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Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz

A clear view, almost to infinity

The view is what it must be like for an eagle as it soars over the edge of the cliff and glances, probably with not much interest, on the plains of the river Guadalete far below the town of Arcos de la Frontera.

The sandstone ridge on which the town sits is formed almost in the shape of an amphitheatre and a precipitous cliff faces the river basin of, and is circumnavigated by, the river Guadalete. In the flats of the river basin, a small lake surrounded by green pine trees sometimes forms although, for the most part, it is given over to small holdings, as it has been for time immemorial.

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Historically, the presence of man in these parts can be traced back to Prehistoric times although the most important archaeological discoveries are those that date from when the Roman Empire held sway over the land, as well as those from the time of their successors, the Visigoths. It is from the Visigoths that the stones of the early church of Santa Maria were laid.

After the fall of the Visigoths the first to populate the city were a Syrian sect called the Chunds and, in a very short time, the population grew to such an extent as to convert itself into one of the most important Taifas, or independent states, ruled by the Ban Jazrum family, of Berber origin. At the end of the XII century, power passed to another Arabic dynasty, the Almohades.

Alfonso X reconquered the city in the name of Christianity in the year 1255 and this marked the beginning of new period whereby Arcos passed from private hands to the Crown and back again until, in the year 1408, the city was placed in the care of Ruy López de Ávalos, private secretary to the king.

The town of Arcos is divided in two regions, or barrios; on the one hand there’s the old Arabic town which is generally contained within the city walls and of which little remains today. Three entry gates are still visible, those of Jerez, Carmona and Matrera. The other part of the city is located outside the city walls and generally dates from around the middle of the XIX century. It is in this part of the town where most of the large houses built by wealthy families are now located.

There’s lots to see in Arcos de la Frontera. Apart from an active nightlife and some excellent hostelries, these are the places that we enjoyed:

The church of Santa María, located in the Plaza del Cabildo, was founded during the time of the Visigoths. During the Arabic domination, the building became a mosque and the existing church was constructed over the foundations of the mosque after the conquest of the town by Alfonso X, a king known as ‘The Wise’. The monumental Plateresque doorway is crowned by a magnificent bell tower.

The Plaza del Cabildo itself is the historic centre of the town of Arcos de la Frontera. On one side of the square is the castle of the Dukes of Arcos and on the other is the Ayuntamiento or town hall. Opposite the church is the Casa del Corregidor which is today a Parador, a state run luxury hotel. Also here is the unmissable balcony de la Peña that looks out over the wide plains of the river Guadalete far below.

The church of San Pedro is a baroque church containing the unforgettable chapel of the Watch and the retablo of Our Lady of Loneliness that was carved by Juan Terreño in 1692. Well worth a visit and a moment of contemplation at the genius of the human animal.

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Click on the images above to see some images from Arcos de la Frontera and, although we can’t hope to compete with the small machine that is Google, we’re not going to try. If you would like to see their excellent coverage from this beautiful town, please follow this link.

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