Places to visit: Caravaca de la Cruz

Located an hour and a half from the Mar Menor, in the northwest of the Region, is the beautiful town of Caravaca de la Cruz. The town boasts a rich architectural legacy, with the main feature being the castle, which rises above the houses of Caravaca, with its castle walls and turrets, which date from the 13th century, interesting 16th-century churches and convents, typical Murcian baroque-style churches and buildings with coats of arms from its more recent aristocratic past.

The area occupied by Caravaca was previously inhabited by the Iberian and Roman Argaric peoples, but the origins of its current appearance are to be found in Arab domination. After the Christian Reconquest in the 15th century, these territories came to be governed by the Knights Templars and later by the Order of Santiago. In this age, during the 16th and 17th century, Caravaca enjoyed its period of greatest splendour since it became the political centre of a vast territory. This town therefore has a great many historic buildings, the product of its former importance.

Caravaca de la Cruz is one of the five holy towns in the Christian world along with Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liébana, Rome and Jerusalem. This town therefore celebrates an Annus Sanctus every seven years, a time of jubilee and when plenary, solemn and universal indulgence is granted to all those who make the pilgrimage. A symbol of religious devotion, the Cross of Caravaca is said to have miraculously appeared in Caravaca in 1232, carried by two angels. It was later recognised as the 'Vera Cruz' by the Catholic Church, an authentic relic of the cross Jesus Christ died on. Today, the cross is still kept in the Vera Cruz Sanctuary.

If you visit Caravaca in May, you are in for a cultural treat and a feast for your eyes with a traditional mass celebrated outside the Sanctuary followed by a flower-giving ceremony and a procession to take the holy cross to the Salvador Church. Another very popular event during the same week sees the 'Caballos del Vino' (Wine Horses) Fiesta, which consists of decoratively harnessed horses galloping up the steep slopes to the castle, following a tradition that started in the mid-17th century. In those times, the wine horses' mission was to take the wine up to the Sanctuary to be consecrated.

Fourteen towers guard the Sanctuary of the Santísima y Vera Cruz, which was built inside in the 17th century. The façade, which was added a century later, is in the baroque style. The whole site has Historic-Artistic Heritage status and houses the Museum of Religious Art and History.


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