Cádiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the province of Cádiz, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.
Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in western Europe, was founded by the Phoenicians. Cádiz is sometimes counted as the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. and has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The city is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. It is also the site of the University of Cádiz.
Situated on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea‚ Cádiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cádiz within the remnants of the city walls is commonly referred to as the Old Town (Spanish: Casco Antiguo). It is characterized by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El Pópulo, La Viña, and Santa María, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City’s street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cádiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World.
Very little remains of the Phoenician language, but numismatic inscriptions record that they knew the site as a Gadir or Agadir, meaning “The Wall”, “The Compound”, or (by metonymy) “The Stronghold”. Borrowed by the Berber languages, this became the agadir (Tamazight: “wall”; Shilha: “fortified granary”) common in North African place names. (The Israeli town Gedera shares a similar etymology.) The Carthaginians continued to use this name and all subsequent names have derived from it. The Greek cothon refers to a Carthaginian type of fortified basin that can be seen at ancient sites such as Motya.
Attic Greek sources hellenized Gadir as tà Gádeira (Ancient Greek: τὰ Γάδειρα), which is neuter plural. Herodotus, using Ionic Greek, transcribed it a little differently, as Gḗdeira (Γήδειρα). Rarely, as in Stephanus of Byzantium’s notes on the writings of Eratosthenes, the name is given in the feminine singular form as hè Gadeíra (ἡ Γαδείρα).
In Latin, the city was known as Gādēs and its Roman colony as Augusta Urbs Iulia Gaditana (“The August City of Julia of Cádiz”).
In Arabic, the Latin name became Qādis (Arabic: قادس). The Spanish Cádiz derived from this. (The accent mark is necessary to show that the stress is placed on the first syllable of the name.) The Spanish demonym for people and things from Cádiz is gaditano.
Founded in around 1104 BC as Gadir or Agadir by Phoenicians from Tyre, Cádiz is sometimes counted as the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. The expeditions of Himilco around Spain and France and of Hanno around Western Africa began here. The Phoenician settlement traded with Tartessos, a city-state whose exact location remains unknown but is thought to have been somewhere near the mouth of the Guadalquivir River.
One of the city’s notable features during antiquity was the temple on the south end of its island dedicated to the Phoenician god Melqart, who was conflated with Hercules by the Greeks and Romans under the names “Tyrian Hercules” and “Hercules Gaditanus”. It had an oracle and was famed for its wealth. In Greek mythology, Hercules was sometimes credited with founding Gadeira after performing his tenth labor, the slaying of Geryon, a monster with three heads and torsos joined to a single pair of legs. (A tumulus near Gadeira was associated with Geryon’s final resting-place.) According to the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, the “Heracleum” (i.e., the temple of Melqart) was still standing during the 1st century. Some historians, based in part on this source, believe that the columns of this temple were the origin of the myth of the “pillars of Hercules”.
The city fell under the sway of Carthage during Hamilcar’s Iberian campaign after the First Punic War. Cádiz became a depot for Hannibal’s conquest of southern Iberia, and he sacrificed there to Hercules/Melqart before setting off on his famous journey in 218 BC to cross the Alps and invade Italy. Later the city fell to Romans under Scipio Africanus in 206 BC. Under the Roman Republic and Empire, the city flourished as a port and naval base known as Gades. Suetonius relates how Julius Caesar, when visiting Gades as a quaestor (junior senator) saw a statue of Alexander the Great there and was saddened to think that he himself, though the same age, had still achieved nothing memorable.
The people of Gades had an alliance with Rome and Julius Caesar bestowed Roman citizenship on all its inhabitants in 49 BC. By the time of Augustus’s census, Cádiz was home to more than five hundred equites (members of the wealthy upper class), a concentration rivaled only by Patavium (Padua) and Rome itself. It was the principal city of the Roman colony of Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana. An aqueduct provided fresh water to the town (the island’s supply was notoriously bad), running across open sea for its last leg. However, Roman Gades was never very large. It consisted only of the northwest corner of the present island, and most of its wealthy citizens maintained estates outside of it on the nearby island or on the mainland. The lifestyle maintained on the estates led to the Gaditan dancing girls becoming infamous throughout the ancient world.
