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The history of Jaén is one of the oldest in Spain, having found evidence of human presence since the Copper Age.
Prehistory and Ancient Age
On the outskirts of the city is the site of Marroquíes Bajos. In which we can find the remains of an ancient settlement more than 2,500 years old.
In addition to the Iberians, there is evidence of this on the hill of the Plaza de Armas in Puente Tablas. Because it is also one of the most important sites of the protohistoric stage in Spain.
Tartessians, Greeks, Phoenicians and Carthaginians also left their mark on the city. In addition, the Carthaginians built a fortress on the hill of Santa Catalina that served as the residence of the famous leader Hannibal.
But also the Roman general Scipio the African conquered the city for the Roman Empire in the year 207 B.C.
The Middle Ages
After the Romans the Visigoths settled in the Iberian Peninsula.
In this period the city lost importance in detriment of Mentesa, known nowadays as La Guardia de Jaén.
In 711 the Muslims arrived and then Jaén recovered its old splendour. Besides, it became the capital of the taifa of Jaén.
During the five centuries that it remained in the hands of the Muslims it passed through different dynasties: Omeyas, Almoravides and Almohades. Besides, during all the time of the Muslim conquest the Jewish population was also there. Even in the first centuries after the Christian conquest.
Fernando III the Saint reconquered Jaén for the Christians in 1246. He was the head of the Kingdom of Castile until the conquest of Granada in 1492.
From the mandate of the king Enrique II of Castile he was granted numerous privileges.
At that time it became one of the 18 cities with the right to vote in the Cortes of Castile.
One of the most outstanding figures of the Middle Ages in Jaén was the Jew Hasday ibn Shaprut, a doctor and politician. He became one of the most important leaders of the Jewish community in Al-Andalus.
Despite having been fundamental in the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada. And also in the discovery and conquest of America. During the Modern Age, Jaén lived an important crisis.
Also during the looting carried out by the French troops during the War of Independence.
They even blew up the Castle of Santa Catalina before their withdrawal.
In 1833 Jaén was declared capital of the province, in the territorial division ordered by Queen María Cristina de Borbón.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, it remained faithful to the Republican side until the end.
Among the supporters of the cause was the writer Miguel Hernández.
Although a native of Orihuela, he was one of the most active participants in the Jaén front and the communist newspaper “Frente Sur”.
With the arrival of democracy, Jaén has experienced a great economic and social boost.
Two of the most important historical events in the province are now remembered with the Monument to the Battles.
These are the Battle of Navas de Tolosa and the Battle of Bailén.
The most interesting places to visit in Jaen
Thanks to all the civilizations that have passed through Jaén there is a great wealth of monuments. Because we can find both religious and civil buildings. Among those that stand out:
The Cathedral of Jaén, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, preserves the relic of the Holy Face. It is also a Historical-Cultural Monument. Which is of Renaissance style but also has baroque elements
Basilica of San Ildefonso
The Basilica of San Ildefonso is the second largest church in Jaén. It dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and has three facades, one Gothic, one Renaissance and the last Neoclassical.
Barrio Judio or Juderia
It is El Barrio de Santa Cruz, an important group of narrow streets, steep slopes and magnificent samples of the history of the city.
The Castle of Jaén
It’s a military fortification at the top of the city. It is believed that it was originally built by the Carthaginians, led by Hannibal. In addition it has three well differentiated parts.
The Arab Baths of Jaen are the largest in Europe. They are also in an excellent state of conservation.
Monument to the Battles
This one was lifted in 1910. It is a sturdy memorial column crowned by the Greek goddess of victory, Niké.
It commemorates two great battles: the battle of Navas de Tolosa in 1212, and the battle of Bailen against Napoleon.
Other monuments of interest:
In Jaén there are many churches of great cultural interest and architectural beauty, especially in the old town:
- Santa María Magdalena
- Church of San Andrés and Santa CapillaSan Juan Bautista
- Saint Bartholomew
- La Merced
- Royal Convent of Santo Domingo
- Among other constructions of great artistic beauty, they stand out:
- Palace of Villardompardo
- the Vilches Palace
- Palace of the Iranzo Constable
Besides, the whole old town remained delimited and protected by the walls of Jaén of Roman origin.
Of modernist and contemporary architecture, it is necessary to emphasize:
- the old Bank of Spain
- the church of Christ the King
- Headquarters of the provincial delegations of the Regional Ministries of the Environment and Innovation and Science of the Andalusian Regional Government
- Infanta Leonor Theatre
Popular festivals you would life
On the night of January 16, the “Lumbres de San Antón” are celebrated. It is a party in which besides eating and dancing, they sing melenchones. Also that night is the International Urban Race Night of San Anton in which the runners carrying torches. This festival has been of National Tourist Interest since 2,019.
Depending on the date of the Holy Week, the carnival is celebrated with an allegorical parade of the legends of the city, dances, costume contests and musical groups.
In Jaén there are 18 brotherhoods that during the Holy Week, as in the rest of Andalusia, they parade their images.
In addition it is one of the most important cultural, religious and artistic events of the year in Jaén. The Holy Week is a Festival of National Tourist Interest. In which there is a whole series of elements related to the Holy Week as they are:
The processions with the images and the nazarenos in Jaén are the evolution during centuries of the forms, ways and manners of the brotherhoods and sisterhoods. They are composed of groups of people of different types of work in which multiple factors have influenced both religious, artistic, social and historical.
Jaén also organizes the “Fiesta de la Primavera” (Spring Festival), which always arouses much interest among the young people of the province and its surroundings.
May Crosses and Corpus Christi
In May, the traditional May crosses are celebrated. In each neighborhood or square a stage is set up with a cross made of flowers. In addition to music, singing, dancing and typical food. In Jaén, the day of Corpus Christi is also dimly celebrated. Also depending on the religious calendar it is a Thursday in June.
Every two years this fair is held, which is the International Fair of Olive Oil and Related Industries. Being a reference fair at international level of the olive oil sector.
Virgin of the Chapel
In June, the “Fairs and celebrations in honor of the Virgin of the Chapel”, co-patron of the city, take place, as well as concerts.
Day of the Largarto de la Magdalena
July 2nd is declared as “La Magdalena’s Lizard Day”. Because it commemorates the declaration of this legend as one of the ten Treasures of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Spain.
The Lagarto Rock Festival is also celebrated on these days. Many international bands come to play every year.
The Fair of San Lucas
Their big day is October 18th. The fair lasts 8 days, with countless activities both in the fairgrounds and throughout the city.
November 25th is celebrated on the day of Santa Catalina, the other co-patron of the city. This is the day that Jaén was reconquered from the Moors by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1246.