For a snapshot of the fascinating history of Murcia City, there is perhaps nowhere better than the City Museum.
The Museum is to be found across the road near the Convento de las Agustinas, on the Plaza de las Agustinas. When we were last there, it opened from mid-September to mid-June Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am until 2pm and then from 5pm until 8pm. On Sundays and festivals it is just open for the morning session. From mid-June to mid-September, the afternoon session ran from 6pm until 9pm and the Museum was open weekdays (including Monday), but closed on Saturdays, Sundays and festivals. Entry was free and a small guidebook is available in English as well as Spanish (the displays tend only to be in Spanish though this should not prevent you from understanding the times through which the City passed). At the back of the Museum is a huerta (market garden), the Huerta Cadenas, dating back to Arab times, which is irrigated by a canal from the same era, the Caravija acequia.
The Museum covers three floors. The first, immediately inside the entrance, deals with the early history of Murcia City and the surrounding area. There is a display about the valley of the Rio Segura to the dawning of historic times. From the Argaric period of around 2000-1000BC, there is the reproduction of a tomb. Other displays include grinding stones and stone utensils from the Argaric era, as well as votive figures (small religious offerings) relating to the subsequent native Iberian culture from the 4th and 3rd Centuries BC.
The displays, however, then quickly move on to the Islamic period. Foundation of Murcia City can be traced to the Emir of Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman II, who caused it to be established to act as a military and commercial centre. This event is precisely dated to Sunday 25th June 825 AD. The Museum displays give details about the City’s founding and there are ceramics from the time of Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th Century which were uncovered in the Calle San Nicolas area of Murcia City. Many other remains from the time of the Moors are also to be seen. There are household goods and ceramics of the Almoravide epoch in the first half of the 12th Century, including vases, containers and a lamp. Remains from the 12th and 13th Centuries include a scythe, ceramics from the Castillo de Monteagudo, a large fragment of an arch (third quarter of the 12th Century) also from the Castillo de Monteagudo, domestic items (knives, scissors, a comb) and a large earthenware jar which came from the Calle Plateria area of the City. Finally, relating to this era, note the interactive display in the middle of the room which has buttons illuminating lights which show where mosques, funeral grounds etc were located in the Moorish period. In addition, there is a representation of the Segura River basin around the City giving information about the irrigation canals (acequias) and the routes in the surrounding huerta.
At the end of the tour of this room, you reach the Christian takeover of Murcia City in 1243, with some further items of ceramics from the 12th and 13th Centuries. However, before ascending to the next floor, do see what temporary exhibition (if the room remains dedicated to this purpose) is displayed in the room to the left of the entrance; when we last visited (January 2014) it was an exhibition of painted fans and tambourines.
The main one room on the next floor looks at the City’s history during Christian times. You will see information about Murcia’s magnificent cathedral, the construction of which began in the late 14th Century. One of the displays is of a replica of part of the stone chain which you can see high up on the outside of the cathedral. Another display deals with the importance of silk to Murcia City. It is said that it was in the 15th Century that the industry and trade began to assume a major importance. There is information about the trade guilds of the time and examples of ceramics with decorated plates and glass from the 16th and 17th Centuries. In addition, there is a display about esparto and a lot of information about the development of the City in the Baroque era which flowered in the 18th Century with considerable new construction taking place in the City, including the magnificent facade of the Cathedral. Important individuals from the time are also dealt with such as the warrior priest Cardinal Belluga (1662-1743); that most famous of Murcian sculptors, Francisco Salzillo (1707-1783); and José Moniño, the Count of Floridablanca (1728-1808), who was a Prime Minister of both King Charles III and IV and highly influential in the development of the city. Among many other interesting items and displays in this room are the stone carving from the Malecon dated 1776; old cemetery stones; examples of domestic pottery and other wares from the 19th Century and information about the political vicissitudes of that time. The displays end with 1897 and the construction of the new bridge over the Rio Segura.
Displays in three sub-rooms continued the theme of Murcia City’s history in Christian times. One room housed paintings and artefacts (especially basins, vases, and a very large earthenware jar) relating to the history of one part of the City, the Arco de la Aurora in the Arrixaca Nueva area. A second sub-room housed a collection of paintings and drawings, many relating to the Cathedral, while the third had a small exhibition about daily life at the time of Alfonso X in the 13th Century, including some ancient texts relating to the City.
The top floor of the museum is devoted mainly to the 20th Century. Subsidiary displays included an impressive collection of nativity figures; details of 20th Century agricultural industries including information about pepper and the preservative industry, together with numerous photographs of prominent people of the time. The main room on this top floor had a model of Murcia City centre with a board at the side giving details of “modern” emblematic buildings whose locations could be lit up. As you continue round this room, you will see details of other notable events affecting the City and its people in modern times. Displays include an advertising poster for the inauguration of the Plaza de Toros (bullring) in 1887, the cooking and diet of the ordinary people, the celebrations of Easter Week (Semana Santa), Murcian fiestas and even details about the local football club, Real Murcia CF, founded in 1908. There are various exhibits from this period. The displays end with some models of modern developments in the city.
Part taken from ‘Exploring Murcia – Murcia City’, by Clive and Rosie Palmer. Clive and Rosie have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia. Their book, ‘Exploring Murcia, Days Out’ is available to buy from the CHM/Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books, or phone Patti on 968 433 978. All their books can be viewed at and obtained from www.lulu.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.