Although it is not in fact the most westerly city in the Spanish peninsula, for the Romans Cádiz had that reputation. The poet Juvenal begins his famous tenth satire with the words: Omnibus in terris quae sunt a Gadibus usque Auroram et Gangen (‘In all the lands which exist from Gades as far as Dawn and the Ganges…’).
The overthrow of Roman power in Hispania Baetica by the Visigoths in 410 saw the destruction of the original city, of which there remain few remnants today. The site was later reconquered by Justinian in 551 as a part of the Byzantine province of Spania. It would remain Byzantine until Leovigild’s reconquest in 572 returned it to the Visigothic Kingdom.
Under Moorish rule between 711 and 1262, the city was called Qādis, whence the modern Spanish name was derived. A famous Muslim legend developed concerning an “idol” (sanam Qādis) over 100 cubits tall on the outskirts of Cádiz whose magic blocked the strait of Gibraltar with contrary winds and currents; its destruction by Abd-al-Mumin c. 1145 supposedly permitted ships to sail through the strait once more. It also appeared (as Salamcadis) in the 12th-century Pseudo-Turpin’s history of Charlemagne, where it was considered a statue of Muhammad and thought to warn the Muslims of Christian invasion. Classical sources are entirely silent on such a structure, but it has been conjectured that the origin of the legend was the ruins of a navigational aid constructed in late antiquity. Abd-al-Mumin (or Admiral Ali ibn-Isa ibn-Maymun) found that the idol was gilded bronze rather than pure gold, but coined what there was to help fund his revolt. The Moors were finally ousted by Alphonso X of Castile in 1262.
During the Age of Exploration, the city experienced a renaissance. Christopher Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his second and fourth voyages and the city later became the home port of the Spanish treasure fleet. Consequently, it became a major target of Spain’s enemies. The 16th century saw a series of failed raids by Barbary corsairs; the greater part of the old town was consumed in a major fire in 1569; and in April, 1587, a raid by the Englishman Francis Drake occupied the harbor for three days, captured six ships, and destroyed 31 others (an event which became known in England as ‘The Singeing of the King of Spain’s Beard’). The attack delayed the sailing of the Spanish Armada by a year.
The city suffered a still more serious attack in 1596, when it was captured by another English fleet, this time under the Earls of Essex and Nottingham. 32 Spanish ships were destroyed and the city was captured, looted and occupied for almost a month. Finally, when the royal authorities refused to pay a ransom demanded by the English for returning the city intact, they burned much of it before leaving with their booty. A third English raid was mounted against the city in 1625 by George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and Edward Cecil, but the attempt was unsuccessful. During the Anglo-Spanish War, Admiral Robert Blake blockaded Cádiz from 1655 to 1657. In the 1702 Battle of Cádiz, the English attacked again under George Rooke and James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, but they were repelled after a costly siege.
In the 18th century, the sand bars of the Guadalquivir forced the Spanish government to transfer its American trade from Seville to Cádiz, which now commanded better access to the Atlantic. Although the empire itself was declining, Cádiz now experienced another golden age from its new importance. It became one of Spain’s greatest and most cosmopolitan cities and home to trading communities from many countries, the richest of which were the Irishmen. Many of today’s historic buildings in the Old City date from this era.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Cádiz was blockaded by the British from 1797 until the Peace of Amiens in 1802 and again from 1803 until the outbreak of the Peninsular War in 1808. In that war, it was one of the few Spanish cities to hold out against the invading French and their candidate Joseph Bonaparte. Cádiz then became the seat of Spain’s military high command and Cortes (parliament) for the duration of the war. It was here that the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed. The citizens revolted in 1820 to secure a renewal of this constitution and the revolution spread successfully until Ferdinand VII was imprisoned in Cádiz. French forces secured the release of Ferdinand in the 1823 Battle of Trocadero and suppressed liberalism for a time. In 1868, Cádiz was once again the seat of a revolution, resulting in the eventual abdication and exile of Queen Isabella II. The Cádiz Cortes decided to reinstate the monarchy under King Amadeo just two years later.
