|Some 25,000 years ago, the plateau on which
Cáceres is situated (459m above sea level), was already inhabited.
Humans were already here in the Palaeolithic period and they left us an
indelible mark as proof of their existence in the Cuevas de Maltravieso
(Maltravieso Caves), where a number of very peculiar cave paintings have
been found. Peculiar because in the 130m cave, the only prints are of
hands, and all have their little finger missing. In addition, artefacts
from the Neolithic period, such as pottery and tools, have been found.
Before the Roman Empire, the Celts had but a brief intrusion into the area
if compared to the Romans, who settled the city three times. The first
settlement, built on the old Celtiberian hill fort, was called Castra
Servilia. In 78BC, what was a winter encampment for Roman legions was
named after its founder, Cecilio Metelo, Castra Caecilia. This lasted 45
years, and with the arrival of the proconsul Cayo Norbano Flaco, (34BC)
the place was renamed Norba Caesarina.
Unfortunately, the Almohads later used the remnants of these Roman
buildings in their own buildings so that today, little remains of the
Roman constructions. Only in the Arco del Cristo can vestiges of two big
stone ashlars that were used by the Romans in their fortifications be
Barbarians and Visigoths
Like when the Roman Empire settled in the city, the arrival of the
Barbarians also brought on a period of destruction and decline. In Norba
Caesarina, it was no different, and what with fighting between the
Visigoths themselves (Leovigildo and his son Hermenegildo), the area saw
itself sink into decline and decay thereby making it all the easier for
the Moors to invade (711).
Like in many other populated areas, the alternating of power between Arab
and Christians was frequently repeated. The Muslim domination of Cáceres
remained firm until the 12th century, when Gerardo Sempavor (1166)
succeeded in snatching control from the Muslims. Subsequently lost again
shortly afterwards, the city was retaken by Fernando II of León in the
name of the Christians in 1169. In any case, the Almoravids wanted
Cáceres for its strategic location and Abú Ya'qub regained the city in
the name of Islam in 1173.
It was during this period that Cáceres, known at this time as Hinz
Qazris, and with subsequent Almohads, that elements of what we admire
today began to appear. Thus the town was adequately fortified on the Roman
remains (wall) and the following were built: the towers of Bujaco, of
Yerba, and of Horno and the cistern at Veletas Palace. A further 50 years
elapsed before Alfonso IX de León could reconquer the city for the
Christians, on 23 April 1229, on San Jorge (St. George's) Day.
13th, 14th and 15th Centuries
This is when the splendour of the period began to take hold, what in time,
would become the groundwork for the Monumental City that is so admired
today. The city started to cluster along the parishes of Santa María and
San Mateo. From another direction, to the west of the city, the Jewish
population settled around the synagogue. Then, at the end of the 13th
century, aristocratic families, primarily from Galicia, Castile and Leon
started to arrive and build their houses and palaces.
In addition, outside the Almohad wall, at the start of the 14th
century, the population started to concentrate around the churches of
Santiago (de los Caballeros) and San Juan, which produceed a shift in all
commercial matters from Plaza de Santa María to Plaza Mayor. Some
examples of former prosperity include the Hernando de Ovando Palace,
Mayoralgo Palace, Golfines de Abajo Palace, Casa de los Becerra and
Veletas Palace, among others.
In the war of succession of the crown of Castile, the surrounding area
of the very noble and very loyal city changed. Not supporting the cause of
Isabel of Castile meant that the queen destroyed almost all the
battlements of the noble families' palaces. The result was that all the
palaces were then of the same height; the only one that managed to survive
this act of arrogance was the Torre de las Cigüeñas (Cáceres-Ovando
Palace), thanks to the support its owner, Captain Diego de Cáceres, gave
to the temperamental queen.
16th and 17th Centuries
During the Reconquest and the discovery of the New World, the buildings in
Cáceres were improved and became more and more ostentatious. Many city
nobles tried their luck in the conquest of the Americas, together with the
famous discoverers from Extremadura: Pizarro, Almagro, Cortés. Such was
the case for Francisco de Godoy y Aldana, (Godoy Palace), the Pereros
lineage (Casa de los Pereros) and Fray Nicolás de Ovando (Casa de los
Ovando), who was at the forefront of one of the more serious attempts at
colonization of the new lands.
The crisis of the following century, on the other hand, (during the end
of the reign of the Austrias), slowed down progress and the only
architecture that went ahead were reforms on existing buildings, those of
a religious nature (San Francisco Monastery) and those built in the 18th
century (Nuestra Señora de la Montaña and Iglesia de San Francisco
18th, 19th and 20th Centuries
At the end of the 18th century, the Real Audiencia de Extremadura
(Extremadura Royal Courts) were established in Cáceres, with the aim of
ending the high incidence of pillage and other crimes. It was not until
1833 that the city became the capital of the province, robbing Plasencia
of that privilege. From then on, the population and economy grew (thanks
to the economic gains from the Aldea Moret phosphate mines) and the city
embarked upon an ambitious expansion plan outside the city wall, with
beautiful works like Paseo de Cánovas.
The Civil War and the subsequent period halted this process, until
1986, when the city was declared of cultural heritage by Unesco. Today,
Cáceres is a city with an important university, headquarters to many
official organisations of the Community and the second most populated city
in the province of Extremadura with over 84,300 inhabitants, most of whom
work in the service sector.