Murcia is the capital of both the province and the Autonomous Region of Murcia and has over 442,573 inhabitants. It is located in the southeast of Spain and is crossed by the river Segura.
The climate is Mediterranean but semidry, which means soft winters and hot summers, when the temperatures normally rise above 40ºC, with the record maximum temperature being 47,2ºC. The city has over 300 days of sun and therefore attracts many residential tourists who are looking for a second house to spend the winters.
Murcia is an important producer of agricultural products like lettuce, tomatoes, lemons and oranges, which are exported to countries all over Europe. Income of this sector however is decreasing and, just like in many other cities, the services sector is developing rapidly.
The Iberians already had a settlement that could survive thanks to the river that provided fresh water and food. The Romans also had an encampment here in order to fight against the Carthaginians of nearby Cartage. After the fall of the Roman Empire the Visigoths arrived and ruled until the coming of the Arabs. In the beginning of the Arab conquest the Visigoth king Teodomiro made a pact with the Arab leader Musa and the Visigoths were allowed to live in peace. This came to an end when this pact was broken in 774 and their autonomy was taken away. Eventually the Visigoths were forced to leave or to adapt to Arab society. The city received the name Madinat Mursiya and became an independent Taifa. The city lost much importance in this time but recovered later. Under reign of Abd Alla Muhammad old leaders were removed from power and the city had the best period in its history. Also known as the Wolf King, Muhammad made pacts with the northern Christians and had business contracts with the Italian republics; all in all it was a good period. But the Christians broke the pacts and the city was conquered by Jaime I, because of continuing resistance of the Arabs against the Crown of Castile. In 1266 the Reconquista was complete but the city suffered from the various struggles between the different kingdoms of Spain. The most important industry of this time is the production of silk, which also was exported to Italy.
This age didn’t know much stability but the Catholic Kings tried to create unity and took measures like the expulsion of the Jews and Arabs in order to achieve this objective. The pest struck in the 16th century and the situation became so bad that the city had to be evacuated. The 17th century was a bad one for many parts of Europe, and so also for Spain, but until the death of Carlos II the city prospered. Following his death the War for Succession took place and led to the installation of Felipe V on the Spanish throne. The Baroque age brought a new impulse into the reconstruction of various churches and the cathedral of Murcia. Like many other cities Murcia suffered from the War of Independence and a general decay took place.
But Murcia once again recovered and grew. During the Civil War the city remained loyal to the republic until 29 March 1939. In the last decades the city grew a lot, becoming the 7th municipality of Spain in numbers of population.
Monuments of Murcia
The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Murcia
The cathedral was built between 1394 and 1467 and was expanded in the following centuries until it was finished in the 18th century. That explains the mixture of styles; the interior is gothic while the exterior is Baroque. It was originally the most important mosque of the city, but on the day of the Reconquista by Jaime I it was inaugurated as a Christian church. The tower was built between 1521 and 1791 and measures 90 metres high. It is also built in a number of different styles: the first floor is renaissance with plateresque influences, the second floor is more pure renaissance, and the third floor is baroque with rococo elements. The cupola is neoclassic. All the bells have names and only one is not in the tower, it lies in the Museo de Bellas Artes of Murcia. They were used to warn against floods, wars, festivities and celebrations. Inside we find 3 naves and 23 chapels in which are buried archbishops and nobles who participated in the construction of the cathedral.
The Casino of Murcia
Construction of the building began in 1852. It has an asymmetric build that has been amplified at times until the 1920s. It is a great example of abundance: the neonazarite patio has 20.000 teals of gold foil on the walls and the great gallery is covered with a vault of glass. It also houses a library that contains over 20,000 books.
But the Salón de Baile is what is really worth a visit, an enormous neobaroque ballroom that has tapestry on the ceilings that represents allegories from poetry, paintings, music and architecture. The parquet floor is so brilliant that you can see the reflection of the 5 Italian chandeliers that have over 700 light bulbs.
The problem with this splendour is maintenance: the building is suffering from deterioration because of its high maintenance. But now there is a program in place for the restoration that will save this building.