From here, we quickly reach the old town’s main square and the Archaeological Museum, which is located in the historic Casa del Consejo (Council House) and Palacio de Los Fajardo.
The building to the left as you face the museum has an ornate entrance with two arches. A second floor exhibits the traditional window/doors to the square with a small balcony. There is a small sign above the arched entrance, dated to 1676.
It is described as a Renaissance style. The building, or palace, to the right into which the Archaeological Museum extends, appears even grander and has three obvious storeys. There is a wooden door framed by pillars at ground level as the main entrance, with two windows (with iron bars or rejas) to the side, four balconied window/doors at first floor level and another four very small balconied window/doors above under the roof overhang. This building is the Palacio de los Farjado, dating from the 18th Century, and the crest of the Fajardo family can be seen on the front of the building.
Today, the most notable feature of the square outside is undoubtedly the picturesque Arcade or “Soportales” which look like houses on stilts! According to the explanatory sign, these are “Theatre Boxes” built in 1725 above sandstone columns in order to provide comfortable accommodation for local nobility who would watch performances and spectacles in the main square, thereby avoiding the crowded main street. On the other side of the main square, you can go down a passage to the Caravaca Gate. This gate and wall around it, is part of what remains of the Arab and later fortifications built at the top of this hill. Remains of the Arab walls can also be seen inside the Hotel la Muralla.
The old church at the top of the hill, the Iglesia Santa Maria Magdalena, which dates from the 15th and 16th Centuries, is also regarded as one of the most important examples of religious architecture in Murcia. Today, it houses a museum of religious art with some pieces dating back to the 16th Century. The church is of Renaissance style with three naves, a high choir and cross vaulting. The original structure is thought to have been built on the site of a mosque. It was renovated and enlarged in the second half of the 16th Century as a result of the increased population of the town, while the tower dates from the 18th Century (1768). Unfortunately, the church suffered extensive fire damage in the Civil War (1936), with substantial subsequent renovation work having taken place, especially in 2004. The church also seems to have benefitted from the Romans! A stone block on the south east façade contains a Roman inscription from the 1st or 2nd Century AD showing yet another building which benefitted from earlier Roman construction at Begastri.
If you now retrace your steps back down to the Plaza del Mesoncico, you will find opposite the Hospital de la Real Piedad, the Casa de Don Octavio which is in Calle de Hermanos Ruiz de Assin by some steep steps. This is an 18th Century house and is described as a two floor baroque building with an attic and belonging to the Ruiz de Assin family (it is also known as the Casa de los Ruiz de Assín). The façade features an impressive balcony which is reputed to demonstrate the skill of local iron forgers. Above the balcony is the shield of the Ruiz family which indicates that the house was built in 1708 and rebuilt in 1832. It is a very substantial house and is said to measure more than 3000 square metres per floor.
The steep steps by Don Octavio’s house lead to a square (Paseo de la Concepción) from which you get excellent views over the surrounding countryside. At one side of the square is the Ermita or Iglesia de la Purisima Concepción which is said to have been consecrated by the Bishop of Modrusia in 1556 according to an inscription to the right of the main altar. Like the Iglesia Santa Maria Magdalena earlier, it is described as being of Renaissance style with three naves and a high choir. It has artistic works of mudejar style and a dome with octagonal cross-ribs with painted inscriptions. Inside there is a notable baroque chapel of San Juan de Letran. It is indeed a striking building from the outside with a prominent bell tower to the left and of a beige/yellow colour.
Heading back down Calle López Chicheri past the Town Hall and Tourist Office to the Cuesta del Parador, stop for a moment at the house with the number 10 on it. This is the house of the Sánchez de Amoraga y de Garniza (Condes de Villar de Felices) family and dates from the 15th Century although the façade is 18th Century. It is a Murcian baroque building and is said to have a large interior patio, a central skylight tower and a lookout tower all in different styles. The façade is of sandstone and with the coats of arms of the Carreño and Luiz Lopez families carved on it. The front of the building appears quite elongated and is of a beige hue, but with some brick lines exposed. The ground floor has three windows with rejas and blinds on either side of the main entrance door. Above are further windows with rejas and balconies, including above the main entrance. At the very top of the building are four square porthole type windows, although these appeared to be covered by panels of wood.
Inevitably, this brief “tour” is by no means comprehensive. There are plenty of other historic sites to look at if you are so inclined. Perhaps the major but certainly not the only omission, is the Convento San Esteban, which is in the south of the present town, outside the old quarter, and which dates from the late 16th Century. To the inhabitants of the town, the church is often known as the Iglesia de la Virgen de las Maravillas after the celebrated statue which it houses.
Part taken from “Exploring Murcia – Cehegin”, 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