above the rampart walk, is partly built into a barbican.

Few monuments have survived from the Muslim period within the walls. The most significant is the five-nave reservoir with three bays, incorporated into the Casa de las Veletas in the 16th century. Although most of the monuments have been lost (the site of the Alcázar was parcelled out in 1473), the pattern of the streets, with winding backstreets that open on tiny squares or turn into narrow alleys, is a survival from urban planning during the Almohad period. The number of patios and interior gardens also bears testimony to the influence of Qasri on Cáceres.

Alfonso IX, King of León, recaptured the city from the Moors in 1229. The destiny of Cáceres shifted again in the 14th century with the massive influx of noblemen who had initially been excluded from repoblación as a result of measures imposed by Alfonso IX. In the space of a few decades, fortified houses dotting the landscape made the city a perfect example of a feudal city, which since 1312 had been the stage for power struggles between rival clans. Notable among the oldest seigniorial fortresses are the Palacio de la Generala, the house and tower de las Cigüeñas, Casa de los Ovando-Perero, Torre de los Espaderos, and Casa Espadero-Pizarro or Casa del Mono.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, noble pride is demonstrated by richly decorated coats of arms and a surge of towers, machiccolation and crenellation. The Catholic Kings tore down most of these unusual constructions, but preserved some in deference to the wishes of a few select lords (e.g. Palacio de los Golfines de Arriba, Palacio de las Cigüeñas). Only their smaller proportions and a more modest system of defence distinguish the city's exquisite stone houses from the palaces (Casa de Aldana, Casa del Sol, Casa del Aguila, Casa de Ulloa, Casa de Carvajal, etc.). When the 'Americans' returned, new palaces were constructed: Palacio Godoy, built by a newly rich conquistador and Palacio de los Toledo-Moctezuma, built in the second half of the 16th century for the grandson of the Aztec who had greeted Cortes when he reached Mexico. A wide variety of styles is reflected in these constructions and the city's contemporary structures, palaces, churches or convents. The later addition of the imposing Jesuit church of San Francisco Javier (1755) did not disturb the harmony of an urban fabric which had been remodelled according to a common pattern.