Cehegín has many interesting buildings dating from the Middle Ages onwards. A relatively short, though hilly, walk around the town will uncover some of these gems.
On a recent visit, we began by walking up Calle López Chicheri from the Tourist Office from which you can, of course, obtain further information about Cehegín’s attractions and a useful street map! Most of the buildings have signs outside them describing their history and architecture in both Spanish and English. The first of these historic buildings as you walk up the road from the Tourist Office is the Casa del Conde de Campillos.
The sign outside tells you that this is a neo-classical building and points you to the artistic ironwork and Majorcan style windows. The family who owned this house (the Campillos) are said to have been great benefactors of Cehegín and its people, being responsible for the restoration of the Chapel of the Conception and helping in the creation of the local hospital (Hospital de la Real Piedad). The house extends over three floors and note the ‘porthole’ like windows just under the roof overhang. The house has been substantially renovated since first construction and continues in the ownership of the Condes de Campillo. It cannot be visited inside.
Immediately adjacent to the Casa del Conde de Campillos, is the Casa Jaspe which dates from the 18th and 19th Centuries and is in Rococo style. In fact, as the title above the main door tells you and as will be confirmed by the flags flying outside, this is today the site of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Again, the building extends over three floors. The ground floor windows are predictably covered by rejas, while the first floor above has windows opening on to balconies. The coats of arms of the Chico de Guzman and Salazar families can be seen to either side of the central balconied window. Like its adjacent historic counterpart, the Casa Jaspe has very small windows (with covering rejas) below the roof overhang. The sign outside will tell you that the building is constructed out of local jasper/marble and in 1973 it was acquired by the Town Council.
Do take the opportunity to look inside the Town Hall if you can. It is quite spectacular with its blue and gold-lined decoration and the main staircase rising under a high dome with a single chandelier hanging down. The staircase rises to the main and other principal rooms of the house. It is also said that, to construct the house, it required 6000 pine trees which came from the hills around Cehegín! The main room is now the Salon de Plenos (main meeting room) of the Town Hall with plaster decorations and decorated wood panels. In a second room, the Salon Capitular, the floor apparently contains a mosaic consisting of 24,000 pieces of marble reproducing the head of a pagan priestess. It should be worth seeing!
A little further along at the end of this road and by the Plaza Mesoncico is the Hospital de la Real Piedad. This is an iconic building in Cehegín. It is built over three floors with large reja-covered windows at ground floor level and large double entrance doors also reja-covered, while the next floor has small balconies outside four shuttered door/windows. The top floor is similar in style. As the external sign tells you, the hospital was founded in 1891. The two upper floors have an interesting colour scheme of cream, terracotta and green outlines! The corner coat of arms is of the Chico de Guzman family, one of whom, Don Pedro Maria, the third Count of the Real Piedad donated the money which allowed the creation of the hospital named after him.
Just by the hospital, and linked to it, is another historic building – the Casona de Don Amancio Marín y Ruiz de Assín, which dates from the 18th and 19th Centuries. The bottom floor again has large reja-covered windows and above, balconied opening door/windows. The top floor has smallish windows under the terracotta outlined roof overhang. The main entrance is of red jasper with the shield of the Ruiz de Assín y Ziménez family to be seen well above it.
To us, however, the next building is one of the most fascinating in Cehegín – the Casa de las Boticarias. This can be seen directly opposite the Casino de Cehegín on Calle Mayor. The house dates to the 17th and 18th Centuries. It is said to have two parts, one of which is baroque with the house entrance framed by two stone pillars (look down the road immediately opposite the Casino) and the other neo-classical with a shield relating to the Alvarez family on its façade. Inside, the building has a cloistered corridor-style patio made of wood and with a central well. We were able to look inside the entrance in early 2015 and it was then in a very badly run down state, though hopefully it may benefit from future renovation. The house was originally built for the closed order of the Nuns of the Conception. Its present name, however, comes from two local chemists – the Ortega Lorencio sisters. Perhaps the most remarkable features of the building, however, are the Ionic columns framing the entrance. Believe it or not, these came from the Roman Temple of Jupiter in Begastri showing how Roman architectural features were subsequently plundered and used for later construction. The Casa de las Boticarias was acquired by the Town Hall several years ago and perhaps the future will see its restoration.
Next, there is the Casino itself. This is a 17th Century building, although its name refers to the period from the middle of the 19th Century when it became a cultural centre for leisure and meetings of local society, which continued into the 20th Century. Many towns had such ‘casinos’ which were, in many ways, a ‘gentleman’s club’, but without the slightly dubious connotations that such a description can have nowadays! Looked at from the outside, the Casino is essentially a two floor building with three large shuttered window/doors at ground level and three corresponding window/doors above with their small balconies. A feature of the building is that there are two rooms, one on each of the main floors, which were once used for dances and are known as the Mirror Rooms, not surprisingly with large mirrors on the walls. For non-members, the Casino also today houses a public café.
Just a short distance further up Calle Mayor you come to the Casa de los Condes de Arriba, which dates to the 18th and 19th Centuries. This is described as an eclectic style building, but with baroque, neo-classical and modernist influences. Clearly quite a mixture! It has an interior stairway lit by the light from the tower above it. It belongs to descendants of the Duke of Ahumada. Today, as you are told by the sign outside, the owners of the house have created an ethnological museum which includes many items relating to the hemp industry, but much more besides from earlier times.
(Part II next month)
Part taken from ‘Exploring Murcia – Cehegín’, by Clive and Rosie Palmer. Clive and Rosie have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia which are available, from www.lulu.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Exploring Murcia, Days Out’ and ‘Exploring Murcia – Cartagena’ are available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books), or phone Patti on 646 005 017