In recent years, the city has undergone much reconstruction. Many monuments, cathedrals, and landmarks have been cleaned and restored.
The diocese of Cádiz and Ceuta is a suffragan of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seville; that is, it is a diocese within the metropolitan see of Seville. It became a diocese in 1263 after its Reconquista (reconquest) from the Moors. By the Concordat of 1753, in which the Spanish crown also gained the rights to make appointments to church offices and to tax church lands, the diocese of Cádiz was merged with the diocese of Ceuta, a Spanish conclave on the northern coast of Africa, and the diocesan bishop became, by virtue of his office, the Apostolic Administrator of Ceuta.
Historically, the diocese counts among its most famous prelates Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, a Dominican theologian and expert on canon law, who took a leading part in the Councils of Basle and Florence, and defended, in his Summe de Ecclesia, the direct power of the pope in temporal matters. His nephew, Tomás de Torquemada, is most closely associated with the 15th century Spanish Inquisition.
Among the many landmarks of historical and scenic interest in Cádiz, a few stand out. The city can boast of an unusual cathedral of various architectural styles, a theater, an old municipal building, an 18th-century watchtower, a vestige of the ancient city wall, an ancient Roman theater, and electrical pylons of an eye-catchingly modern design carrying cables across the Bay of Cádiz. The old town is characterized by narrow streets connecting squares (plazas), bordered by the sea and by the city walls. Most of the landmark buildings are situated in the plazas.
The old town of Cádiz is one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe and is packed with narrow streets. The old town benefits, though, from several striking plazas, which are enjoyed by citizens and tourists alike. These are the Plaza de Mina, Plaza San Antonio, Plaza de Candelaria, Plaza de San Juan de Dios, and Plaza de España.
Plaza de Mina
Located in the heart of the old town, Plaza de Mina was developed in the first half of the 19th century. Previously, the land occupied by the plaza was the orchard of the convent of San Francisco. The plaza was converted into a plaza in 1838 by the architect Torcuato Benjumeda and (later) Juan Daura, with its trees being planted in 1861. It was then redeveloped again in 1897, and has remained virtually unchanged since that time. It is named after General Francisco Espoz y Mina, a hero of the war of independence. Manuel de Falla y Matheu was born in Number 3 Plaza de Mina, where a plaque bears his name. The plaza also contains several statues, one of these is a bust of José Macpherson (a pioneer in the development of petrography, stratigraphy and tectonics) who was born in number 12 Plaza de Mina in 1839. The Museum of Cádiz, is to be found at number 5 Plaza de Mina, and contains many objects from Cádiz’s 3000-year history as well as works by artists such as Peter Paul Rubens. The houses which face the plaza, many of which can be classified as neo-classical architecture or built in the style of Isabelline Gothic, were originally occupied by the Cádiz bourgeoisie.
Plaza de San Francisco and San Francisco Church and Convent
Located next to Plaza de Mina, this smaller square houses the San Francisco church and convent. Originally built in 1566, it was substantially renovated in the 17th century, when its cloisters were added. Originally, the Plaza de Mina formed the convent’s orchard.
Plaza San Antonio
In the 19th century Plaza San Antonio was considered to be Cádiz’s main square. The square is surrounded by a number of mansions built in neo-classical architecture or Isabelline Gothic style, once occupied by the Cádiz upper classes. San Antonio church, originally built in 1669, is also situated in the plaza.
The plaza was built in the 18th century, and on 19 March 1812 the Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed here, leading to the plaza to be named Plaza de la Constitución, and then later Plaza San Antonio, after the hermit San Antonio.
In 1954 the city’s mayor proclaimed the location a historic site. All construction is prohibited.
