Jaen Tourist Attractions
Cathedral, JaenJaén, chief town of its province and an old-established episcopal see, lies at the foot of the Sierra de Jabalcuz and Sierra de la Pandera, the slopes of which, to the south of the town, are covered with large plantations of olives. The province of Jaén is one of the largest olive-growing areas in the world.HistoryThere was a Carthaginian walled town here which was captured by the Romans and given the name of Auringis. The local silver-mines were already being worked in Roman times, and the town is still known as "silver Jaén". During the Moorish period it was capital of the kingdom of Jayyan, and after its recapture by Ferdinand III in 1246 it became an outpost of the Reconquista. In 1492 the Christian armies assembled here for the assault on Granada, the last Arab stronghold on the Iberian peninsula.
Castillo de Santa Catalina
On a ridge to the west of Jaén stands the Castillo de Santa Catalina which occupies the site of a Moorish stronghold and which was captured in 1246 by Ferdinand III; it is now a Parador Nacional. It is best reached by car on a road signposted to the parador (5km/3mi). When approaching from the old town remains of the old defensive walls can still be seen, and from the top of the hill, towering up like the prow of a ship, there is a viewpoint (not for the fainthearted) marked with a cross, which offers a magnificent panorama of the town and the surrounding olive groves.
Address: Carretera al Castillo, Spain
On an elevation in the Old Town of Jaén, rising out of a tangle of narrow streets on the site of an earlier mosque, stands the massive cathedral (16th-19th centuries) which was begun by Andrés de Vandelvira in 1500. The west front is flanked by two towers and has a carving of the Madonna by Pedro Roldán as well as figures of rulers and saints.
Cathedral - Interior
The most notable features of the interior of the cathedral in Jaén are the fine 15th century choir-stalls and - in a shrine by the high altar - the "napkin of St Veronica", with which the saint is said to have wiped Christ's face on the way to Calvary.
Cathedral - Chapel
In a chapel nearby the Jaén Cathedral, on the left, is an almost kitschy representation of Christ carrying the Cross, and on the right the entrance to the chapterhouse with retablo-painting by Pedro Machuca.
Cathedral - Museum
The Jaén Cathedral Museum, in the sacristy, displays pictures and church utensils and ornaments, including a large silver monstrance.
Northwest of the cathedral in Jaén is the former Moorish old town of La Magdalena, at the foot of the hill.
Past the La Magdelena is the Palacio Villardompado, underneath which an extensive 11th century Arab bathing establishment was discovered. The palace itself contains a museum of art and folk traditions.
Capilla de San Andrés
East from the Arab baths in Jaén is the Capilla de San Andrés, founded in 1515 by Gutiérrez González Doncel, treasurer to Popes Leo X and Clement VII, which is believed to occupy the site of a former synagogue. In the Capilla de la Purísima can be seen a statue of the Virgin (Andalusian school) and a painting of the Virgen del Pópulo. There is also a very fine choir screen by a local master named Bartolomé.
Iglesia de la Magdalena
Past the Convento de Santo Domingo lies the church of La Magdalena; built on the site of an Arab mosque this is probably the oldest church in Jaén. It has a Late Gothic doorway and a fine retablo, but especially a beautiiful patio. Opposite the church can be seen the ''Raudal de la Magdalena'', a fine fountain which was used by the Romans.
Monasterio de Santa Clara
Near the Plaza de los Caños to the north of the cathedral, stands the 13th century Monasterio de Santa Clara, the oldest sacral building in Jaén. It has a beautiful cloister and a fine figure of Christ, the "Cristo de Bambú".
The busy New Town of Jaén begins to the north of the cathedral near the Plaza de la Constitución, with its main axis the Paseo de la Estación.
In the Paseo de la Estación of Jaén, in buildings dating from 1920 is housed the Museo Provincial with the art gallery on the first floor and an archeological section on the ground floor. The most interesting exhibits are a Roman mosaic and Iberian sculpture.
Address: Paseo de la Estación 27, E-23008 Jaén, Spain
There are palaces and mansions of important families on the many squares in Jaén.
La Guardia de Jaen, Spain
11km/7mi southeast of Jaén on a minor road is the little town of La Guardia de Jaén, with the remains of ancient buildings which bear witness to its Roman origin. It also has a ruined castle, an interesting parish church and a courtyard (designed by Vandelvira) which is all that remains of a Dominican monastery founded in the 16th century.
Ruta de las Batallas
The Ruta de las Batallas ("Battle Trail") leaves Jaén on N 323, following a winding course northwards above the valley of the Río Guadalbuilón, and comes in 24km/15mi to Mengíbar (alt. 323m/1,060ft), the ancient Ossigi, once a Moorish stronghold, of which only the tower remains.
The Ruta de las Batallas crosses the Río Guadalquivir and continues north to Bailén (alt. 349m/1145ft), where the Roman consul Scipio the Elder defeated the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 208 B.C. Here too, in 1808, Spanish troops commanded by General Castaños defeated a French army for the first time. The general is buried in the church of La Encarnación (16th century), which also contains a sculpture by Alonso Cano.
15km/9mi east of Bailén is the mining town of Linares (alt. 418m/1,371ft). Features of interest in Linares are the church of Santa María la Mayor (12th-13th century) and a fine 16th century retablo in the church of San Francisco.
The Archeological Museum displays Iberian, Carthaginian and Roman finds from the site of Cástulo (5km/3mi north), the largest Iberian settlement in the lead and silver mining area on the upper Guadalquivir.
30km/19mi west of Bailén on N IV is Andújar (alt. 212m/696ft), on the right bank of the Guadalquivir, here spanned by a bridge which goes back to Roman times. The town, lying near the ancient Iberian settlement of Illiturgo (Los Villares), is a center of olive oil production and is also noted for its fine pottery (alcarrazas, jarras). The streets are lined with handsome old houses and churches. The Gothic church of Santa María has a painting by El Greco, ''Christ in the Garden of Olives'', housed in a chapel which is closed off by a finely wrought grille. The church of San Miguel has fine carved woodwork.
Virgen de la Cabeza
Just before Andújar, a winding mountain road branches off on the right and runs north to the Santuario de la Virgen de la Cabeza, a chapel founded in the 13th century, totally destroyed during the Civil War and subsequently rebuilt, from which there are tremendous panoramic views.
The Ruta de las Batallas continues north from Bailén on N IV, which passes a side road to Baños de la Encina (fine 10th century castle) and after going through Guarromán (alt. 349m/1145ft) reaches the little town of La Carolina (alt. 605m/1985ft). Like other places in this area, La Carolina was founded by French and German settlers whom Charles III had brought into the Sierra Morena between 1767 and 1769. The once rich lead-mines in the surrounding area are now in ruins. The town itself has a number of handsome old mansions.
Las Navas de Tolosa
Just north of La Carolina, 2.5km/1.5mi off N IV to the right, is Las Navas de Tolosa (alt. 694m/2,277ft), another attractive old settlers' village. Here on July 16, 1212, the united army of Castile, Aragon and Navarre inflicted an annihilating defeat on the Almohads - an event commemorated by a monument outside the town.
From Las Navas de Tolosa N IV climbs gradually to Santa Elena (alt. 742m/2435ft), a pretty little place situated on a hill from which there are extensive views, near the boundary between Andalusia and New Castile.
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