Muslim troops entered in the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and conquered the area around Cuenca in 714. They built an Alcazaba (fortress) in a strategic location, between two gorges of the rivers Júcar and Huécar, the site of the present city of Cuenca. The place became a prosper agricultural and textile manufacturing city.
During the re-conquest of the Peninsula by the Christians, due to their pressure, the Muslim kingdom started to break into small provinces called Reinos de taifas. Conca was handed to the Christian kingdom of Castile by means of the marriage of princess Zaida and Alfonso VI king of Castile, but the Muslims recovered it in 1108 after the battle of Sagrajas. In 1177 Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, conquered Conca from the Taifas’s kingdom of Toledo.
Under Alfonso VIII the city was considered to be "Muy noble y muy leal" (Very noble and very faithful). Cuenca's citizenship was ruled by a Fuero which was considered one of the most perfect written at that period. The cathedral started to be built in an anglo-norman style, due to the influence of Alfonso VIII's wife, Leonor de Plantagenet, who was French. Cuenca continued to be a prosper city thanks to textile manufacturing and livestock exploitation.
During the 18th century the textile activity was forbidden in Cuenca to avoid competition with the Royal Tapestry Factory. The economy of Cuenca declined. The crisis was accentuated after the destruction caused during the Independence War against Napoleon’s troops.
In the 19th century, with the arrival of the railway and the timber industry, the situation improved but in 1874, during the third Carlist War the carlist troops took the city and caused a great damage.
The first decades of the 20th century were very turbulent. After the Civil War the poverty in the rural areas and the lack of economic activity led many people to migrate. The city started to recover slowly from 1960 to 1970. The population has grown moderately in the last years and the economy has also developed while road and train communications have improved noticeably.
Locals have a sense of humor
Who says that just because you don't know the language you don't know what people are saying?! They are staying 'we have a good healthy sense of humor'... that's one thing I've found from walking around the streets of Cuenca.
This particular find is on the top of the old city, on Calle Larga.
Good Friday procession: Las Turbas
The Good Friday Procession, The Way to Calvary, starts at 5.30 am. It is called the Mob’s procession (Las Turbas) because the mob vilifies the image of the Redeemer howling and playing out of tune trumpets and drums.
The following sonnet, written by my grandfather’s brother, is dedicated it to the figure of Jesus Nazarene, sculpted in cypress wood by Marco Pérez for a float that takes part in the Holy Week processions (picture 1).
A un Jesús Nazareno de Cuenca obra de Marco Pérez, en madera de ciprés, by Guillermo Osorio.
Angostura silente del gemido.
Contenido clamor hecho figura.
Majestad y dolor, dolor y altura
del dolor más hiriente y más herido.
¿Qué lamento, ciprés, o qué latido,
qué destino, qué canto, qué locura,
qué milagro volvió tu sombra oscura
en la sombra de Dios estremecido?
Nazareno, más dios que Dios clavado,
más clavado en Amor que tu agonía,
no le dejes a Dios que se te muera;
no te mueras, ciprés, por el costado
del Señor, que la cruz está más fría
cuanto más canta Dios la primavera.
Religious Music Week
The Religious Music Week has been declared a Festivity of International Interest for Tourists. It is celebrated since 1962. Internationally renowned orchestras, choirs and performers participate. The festival coincides with the celebration of the Holy Week. Concerts are held from the Friday before Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
Compositions of sacred music of all times are the traditional repertory, but also a wide range of world premieres, historical recoveries and infrequent works are offered. The program is rich and varied in musical terms.
Concerts are held in the traditional venues of the festival: the Theatre-Auditorium, the Cathedral, the old Saint Paul convent, the Church of San Miguel, the Church of la Merced, the Church of Arcas, the Church of Santa Cruz, the Chapel of the Hospital de Santiago, the Old Convent of the Carmelitas (Antonio Pérez Foundation), the Church of the Monastery of immaculate Conception (Concepción Francisca), the Convent of the Religiosas Justinianas de San Pedro (Petras); and in some new venues that are incorporated each year.
A day before my visit to Cuenca we were in Segovia. This is when I asked Ursula if Easter processions are taking place in that part of Spain. She said that for a "show" like this I'll have to go to the south of Spain. About two hours later our way was blocked by a small (about 50 people) procession. I jusmped out of the car and ran after them. It looked so beautiful to me, especially those beautiful little girls dressed as Virgin Mary. Little I knew, the next day in Cuenca was preparing for me a 10 times bigger event.
We came to Cuenca on Good Friday at around noon and were informed by a local that there's no way to get to the old city by car or bus. Why? we asked " Procesiones" the man said. Here I was, hating myself for missing what I wanted to see the most.
Luckily, we didn't miss it. When we arrived to the main square the procession was about to start. Men, women, and children dressed in Ku-Klux-Clan-like outfits of different colors were everywhere. Later I learned that the head cover of this kind symbolizes mourning.
Slowly the first brotherhood started the ceremony. Led by an orchestra, followed by children, at least 2 dozen of men were carrying heavy figures of Jesus and Mary. Slowly moving from side to side they brought the figures to life making them look like they move. The outfits created ocean of colors, each color belongs to a different brotherhood.
Apparently, this is the most important festival of Cuenca, and over 30,000 people participate in the parade.
I'll stop right here. Take a look at the travelogue or simply go to Cuenca during Easter. Your trip will be unforgettable.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
All the city to yourself
If you like peace and calm, take a stroll on a Sunday afternoon. Spaniards take lunch late and will not go out until the sun is about to set. The streets of the city will be almost empty during these "siesta" hours.
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