Plaza de Candelaria
The Plaza de Candelaria is named after the Candelaria convent, situated in the square until it was demolished in 1873, when its grounds were redeveloped as a plaza. The plaza is notable for a statue in its centre of Emilio Castelar, president of the first Spanish republic, who was born in a house facing the square. A plaque situated on another house, states that Bernardo O’Higgins, an Irish-Chilean adventurer and former dictator of Chile also, lived in the square.
Plaza de la Catedral and the Cathedral
One of Cádiz’s most famous landmarks is its cathedral. It sits on the site of an older cathedral, completed in 1260, which burned down in 1596. The reconstruction, which was not started until 1776, was supervised by the architect Vicente Acero, who had also built the Granada Cathedral. Acero left the project and was succeeded by several other architects. As a result, this largely Baroque-style cathedral was built over a period of 116 years, and, due to this drawn-out period of construction, the cathedral underwent several major changes to its original design. Though the cathedral was originally intended to be a baroque edifice, it contains rococo elements, and was completed in the neoclassical style. Its chapels have many paintings and relics from the old cathedral and monasteries from throughout Spain.
Plaza de San Juan de Dios and the Old Town Hall
Construction of this plaza began in the 15th century on lands reclaimed from the sea. With the demolition of the City walls in 1906 the plaza increased in size and a statue of the Cádiz politician Segismundo Moret was unveiled. Overlooking the plaza, the Ayuntamiento is the town hall of Cádiz’s Old City. The structure, constructed on the bases and location of the previous Consistorial Houses (1699), was built in two stages. The first stage began in 1799 under the direction of architect Torcuato Benjumeda in the neoclassical style. The second stage was completed in 1861 under the direction of García del Alamo, in the Isabelline Gothic (Spanish: Gótico Isabelino or, simply, the Isabelino) style. Here, in 1936, the flag of Andalusia was hoisted for the first time.
Plaza de España and the monument to the constitution of 1812
The Plaza de España is a large square close to the port. It is dominated by the Monument to the Constitution of 1812, which came into being as a consequence of the demolition of a portion of the old city wall. The plaza is an extension of the old Plazuela del Carbón.
The goal of this demolition was to create a grand new city square to mark the hundredth anniversary of the liberal constitution, which was proclaimed in this city in 1812, and provide a setting for a suitable memorial. The work is by the architect, Modesto Lopez Otero, and of the sculptor, Aniceto Marinas. The work began in 1912 and finished in 1929.
The lower level of the monument represents a chamber and an empty presidential armchair. The upper level has various inscriptions surmounting the chamber. On each side are bronze figures representing peace and war. In the centre, a pilaster rises to symbolize, in allegorical terms, the principles expressed in the 1812 constitution. At the foot of this pilaster, there is a female figure representing Spain, and, to either side, sculptural groupings representing agriculture and citizenship.
Plaza de Falla and the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Grand Theater)
The original Gran Teatro was constructed in 1871 by the architect García del Alamo, and was destroyed by a fire in August 1881. The current theater was built between 1884 and 1905 over the remains of the previous Gran Teatro. The architect was Adolfo Morales de los Rios, and the overseer of construction was Juan Cabrera de la Torre. The outside was covered in red bricks and is of a neo-Mudéjar or Moorish revival style. Following renovations in the 1920s, the theater was renamed the Gran Teatro Falla, in honor of composer Manuel de Falla, who is buried in the crypt of the cathedral. After a period of disrepair in the 1980s, the theater has since undergone extensive renovation.
In the 18th century, Cádiz had more than 160 towers from which local merchants could look out to sea for arriving merchant ships. These towers often formed part of the merchants’ houses. The Torre Tavira, named for its original owner, stands as the tallest remaining watchtower. It has a camera obscura, a room that uses the principle of the pinhole camera and a specially prepared convex lens to project panoramic views of the Old City onto a concave disc.
