Andalusia – Jaén Province – out and about in Úbeda

Úbeda is a small city of 35,000 people in Jaén province.

The town is one of the biggest producers of olive oil in Jaén (itself the world’s largest producer) and olive groves stretch off to the horizon in all directions.

However the town is most famous for its Renaissance palaces and churches, to the extent that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, along with the neighbouring town of Baeza which also has a similar sixteenth century heritage. Impressive entrances and intricate stone carvings are everywhere.

You can click on any of the photos in the galleries to go to a full-screen slideshow.

You’ll find all the places I mention, and more, on my Google map.

The most important square in Úbeda is the Plaza Vázquez de Molina, which is lined with civil and religious buildings dating from 1530 to 1580. Together they form one of the most important ensembles of Rennaissance architecture in Europe.

The most important of these is the Sacra Capilla de El Salvador at the east end of the square.

The decorative facade is a pre-eminent example of early-Baroque, Plateresque style (in the design of the silvermaker), and is the first independent work of stonemason Andrés de Vandelvira who went on to become one of the most important architects of Rennaisance Spain. He was also responsible for Jaén’s cathedral which, along with his other works, became a model for a lot of colonial Christian architecture in Hispanoamérica.

The more sober interior is the work of Diego de Siloé, Vandelvira’s former employer, who also designed Granada’s cathedral.

It features a stunning Baroque altarpiece depicting the transfiguration by Alonso de Berruguete.

On the north side of the square is Vázquez de Molina Palace, also designed by Vandelvira, but with purer lines and more classical proportions which are typical features of the middle period of Spanish Renaissance architecture.

The interior features a two-storey courtyard.

Although the building is currently used as the city hall, the basement had an exhibition on Vandelvira’s work when I was there.

Opposite the Molina Palace, on the south side of the square, is the Basilica de Santa María de los Reales Alcázares, main church. According to Wikipedia it ‘stands on Neolithic, Iberian, Roman and Gothic archaeological remains and features Muslim, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements’ so it’s the work of many architects from the 13th to the 19th century.

The Renaissance-style doorway dates from 1645. The frieze and relief above the door depict the Adoration of the Shepherds.

On a side street off the square is Palacio de Torrente, another Plateresque building.

The figure of a bearded savage above the keystone of the arch is a very common Plateresque motif, as are the two ‘candelieri‘ columns. Various grotesques pepper the frontage. Again, click on the gallery pics for the best view.

The biggest square is the Plaza Primero de Mayo where you’ll find the Iglesia de San Pablo, one of the oldest churches in Úbeda with Visigothic origins.

The main doorway, called ‘the Carpenters’ Door’, is Romanesque in style.

Away from the centre is the Hospital de Santiago, Vandelvira’s last building (completed in 1575), which he designed in the austere late-Renaissance style called Herreresque. The hospital is also known as “El Escorial Andaluz” after the royal monastery outside Madrid due to its similar appearance (my post here).

The ‘hanging vault’ above the staircase is very impressive.

Other more recent buildings, and street art, are just down the road on Calle Mesones.

So, there’s plenty to see! Now for the food…

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