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Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez de la FronteraPedestrian, 7 km, 1 day
Jerez may be just a few kilometres from the coast but the impression it gives is more of land than sea. This vibrant wine city, famous for its sherry, is also a cultural capital with a rich artistic heritage that can be explored on the ancient streets, dotted with medieval churches and Renaissance palaces. Jerez, one of the cradles of flamenco, is also renowned for its equestrian traditions and its beautiful Andalusian horses (cartujanos), highlighted during the Feria del Caballo (Festival of the Horse) that takes place each MayCustomise this route and add it to My travel book
Jerez has an extraordinary architectural heritage. In addition to its incomparable cathedral and castle, there are its Reconquista churches in the medieval town centre. Plaza del Arenal and Plaza de Plateros are good places to pause prior to strolling up the lively medieval thoroughfares of San Miguel and Santiago, where religious buildings like Santo Domingo mix with shops and cafes galore.
The medieval origin of the church is very evidently concealed by later modifications, mostly made during the Baroque period. On the outside, note its strange tower, forming a façade, with a splayed doorway.
The present church, with its very plain exterior, dates mostly from the 15C, despite some later additions such as the 17C façade. Inside, a superb polygonal apse, with nine sides (14C), is topped by a ten-ribbed vault with zigzag decoration resting on slender columns.
This elegant late 18C building is typical of the Baroque palaces of Jerez. Note especially the highly decorated marble doorway. Between the two sections of the door, a slender iron balustrade rests on a sloping cornice which lends a certain dynamism to the whole.
Founded in the reign of Alfonso X, the church was probably completely rebuilt in 1480, as the nave with its beautiful 16C star-shaped vault bears witness. The apse is distinctive because of its 17C polygonal altarpiece, which takes pride of place over a 19C painting on wood of Saint Mark's head. The thirteen other 16C wooden panels are of Flemish influence. The left side aisle takes in the 15C Baptismal Chapel.
On this small square is the palace of the Pérez Luna, the beautiful façade of which dates from the end of the18C. Next to it, the house of the Villavicencio has a delightful patio.
This is one of the nicest squares in the old part of Jerez. In the Middle Ages, this was very much a business district and the street names reflect the activities which took place there: Chapinería (shoes), Sedería (silk workshops) et Tornería (throwers). Here also is the Atalaya Tower, a watch tower built in the first half of the15C. Note the Gothic windows with circular arches in the second part.
The cathedral was one of the most important religious buildings in the city in the 18C. Built above a former mosque, its construction resulted in the modification of adjacent streets and the creation of new areas such as the Plaza de la Encarnación. Its imposing appearance and brick dome above the transept are visible from around the town. Its design combines Baroque detail on its doorways with Gothic features such as vaulting and flying buttresses, the role of which is purely decorative.
The façade of the palace is one of the most impressive in Jerez. Of the two doorways, the one on the left is in two parts separated by a fine wrought-iron balcony on which the letters of the name Dávila appear. On the lower part, dedicated to the secular world, note two carved knights each supporting their mounts. The upper part, on the other hand, is dedicated to the religious world.
It is from here that you will have the most beautiful view of the Cathedral. The Alcázar, which was part of the fortified 4000m long surrounding wall erected by the Almohades in the 12C, is accessible through the city gate, a typical Almohade right-angled gateway. Within its precincts, the mosque is a fine example of the spartan art of the early Almohades. At the far end of the garden are baths built in the 12C in the Roman style.
The oldest of the church's façades, the so-called Saint Joseph façade, was built in 1480 in a style very much inspired by the Flemish. The main façade is a robust Baroque tower, the upper part of which supports a spire covered with «azulejos». In the choir, the altarpiece is an extraordinary late Renaissance piece, created by Martínez Montañés with Baroque elements attributed to Juan de Arce. The Baroque-style Chapel of the Holy Sacrament backs onto the wall of the church.