Zafra is a town situated in the Province of Badajoz (Extremadura, Spain), and the capital of the comarca of Zafra – Río Bodión.

Human traces of great antiquity have been found in the area. In the “El Castellar” mountains are located caves with pictograms. Also, a fort dating to the Bronze Age was found in the nearby chapel of Belén. In the surrounding areas there are many Roman villas, reminiscent of the legendary Segeda, which could be the origin in the town. A significant fact is that Zafra is located between Badajoz, and Seville, the capital of the province of Baetica. In medieval times, Zafra was situated on the border which divided the domains of Seville and Badajoz, and in 1030 a defensive fortification was constructed in the Castellar Mountains. This fort would be named Sajra Abi Hassan by the Moorishgeographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri in 1094. The Arabs named the town Safra, or Cafra, from which derived the current name. During the Reconquista, Zafra was captured twice by Christian forces, first in 1229 by Alfonso IX, and then definitely by Ferdinand III, in a campaign through present-day Extremadura described in Alfonso X’s Crónica General de España (General History of Spain).

However, the most momentous change was the granting of the city by Henry III of Castile to Gomes Suárez de Figueroa, who until then had been a servant to the queen and son of the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago. Gomes’ son and second title-holder, Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa, began to make Zafra the center of the domain of Feria. He started building a wall with the dual purpose of defense and control of neighbors, merchants, and travelers. Its construction lasted from 1426 to 1449 (or 1442). Also in 1437 he ordered the construction of one of the most emblematic buildings of the city, El Alcázar, which would be his residence. Additionally, he funded the hospital of Santiago and finished the Convent of the Clares of Saint Mary of the Valley, which would be used as a mausoleum for his family. In 1460, Henry IV of Castile raised the district to the status of a county, and added the villages of Halconer y La Morena to Lorenzo’s domain.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the city was modernized, an example of which was the conversion of the Alcázar into a palace of the Austrian style, and a new church was completed. All this modernization was begun when the fifth count of Feria was raised to a duke and grandee in 1567, for his contributions to the state under Felipe II. In the 17th century, the Dukedom of Feria was united with the Marqueship of Priego, and in the 18th century it was integrated with the Dukedom of Medinaceli. Zafra has always been an industrial and commercial city, serving surrounding areas mainly dedicated to agriculture. A commercial base are the fairs that have been celebrated for Saint John since 1395 and for Saint Michael since 1453.

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