Cuenca, Castilla-La-Mancha, Spain

Cuenca is located across a steep spur, whose slopes descend into deep gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers. It is divided into two separate settlements: the “new” city is situated south-west to the old one, which is divided by the Huécar course. The climate of Cuenca is the typical continental Mediterranean of Spain’s “Meseta” (inner plateau). Winters are relatively cold, but summers are quite hot. Spring and autumn seasons are short, with pleasant temperatures during the day but with rather cold nights due to its altitude from 956 m above sea level up to 1000 m in the old town.

The old Saint Paul convent, Cuenca

St Paul convent was built in the 16th century by command of the canon priest Juan del Pozo, a monk belonging to the Dominican Order. Brothers Juan and Pedro de Alviz were in charge of the building project; Pedro worked on the convent and the cloister and Juan on the church. The church was finished in the 18th century, in rococo style.

The convent was ruled by Dominican monks, but during the 19th century was handed over to the Pauline Fathers, who were based here until 1975, when they left due to the possible collapse of the building. In the 1990s the convent was restored to house the Parador Nacional de Turismo de Cuenca, a hotel. The cloister has an ornamental source of water, and the cafeteria is the old chapel. From the convent the old town can be reached easily by crossing St Paul bridge.

Saint Paul bridge

The St. Paul bridge (Puente de San Pablo) was built from 1533 to 1589, a construction driven by the canon Juan del Pozo, over the river Huecar’s Gorge, aiming at connecting the old town with St Paul convent. The original bridge collapsed, and the current one was built in 1902, made of wood and iron according to the style dominating at the beginning of the 20th century. It is up to 40 metres high, and supported upon the remains of the old bridge.

El Castillo (The Castle)

El Castillo is the name for the remains of an ancient Arab fortress, representing the older structures of Cuenca. Only a tower, two stone blocks, the arch which allows to enter/leave the old town from the Barrio del Castillo and a fragment of the walls have been left. The arch (arco de Bezudo) is named after Gutierre Rodriguez Bezudo, from Segovia, who fought the Arabs with King Alfonso VIII to conquer Cuenca. The castle was home of the Holy Inquisition after 1583, and it was finally destroyed during the 19th century by French soldiers during the Spanish War of Independence. Nearby are the small chapel and cemetery of San Isidro.

Cuenca Cathedral

Cuenca Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral in the city of Cuenca in Cuenca Province in the Castile-La Mancha region of south-eastern central Spain. Exceptional expression of Gothic Anglo-Norman, begun in 1196. The wife of King Alfonso VIII, Eleanor Plantagenet of England, daughter of King Henry II Plantagenet of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine , Duchess of Aquitaine, Sister of Richard the Lionheart, who inspired this cathedral. The influence of the Norman court of King Alfonso VIII, defined the construction of this cathedral, the first Gothic cathedral of Castile, together with that of Avila. Work began in the year 1196 and was completed in 1257.

It has a Latin cross plan (that is, the arm of the cross reaching from the main entrance to the altar is considerably longer than the other arms) and a seven-sided polygonal apse. The facade was rebuilt by Vicente Lampérez in the early twentieth century.

The cathedral is officially the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Gracia (“Basilica of Our Lady of Grace”). Unlike many other cathedrals in Spain, photography is not normally allowed in the interior.

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