Walk through history in Orihuela, Alicante

Impressive works of art, historic palaces and stunning Holy Week fiestas are just some of the reasons why a visit to Orihuela should be on the wish list for everyone visiting the Alicante area.

Orihuela has a grand past. It is an important city in the eyes of the church, was previously a kingdom and has also been the capital of the province of Orihuela.

It has belonged to both the provinces of Alicante and Murcia at various times in history, although the people of Orihuela feel closer to Murcia in terms of their local language, culture and gastronomy.

Orihuela Santiago church

Medieval air of Orihuela

Parts of the historic heart of Orihuela are looking a bit tired with some palaces and important buildings in need of restoration. However, there are many other buildings and works of arts to enjoy during your time here.

Lullaby to Onions

Orihuela is the birthplace of the Spanish poet Miguel Hernandez who died in 1942. A museum dedicated to his life and work has been set up in his honour in the centre of medieval Orihuela.

Museum to Miguel Hernandez

 

Hernandez was arrested several times during the Civil War for his anti-fascist views and was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

His best-known poem is Onion Lullaby, written as reply to a letter from his wife in which she told him the family were living on bread and onions.

Miguel Hernandez museum is on Calle Miguel Hernandez, 73, Orihuela, and is open from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 7pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays and bank holidays. Free admission.

First stop - the cathedral

Many museums, palaces and the cathedral are within a few minutes’ walk from one another. The best place to start is at the cathedral on Calle Mayor de Ramon y Cajal

Orihuela cathedral

Orihuela Cathedral of Salvador and Santa Maria is a cultural heritage site dating from the 13th century.

It is built in Gothic style on the site of a mosque and, although one of the smallest cathedrals in Spain, it has a grand bell tower,  impressive Renaissance and Valencian art works, plus a grand 18th century Baroque organ.

The cathedral is open from 10.30am to 2pm and 4pm to 6.30pm on Tuesdays to Fridays and from 10.30am to 2pm on Saturdays. Admission €2.

Segura river, Orihuela

 In the Sacred Art museum opposite, visitors can see impressive paintings by Velazquez, including The Temptation Of Thomas Aquinas, Nicolas de Bussy and sculptures by Francisco Salzillo from Murcia. 

This was once the Episcopal Palace, a Baroque building dating from the 18th century, where the Bishop of Orihuela lived.

The Sacred Art Museum is open from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 7pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays  and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays and holidays. Admission €4.

Ornate palaces

On the other side of the cathedral, it is worth taking a few minutes to look at the Portillo palace dating from the 18th century and now home to the Caja Rural Central bank. The building has interesting wrought-iron balconies and ornate carvings.

Ornate buildings in historic Orihuela

Walking along Calle Mayor de Ramon y Cajal to Calle Triana, we come to the Granja palace. Another Baroque building, it is an interesting shade of pink and was rebuilt in the 18th century after being badly damaged in the War of Succession.

City is home to the oldest clock

On the other side of the road is the Church of St Justa and Rufina. This impressive church is also built on the site of a former mosque and is in honour of the city’s patron saints, Justa and Rufina.

The celebration of the saints’ martyrdom coincides with the Reconquest of Orihuela when the Christians regained control from the Moors in 1243.

The Gothic church tower has the accolade of being home to the oldest clock in the Valencian region, dating back to the 15th century.

St Justa and Rafina church is open from 10am to 1.45pm and 4pm to 6.30pm on Tuesdays to Fridays and from 10am to 1.45pm on Saturdays. Free admission.

Unique sculpture of the devil

It is worth stopping to take a look at the Segura river that divides Orihuela city, which provides an interesting photo opportunity with its fine bridges and buildings lining the river.

Further along is the impressive town hall before you turn up Calle Hospital for the San Juan museum.  

Diablesa by de Bussy

Pride of place at the back of the museum is the famous Diablesa statue which takes centre stage in the Holy Week parades.

The Diablesa, a winged devil  with horns and breasts, is unique in Spain as the only demon of its kind to take part in the Easter processions.

The sculpture was created by sculptor Nicolas de Bussy in the late 17th century. During the Easter Saturday parades, the Diablesa is refused entry to the Cathedral as no representation of the devil is allowed to enter churches in Spain.

San Juan de Dios museum, Calle Hospital, is open from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays. Free admission.

Eclectic architectural mix

Running parallel to Calle Hospital is Calle Francisco Die where you can find the Rubalcava palace. Sadly the former home of the Marquises of Rubalcava is in a very poor state.

It was only built in the 1930s mixing the best of historic styles including a neo-Baroque dome, neo-Gothic chapel and Rococo ballroom. 

Pozo del Cremos water fountain, Orihuela

Close by is a very interesting, ornate fountain, the Pozo del Cremos, which marks the site of 19th century water works.

Artistic treasure trove

Continue walking away from the city centre to the Santiago Apostol church in Calle Santiago. Its blue-tiled dome is one of the city’s main emblems. Look out for the ornate carvings on the building, including an owl, whose significance continues to puzzle historians.

Inside is an artistic treasure trove with works by Antonio de Villanueva and Salzillo. The 18th century Baroque organ is the only one of its kind in Spain.

Santiago church is open from 10am to 1pm and 4pm to 6.30pm on Tuesdays to Fridays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. Free admission.

Historic churches in Orihuela

Heading back past the cathedral, it is worth visiting the Holy Week museum on the site of the Our Lady of Mercy church in Plaza la Merced.

The Easter week processions in Orihuela are among the finest in Spain. On the four floors of the museum, you can see the gigantic statues depicting the best important Easter scenes such as the Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion as well as other sacred art dating from the 14th century.

Semana Santa museum is open from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 7pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays. Admission €2.

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