Orihuela city, located at the feet of the Sierra de Orihuela Mountains in the province of Alicante, has an abundance of museums and historic and religious buildings to visit - enough to satisfy the appetite of history and art lovers alike. An impressive old seminary perches above, on the hill overlooking the city.
Populated by around 35,000, this medieval city used to belong to the province of Murcia and is not far from the popular coastal resort of Torrevieja, indeed, it is said that the people feel closer to this province culturally, gastronomically and also in terms of their local language.
Those wishing to relax in a monumental city centre, with a true air of wonderful charm and Spanish character, should firstly wander alongside the Segura River, which runs through city and which presents the chance to capture images of its fine bridges and buildings, lining the river.
After that, take your time discovering the local restaurants offering ‘menu of the day’, or sample some of the tapas available at a variety of bars. The charming plazas, where you will find people of all ages relaxing, are an ideal place to take a coffee and soak up the atmosphere of the architectural surroundings.
The Splendour of the Segura River
The River Segura gives a unique atmosphere to Orihuea as it cuts its way through the city.
The river begins in the province of Jaen in Andalucia passing through numerous towns such as Blanca, Murcia, Orihuela and Rojales, ending it’s journey at the Mediterranean sea near Guardamar del Segura on the Costa Blanca.
There are pedestrian walkways on both sides of the river which stretch from one end of the city to the other which makes for a perfect stroll to take in the historic ambience of such a unique city.
Puerta de Crevillente ( The Crevillente Gate )
The Crevillente Gate is located at the western end of the city offering a fine welcome to visitors getting ready to explore the historic centre. It is the only gate monument in Orihuela which remained mostly in tact after the collapse of the rest of the city's walls.
The city's shield is clearly visible on the facade and the image of San Miguel ( Saint Micheal ) the protector of the city.
Miguel Hernandez Museum
One of the greatest and best known Spanish poets, Miguel Hernandez, (1910-1942), was born in Orihuela and a museum, which was his modest family home, has been dedicated to his life and work and set up in his honour.
The house has been well-preserved and inside you can see some of the photos, furniture and personal objects that surrounded the life of this great literary figure. You can just imagine how the poet was inspired by the peace of his walled garden and surroundings. You are also able to get a feel of the hard domestic life, his family would have led.
Born into a poor agricultural background, the solitary working life he led had a profound influence on him and this, along with his love of nature, was reflected in his poetry.
Hernandez was arrested several times during the Civil War for his anti-fascist views and died of tuberculosis 3 years into a 30 year jail sentence.
His most renowned poem ‘Onion Lullaby’ was written by him in response to his wife’s letter, where she wrote of the family living on bread and onions.
The Miguel Hernandez museum is open Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 19:00. Sundays, feast days and bank holidays: 10:00 to 14:00. Entrance is FREE.
The Salvador and Santa Maria Cathedral
The magnificent Orihuela Cathedral, built on the remains of an old Moorish mosque, started off as a church in the 14th century and became a cathedral in 16th century. It is now a cultural heritage site.
Built in a Gothic style, although one of the smallest cathedrals in Spain, the plain exterior belies a stunning interior and is well worth a visit. It has a grand bell tower, an 18th century Baroque organ and the large, dark Renaissance and Valencian paintings which adorn most of its walls, add to the opulent atmosphere. One of the major works to be appreciated is ‘The Temptation of Saint Thomas Aquinas' by Velazquez.
There are also medieval works including ‘The Enthroned Virgin ‘ which dates back to the 13th century, along with textile items, manuscripts and early printed books such as ‘The Nuremberg Chronicle ‘ (1493).
The Salvador and Santa Maria Cathedral is open to the public daily and costs €2 to visit the whole site.
The Parish Church of Santa Justa and Rufina
Also built on the site of a former mosque, in honour of the city’s patron saints, Justa and Rufina. The date of their martyrdom coincides with the period when the Christians regained control from the Moors.
The church is a Gothic structure, which features elements from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The remarkably slender bell tower has the accolade of housing the oldest clock in the Valencia region, dating back to the 15th century.
