Caravaca de la Cruz may be best known for its Vera Cruz (true cross) or its caballos del vino (wine horses) but it has other things to offer the visitor.
The Archaeological Museum (museo arqueológico) is situated in the heart of the old town, below the Santuario de la Vera Cruz. It is housed in a 16th Century Renaissance style church, itself built on the site of a primitive medieval ermita.
The church/museum is a very grand and high building with 24 arched structures supporting the nine domes of the roof. The church gives the museum its name of the Museo de la Soledad. When we visited, in September 2012, entry was 1€ or 2€ and a good look round took less than an hour. The exhibits in the museum tell the story of the history of Caravaca and its area from the earliest, prehistoric times, up until the Middle Ages.
There are examples displayed from the Stone Age of an elephant and a rhinoceros jaw, two canine teeth from Neanderthal man, some tools such as scrapers and a chisel like implement. Exhibits from the Copper Age (third millennium BC) include various cooking pots, arrow heads, an axe head and, from a nearby site of a multiple burial, grave goods, including axes, copper and bone daggers, marine shells used for personal adornment, and various pieces of pottery.
The Bronze Age and the Argaric Civilization follow and especially impressive is a massive burial pot (a Pithoi) which is displayed, probably dating from around the middle of the second millennium, but the most impressive artifact of this era was in a display case just inside the entrance to the museum – an earring in yellow gold which had come from the necropolis at the nearby Los Molinos de Papel.
Caravaca has a particularly rich Roman heritage and another display case has numerous objects from this era including pottery, cooking pots, needles, a brooch, a dice, parts of a lantern and plates. Elsewhere in the museum you will find a display of various coins mainly from the Roman era, while the central area of the museum has a large collection of Roman masonry, pottery, hand grinders, various implements, earrings, other rings, daggers, an adz, sheets of lead, iron nails and idols. Many of these came from Los Villaricos, near Caravaca, which was occupied from the 3rd Century BC until the 4th or 5th Century AD.
At the far end of the room is a succession of explanatory panels covering the remains left in Northwest Murcia from Neanderthal man to Roman times, with some details of later periods. This may help to put some of the individual display cases into context.
For a pleasant countryside walk, Caravaca offers the perfect option – a walk around the park in which are to be found the Springs of the Marquis (las Fuentes del Marqués). These and the park, are a very short distance from the town itself – not much over a mile. A map and information leaflet can be obtained from the Caravaca Tourist Office. At the Fuentes, there is a sizeable parking area off the road, opposite a hotel and with the Restaurante Fuentes del Marqués adjacent to the car park. The park is named after the Marquises of San Mamés who once owned the area.
From the car park, you descend a constructed stone path to a wide track below the restaurant, where you will walk alongside a small canalised water channel among the trees and very soon come to the 17th Century Torre de las Fuentes which houses an Interpretation Centre. If you climb the rough steps beside the tower, there is a small viewing area, looking down on the site of a 17th Century ermita. As you continue on the main track, the water is very clear and you can see fish of various sizes; some quite large. Then you come to the first spring with picnic tables around it. Other springs follow. If you follow the path far enough, you will arrive at some tunnels and caves in the rock. There is a simple walk through the short main tunnel from where you can see the town of Caravaca quite close in front of you. However, unless you want a good walk back to the car park from Caravaca, now is the time to retrace your steps.
In the Archaeological Museum, we had been particularly struck by the prominence given to the remains of two Roman temples, said to be the oldest found in the Western Mediterranean. These are situated about 8 miles from Caravaca. To get to them, you take the Caravaca to Lorca road and turn off to La Encarnación. The temples are off the road which runs through La Encarnación, on the Caravaca side of the village. They are well signed. The way up to them is on a rough track for perhaps a mile. Cars can drive up this track and there is a reasonable rough parking area by the ermita and the temples. However, it is a steep, rough drive and we had to be very careful over some of the ruts.
The main feature when you arrive at the temples is the large ermita (church). It was built in the second quarter of the 15th Century, and stones from the Roman Temples were used. Both the ermita and the two temples have explanatory signboards (in Spanish).
The small Temple of Jupiter (Temple A) was constructed around the 1st Century BC. Today, it is just the foundations of Temple A which survive, but you can see the outline of the two rooms which formed it. The explanatory sign has a useful diagram to help you understand the layout.
Most of the remains of the larger temple (Temple B) were, unfortunately, built over by the church. Construction may have begun in the first half of the 2nd Century BC, and this temple was expanded on at least three separate occasions. Today, you can see the positioning of some of the columns, but the visible remains are again very limited. In addition, two signs direct you the 200 or so yards to where the Romans excavated some of their stone, just beyond the car parking area. The steps in the rock show the excavated area where work is said to have continued until the 2nd Century AD.
Article by Clive and Rosie Palmer who have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia. These can be seen at and obtained from, www.lulu.com, or contact email@example.com. Clive and Rosie’s most recent book, “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” is now 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.