This town in Jáen stands on a small promontory overlooking a landscape of olive groves in the heart of the region of La Loma. Declared of historic and artistic importance, Baeza is home to an incredible Renaissance architectural site which, together with the site at Úbeda, has been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO, and where ornate carved stone mingles with traditional whitewashed houses. A stop on both the Route of the Andalusian Renaissance and the Nasrid Route, this is an exceptional point from which to visit the whole region and to sample its pure olive oil, at the heart of the Mediterranean diet.
Roman Vivatia and Hispano-Muslim Bayyasa were very important during the Middle Ages because of their strategic position. Situated between Castile and Andalusia, that is to say, between the Christian kingdoms and the Muslim powerbase, it was the site of battles and frontier skirmishes. It was Fernando III el Santo (the Saint) who reconquered it in 1227 and, from that time it became the spearhead for launching attacks against the Taifa Kingdoms, which is why it was given the name “Nest of Royal Sparrowhawks”. The 16th and 17th centuries were the period when the city enjoyed its greatest splendour, shown in its great Renaissance buildings.
In the Cathedral you will find one of the city's most precious jewels. Built on the site of a mosque, the present Renaissance building of Santa María preserves Gothic elements like the Puerta de la Luna (13th C.), and Mudejar ones, like the pointed horseshoe arches in the chapels. You can see this combination of styles in its robust cloister. Adjoining the Cathedral are the High Chapter Houses and, opposite them, the fountain of Santa María, whose construction was ordered during the reign of Philip II.
Another monumental site is the one formed by the Jabalquinto Palace and the Seminary of San Felipe Neri, which currently houses the International University of Andalusia. The palace has profuse Isabelline decoration on its façade, while in the cloister you can admire the transition from Renaissance to Baroque. It is worth visiting the Function Room, where the Romanesque capitals of the old church of San Juan are preserved.
Another place that should not missed is the Old University. This 16th century building was also the Education Institute where the distinguished poet, Antonio Machado, gave French classes for many years. Before stopping at the Pósito and the Alhóndiga - the grain store and former corn exchange building (16th C.), you should visit the church of Santa Cruz, one of the exceptional examples of Romanesque architecture preserved in Andalusía.
Among many aristocratic houses and small palaces is the Plaza del Pópulo, a site made up of the Casa del Pópulo (Civil Courts and Public Court Office), the Los Leones fountain, the old Butcher's, the Jaén Gate and the Villalar Arch. It is one of Baeza's most charming corners where, beside noble buildings, parts of the old walls and their gate remain.
In the Plaza de Cándido Elorza is another group of historic monuments, both religious and civil. The Palaces of Elorza, Cerón and the Counts of Garcíes and the houses of the Cabrera and Acuña families tell us of the many noble and aristocratic families in Baeza in the 17th century. To this is added the elegant shape of the church of San Pablo, situated nearby.
The province of Jaén offers you the opportunity to go to interesting historic towns and natural areas. On the Renaissance Route you will find Úbeda, also in the county of La Loma. The natural parks of Despeñaperros, La Sierra de Andújar and Cazorla, Segura y las Villas offer many footpaths and low environmental impact sports. Linares, Baños de la Encina and Andújar are some of the places it is worth touring.
The Caliphate and Nazarite Routes pass through Jaén. Alcaudete, Martos, Porcuna and Alcalá la Real on one hand and Mengíbar, Jodar and Jimena on the other, are important landmarks on these routes. In these places you will be surprised by fine examples of the legacy of Andalus.
Jaén, Úbeda and Cazorla all have paradors de turismo. A 13th-century Arab fortress, a 16th-century Renaissance palace and a typical Andalusian farmhouse offer rooms for relaxing on the journey. These are enviable places for tasting Andalusian cuisine, in which pure olive oil from the Jaén denominations of origin Sierra de Segura and Sierra Mágina is indispensable. Peppers stuffed with partridge, oxtail in La Loma red wine or stewed kid with pine nuts are some of the recipes offered by the Andalusian traditionBaeza is expert in the preparation of cod, covered in flour, gently fried with onion and tomato and accompanied by pine nuts, morrón peppers and peas. Traditional Baeza desserts are walnut tarts, "ochios" (a small cake made with aniseed) and crystallised fruits.
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