Marvel at the sculptures of mythical beasts and gargoyle shaped drains and visit the exhibition of ‘La Luz de la Imagen’ (The Light of Images).
Convento e Iglesia de Trinidad ( Trinity Church Convent)
This is a working convent which is home to seven Dominican nuns who sell sweets and biscuits to earn a living, using traditional recipes passed from one convent to another.
The convent, founded in 1557, has a tranquil baroque cloister in its heart.
The church is open for mass, but the convent is usually closed. However the tourist office offers ‘Ruta de Dulces' (the route of sweets), when you can take the chance to sample the delicious, biscuits and sweets on sale.
The nuns faced a dilemma in recent years. A major retail chain, Corte Inglés, wanted the nuns to supply them with their unique biscuits for sale. However, after some contemplation, the nuns chose prayer over profit and continue to sell in small quantities from their shop at the side of the convent.
San Juan de Dios Museum
The famous Diablesa sculpture can be seen at this museum. A winged devil in female form, it is unique to Spain and is the only demon of its kind to take part in the Easter processions.
Created by the sculptor Nicolas de Bussey in the 17th century, the piece shows how faith can overcome the evil of the Devil and explores the theme of good fighting evil. It gave the people of its time a focal point for worship.
During the Easter procession in Orihuela, the sculpture is preceded by torchbearers who head the procession up to the Cathedral. The Diablesa must wait outside, joining the procession at the far end if the Cathedral, as no representations of the devil are permitted inside Spanish churches.
The San Juan de Dios museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm. Sundays, feast days and bank holidays: 10 am to 2 pm. From June 1st to September 30th, afternoon schedule is 5pm 8 pm. Entrance is FREE.
Seminario Diocesano de San Miguel Orihuela ( The Diocesan Seminary )
The Diocesan Seminary of San Miguel is an impressive building set high above the city. It was built in the eighteenth century at the request of the Bishop of Orihuela Juan Elías Gómez de Terán in order to provide proper training for Catholic priests and ministers.
Although it is currently closed to the public, a walk around the outer buildings and grounds are well worth a visit as the views out over the city and the surrounding countryside are spectacular.
Colegio Diocesano Santo Domingo ( Diocesan School of Santo Domingo )
The Santo Domingo college is housed in this impressive building in the heart of Orihuela. The city;s prodigal son, Miguel Hernandez was once a student here untill he was forced to leave due to the financial problems of his parents at the time.
Museo de Semana Santa ( Easter Musuem )
If you are looking to see an amazing collection of stunningly ornate “floats” used in the holy week processions, then the East Week Museum is the place for you.
The museum was built on the site of the Le Merced Church with its 16th century ornate Renaissance facade. The old Church of La Merced, part of the Mercedario Convent of the 15th Century is where San Vicente Ferrer stayed in 1410, it was he who communed the Catholic Monarchs during their visit to the City in the year 1488 to celebrate General Cortes of the Kingdom and Felipe V.
The museum consists of four floors with over 1,200 meters of permanent exhibitions, each float is decorated with golf embroidered fabrics and silver artifacts.
The Easter Holy Week museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm. Sundays: 10 am to 2 pm. Normally closed feast days and bank holidays - check with the museum previously. From June 1st to September 30th, afternoon schedule is 5pm 8 pm. Entrance costs €2 or €1.50 for groups of more than 20 people.
Easter in Orihuela
This remarkable, dramatic event, in which the public participate, has origins dating back to the 16th century.
‘El Silencio' (The Silence) takes place on Good Friday. Over 10,000 people take part in the solemn procession which passes through the old town. The dark night is lit up with lanterns. A chant, dating from the 18th century, breaks the silence as the statue of Christ passes.
The city is transformed into a scene of passionate devotion, as Christ’s death is relived.
The Palmeral de Orihuela
The Palmeral de Orihuela borders the urban and historical centre of the city. The main type of palm found in the grove was originally planted by the Muslims when they occupied the Iberian Peninsula. It is the second largest palm grove in Europe and has been declared a site of Community Interest by the E.U.