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Alcázar Viejo

The neighbourhood of Alcázar Viejo is also known as San Basilio, referring to the saint of the parish of Our Lady of Peace, located in its heart.

Its history goes back to the first years of the reconquest of the city in 1236, by Fernando III the Saint. At the beginning of the 15th century, there was a serious depopulation problem. Consequently, the council of the city decided to repopulate it by transferring the crossbowmen and their families, thus reinforcing the defensive line of the walled perimeter.

The project of the council also included a thorough programme of urban reorganization. The neighbourhood of Alcázar Viejo has three main streets arranged in parallel: PostreraEnmedio and San Basilio. These streets are straight, and they are also arranged in a straight line, clearly contrasting with the narrow and winding streets of the Medina, influenced by the deepest traditional Muslim urban planning.

Although we can see in the streets of the Alcázar Viejo a new concept of urban planning, more meditated and rational, its houses still keep great Arab influence, such as the arrangement of the different rooms, around a central courtyard, over which a second floor was generally erected; thus this is the most traditional neighbourhood of the Courtyards in Córdoba. On the other hand, its walls were still characterised by solid structures instead of openings and, obviously, the white lime, one of the most characteristic features of the current neighbourhood.

Since the last years of the 14th century the Alcázar Viejo was occupied by converted Jews and it was a real ghetto. In the middle of the following century, there was a proposal to remove it, but it failed in 1479, after the intervention of the Catholic Monarchs themselves. Years later, the Jews were taken to the nearby neighbourhood of San Nicolás de la Villa, due to the bad hygienic conditions of the Alcázar Viejo.

One of the most interesting places in the neighbourhood is Belén Tower. It is a clear example of curved entrance to a walled space, which lost its defensive character after some time, and it became a chapel later on. At the beginning it was known as Chapel of San Benito, later of the Imágenes, and since 1774 up to our days, Our Lady of Belén and of the Peasants. With a square floor and 7.5 metres side, the tower is made with sandstone blocks arranged in headers and two stretchers, with three floors. The main entrance has a horseshoe arch framed by an alfiz, with a clear Arab influence.

In the heart of the neighbourhood of Alcázar Viejo there is its parish, which was originally a convent of Basilian monks until the expropriation. The works on the temple started in the last decade of the 16th century, and they established quickly in the community, as they promoted a series of devotions which were widely accepted by the neighbours, such as Nuestra Señora del Tránsito (Our Lady of Death) or Our Father Jesus of Passion; both of them preserved and even taken on procession.

Along the 18th century, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Peace, after which the convent is named, is in its apogee, and this can be reflected in several works of the temple, such as the niche for the Virgin in the Main Chapel, which currently covers the Main Altarpiece, brought from the old Convent of Santa Clara in the middle of he 19th century.

The temple has three naves, the central one being wider, higher and longer than the side ones, and it is covered by a wooden ceiling. On the side of the Epistle there is a small and restrained chapel, covered by a vault over pendentives, with the main images of the Brotherhood of Passion: the mentioned Jesus of Passion and Holy Mary of Love, both anonymous from the 17th century, as well as a San Juan Evangelista (Saint John Evangelist).

If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be the neighbourhood of Alcázar Viejo, choosing one of our guided tours. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.

Text: J.A.S.C.

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