The Casa del Almirante is a palatial house, adjacent to the Plaza San Martín in the Barrio del Pópulo, which was constructed in 1690 with the proceeds of the lucrative trade with the Americas. It was built by the family of the admiral of the Spanish treasure fleet, the so-called Fleet of the Indies, Don Diego de Barrios. The exterior is sheathed in exquisite red and white Genoan marble, prepared in the workshops of Andreoli, and mounted by the master, García Narváez. The colonnaded portico, the grand staircase under the cupola, and the hall on the main floor are architectural features of great nobility and beauty. The shield of the Barrios family appears on the second-floor balcony.
Old customs house
Situated within the confines of the walls which protect the flank of the port of Cádiz are three identical adjacent buildings: the Customs House, the House of Hiring and the Consulate. Of the three, the former had been erected first, built in a sober neo-classical style and of ample and balanced proportions. The works began in 1765 under the direction of Juan Caballero at a cost of 7,717,200 reales.
Palacio de Congresos
Cádiz’s refurbished tobacco factory offers international conference and trade-show facilities. Home to the third annual MAST Conference and trade-show (12 to 14 November 2008)
The Roman theatre was discovered in 1980, in the El Pópulo district, after a fire had destroyed some old warehouses, revealing a layer of construction that was judged to be the foundations of some medieval buildings; the foundations of these buildings had been built, in turn, upon much more ancient stones, hand-hewn limestone of a Roman character. Systematic excavations have revealed a largely intact Roman theatre.
The theatre, constructed by order of Lucius Cornelius Balbus (minor) during the 1st century BC, is the second-largest Roman theatre in the world, surpassed only by the theatre of Pompeii, south of Rome. Cicero, in his Epistulae ad Familiares (‘Letters to his friends’), wrote of its use by Balbus for personal propaganda.
Pylons of Cádiz
The Pylons of Cádiz are electricity pylons of unusual design, one on either side of the Bay of Cádiz, used to support huge electric-power cables. The pylons are 158 meters (518 ft) high and designed for two circuits. The very unconventional construction consists of a narrow frustum steel framework with one crossbar at the top of each one for the insulators.
La Pepa Bridge
La Pepa Bridge, officially “La Pepa” and also named the second bridge to Cádiz or new access to Cádiz. It opened 24 September 2015. It crosses the Bay of Cádiz linking Cádiz with Puerto Real in mainland Spain. It is the longest bridge in Spain and the longest span cable-stayed in the country.
City walls and fortifications
Las Puertas de Tierra originated in the 16th century, although much of the original work has disappeared. Once consisting of several layers of walls, only one of these remain today. By the 20th century it was necessary to remodel the entrance to the Old City to accommodate modern traffic. Today, the two side-by-side arches cut into the wall serve as one of the primary entrances to the city.
El Arco de los Blancos is the gate to the Populo district, built around 1300. It was the principal gate to the medieval town. The gate is named after the family of Felipe Blanco who built a chapel (now disappeared) above the gate.
El Arco de la Rosa (“Rose Arch”) is a gate carved into the medieval walls next to the cathedral. It is named after captain Gaspar de la Rosa, who lived in the city during the 18th century. The gate was renovated in 1973.
The Baluarte de la Candelaria (fortress or stronghold of Candlemas) is a military fortification. Taking advantage of a natural elevation of land, it was constructed in 1672 at the initiative of the governor, Diego Caballero de Illescas. Protected by a seaward-facing wall that had previously served as a seawall, Candelaria’s cannons were in a position to command the channels approaching the port of Cádiz. In more recent times, the edifice has served as a headquarters for the corps of military engineers and as the home to the army’s homing pigeons, birds used to carry written messages over hostile terrain. Thoroughly renovated, it is now used as a cultural venue. There has been some discussion of using it to house a maritime museum, but, at present, it is designated for use as a permanent exposition space.
The Castle of San Sebastián is also a military fortification and is situated at the end of a road leading out from the Caleta beach. It was built in 1706. Today the castle remains unused, although its future uses remain much debated.
The Castle of Santa Catalina is also a military fortification, and is situated at the end of the Caleta beach. It was built in 1598 following the English sacking of Cádiz two years earlier. Recently renovated, today it is used for exhibitions and concerts.