General information

Jaen is the capital of the province of Jaen and has more than 117,000 inhabitants. The city has proclaimed itself as the World Capital of Olive Oil, thanks to the large concentration of olive tree plantations. Income of Jaen comes from the services sector and agriculture. Tourism in Jaen isn’t as developed as in other parts of Andalusia but bit by bit more people are discovering Jaen as a tourist destination. The people from Jaen are known as jienenses and you can find almost all of them in the streets during the Feria de San Lucas in October when they go to visit concerts and bullfighting. The city is known for its many legends, of which the legend of Lagarto de la Magdalena is the most famous one. There are also legends that speak of ghosts in the Castillo de Santa Catalina and in the cathedral.


The Iberians were the first to establish a settlement in the 6th century b.C. The Romans converted this village into a city and named it Aurgi. But the city really blossomed under reign of the Arabs. They fortified the city and it became a tranquil place where Arabs and Jews lived together in peace. The arts of poetry and music developed rapidly in this time. The Arab name for the city became Yayyan. In 1212 the Battle of Navas de Tolosa took place and the Christians approached the city. The Arab king of that time Muhammad Al-Hamar decided to make a pact with Fernando III of Castile in 1246. He agreed to cede the city in exchange for remaining in power in Granada. The fight against the Arabs continued and Jaen became an important base for the battles that took place in the south of Andalusia. But despite this prosperity the city was also looted two times, in 1300 and 1369. The Christians obligated everyone to convert to Christianity and those that did not follow these rules were expelled after the Reconquista of 1492. The city was Christianised under Fernando III, which meant that the mosque was converted into a church, construction of an Alcazar (fortified castle) began and the seat of the Archbishop was moved to Jaen. The city’s importance increased in the 16th century and had more than 22,000 inhabitants. It was one of the most important cities of Castile in that time. The renaissance brought a new impulse to the city and many new buildings were constructed like the cathedral. Cultural growth of the city also increased and many artisans came to live in the area near the cathedral. During the 19th century the city suffered from an economic crisis, from which it never really fully recovered. Nowadays Jaen is a regular province capital with an economy based on agriculture and the production of olive oil.

The monuments of Jaen

The Cathedral

Construction began in the 16th century and its primary purpose was to guard the relic of Santo Rostro. Many architects directed the construction but the result was surprisingly homogenic. The renaissance architect Andrés de Vandelvira had a large influence over the construction and designed the two towers that gave the cathedral its typical appearance. The façade has a couple of balconies on which they show the relic of Santo Rostro every Friday. It was also a model for many cathedrals in South America.

Castillo de Santa Catalina

Built by Fernando III in 1246, after the city was conquered by the Christians. It served as a defence for the city and its territory, including the olive plantations. The castle was built and improved during 4 centuries and was finished in the 19th century. A tradition of this castle is that on the day of Santa Catalina (25 November) the people from Jaen walk up to the castle and fry sardines which they eat together.

Palacio de Villardompardo

In the present we find here two museums and remains of ancient Arab baths of the 11th century. These baths were used by the Arabs but after the Reconquista in 1246 the Christians didn’t use the baths extensively and they were abandoned at the end of the 14th century. In this century construction of the palace also began and was finished at the end of the 16th century. It was built over the old baths, causing the destruction of one part and another part was covered. In the 18th century the palace was used as a hospice for women. This hospice was extended with a chapel in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1913 Emilio Romero de Torres discovered part of the old Arab baths and ordered the excavation. The baths were cleaned and reconstructed where necessary, but the Civil War caused a break in reconstruction and restauration was finally complete in 1984.