'Jerez de los Caballeros' (Jerez of the Knights, in Spanish) keeps in its very name the print of a heroic past. Situated in the southwest of Spain, like all the cities belonging to the region of Extremadura, it was the first border with the Moorish territory and then with the Portuguese. Many civilizations inhabited this fertile land: Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Moorish, Christians. All of them left something behind, and the result is a colorful city, ravishing, unique in its style. It only takes two or three hours to explore it! Here are some curious facts that you should know about Jerez de los Caballeros.
Around the city, you can find some dolmens (Neolithic burials). The Phoenicians (they came from current Palestine in the X century BCE) knew this place already and called it Ceret. It must have become very popular for centuries because, later on, the most important Roman families had properties here. From this period, you can visit the Roman bridge called “Pontón,” located close to the nearby village Brovales. Some mosaics have been preserved, as well.
After the Roman Empire crushed, the Visigoths came. If you have time, try to find the column inside the Santa María Church that comes with the date that proves it: 556 ADE. This church is next to the castle. Visigoths succumbed to the Moorish, and from this epoch, there is a fascinating building: the Morabito, a small Muslim mosque, at the very heart of the castle. Together with some arches at the Moorish neighborhood, they are the only architectonic survivors after the Christians conquered the city in the XIII century.
The Spanish king needed the collaboration of the famous Templars to take the city away from the Moorish. Grateful for their help, he handed the city to them. However, less than a century later, the Pope declared the Templars enemies of the Church, so they were prosecuted everywhere. In Jerez de los Caballeros, legend says that the very last survivors of Spain defended themselves at the Torre Sangrienta (the Bloody Tower). With this name, you can imagine how it ended. They were beheaded and thrown over the balcony. Tradition says that in full moon nights, you can still hear the Templar knights whistling to their horses…
In 2019 it was the 500 years since the death of Núñez de Balboa. Born in Jerez de los Caballeros, he was one of the many Extremadurians that left home penniless. However, being the smartest in class, he would make a fortune eventually in the New World. I mean, Balboa started as a stowaway and ended up being the first European to see the Pacific Ocean, just with the help of indigenous people! He became so rich that someone grew envious of him and had him beheaded. Anyway, to this day, the “Balboa” is the national currency in Panama and its most famous beer as well. There is even a crater in the moon with his name!
Balboa was believed to have been baptized at the San Bartolomé Church. This monument is really worth the visit because of its colours and style. Inside, do not forget to look at the Madonna in the altarpiece. It has the face of the beloved daughter of the Rianzuela marquis: she died very young, and her parents did not want her ever to be forgotten. Moreover, if you happen to stop by during a mass, listen to the organ: it does not sound perfect. The reason? During a war, some of its pieces were used as munition…
Last but not least, being in Extremadura, you should never leave without eating the amazing jamón ibérico of this region. You will not find a better quality one! It literally melts in your mouth. Once a year, in May, Jerez de los Caballeros hosts a fair to taste and learn everything about the most known Spanish delicacy. Also of interest, at Easter, there is a unique and traditional celebration. And of course, let us not forget the spectacular Templar Festival, taking place in July, to pay homage to the last Templars of Spain!
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