Guide to Puerto de santa maria, cadiz, spain, andalucia, cadiz guide, tourist information cadiz, sherry port, costa de la luz
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Places in Spain - Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Costa de la Luz, Andalucia

 

El Puerto de Santa Maria is located slightly north of Cadiz, within the province of Cadiz, on the Guadalete River outlet, in the Bay of Cadiz. El Puerto de Santa Maria is situated in the middle of the Parque Natural Bahia de Cadiz (Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park), and is limited by two large strips of land. The famous port is one of Andalucias' tourist hotspots. El Puerto de Santa Maria enjoys a Mediterranean climate and a relaxed, calm atmosphere away from the hustle of international business and tourism. The area, however, is a popular holiday destination for Spaniards. El Puerto gazes out across the Atlantic Ocean and is part of an area in Spain known as the "Coast of Light" (Costa de la Luz). The city is located between Jerez and Cadiz, on the Bay of Cadiz. Both El Puerto and Cadiz have a rich history as Phoenician trading colonies dating back some 3,000 years.

The seafood dishes of the region will surely tempt your palette. The area is also famous for its festivals and holidays such as the Carnival, Holy Week, local fairs, and singing and dancing celebrations. The region is said to be the birthplace of Flamenco dancing, which will capture your imagination.

 

Despite the unattractive approach to Puerto de Santa Maria, a visit will be well rewarded. The port has a wonderful beach, the Playa Puntillo and a charming town centre that is not spoilt by heavy traffic. The cobbled streets are lined with traditional Andalucian architecture. Just like neighbouring Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria is famed for its sherry. Before the train line was extended through to Cadiz, all sherry from Jerez came through Santa Maria.

 

History of El Puerto de Santa Maria
The First traces of settlements in El Puerto de Santa Maria, are from the lower Palaeolithic period, as demonstrated by the remains at "El Aculadero". Other archaeological sites of great interest are "Las Arenas" and "Doña Blanca" dating back to the Phoenicians, sometime between the 8th and 9th centuries B.C. Legend has it that the City was founded by an Athenian leader, Menestheo who after the Troyan Wars, founded a city which he named after himself, Puerto de Menesteo.

 

 

 
 
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In the year 711 the Muslims fought and won a battle against the Visigoth Armies known as the Battle of the Guadalete. From that moment on the city was incorporated into the Muslim territory and its name was changed to Amaria Alcanter, Alcanatif, or Alcanate, which mean 'Port of the salt mines', Arch or Bridge. In the year 1260, the city was taken from the Moors by Alfonso X, who named it Santa Maria del Puerto, and who organised the distribution of the land among the new settlers. From 1368 to the 18th century El Puerto was under the Lordship of the Medinaceli family, and it was during this period that the city had its greatest days of glory. Christopher Columbus was a guest of the rich families of El Puerto who also helped him to prepare for the voyage which would lead him to the Discovery of the New World

It was here that the Santa Maria was fitted out; this ship was the property of Juan de la Cosa, a sailor who was a pilot for Columbus in 1492 and, who in 1500, made the first world map ever known to include the newly discovered continent of America. During the 16th and 17th centuries, El Puerto was the winter headquarters and base for the Royal Galleys and the site of the General Captaincy of the 'Mar Océana'. This fact would determinate the role the city played in the preparations of important naval expeditions.

 

Visiting El Puerto de Santa Maria
San Marcos´s Castle
This is one of the most important buildings in the city. Its towers and battlements stand out against the skyline of El Puerto, they constitute an unmistakable silhouette and probably one of the oldest images in the architectural monuments of El Puerto.
Originally the castle was an old mosque, the most important building in the Muslim village of Al-Qanatif. It was erected with materials that probably came from another, older Roman building.

The castle has three naves divided in four phases, patio "sahn", minaret or tower and the main wall or wall of the "quibla" in whose centre a sacred enclosure was opened "the mihrab". Both the wall of the "quibla" and "the mihrab" are still conserved in the modern construction. An old inscription belonging to this time can be found on one of the earliest entrances to the building. The second stage of the building belongs together with its transformation into a Christian sanctuary, to the middle of the XIII century and linked to the Castilian conquest of the area by Alfonso X between the years 1257 and 1260. The occupation by Alfoso X "Alfonsí" was bound to the election of the castle, magnificently located as the defensive point of the whole district and centre of provisioning of the Castilian fleet for its expeditions. Some years later it suffered some remodelling at the same time that the city was enclosed by a wall. Possibly in 1272 it entered into the Order of Santa María of Spain.

 

 

 

 

In the church fortress of Santa María known as the Castle of San Marcos from the XIV-XV centuries stone and Roman columns were used. Several of these columns, today embedded into interior pillars, are conserved. This reformation and Christian construction was begun by the master builder Ali in the first years of the Castilian occupation and the building was soon transformed into an important pilgrim centre that would be highlighted as a peculiar element of the town. The reconstruction affected the castle in its entirety with a series of important transformations both in the exterior and interior.

 

The Castle was headquarters of the Town hall up to 1729, year in which El Puerto de Santa Maria forms part of the Castilian Crown after a long period of elegant dependence under the rule of the Duke of Medinaceli. It was used as a church until the XIX century and later it would be readapted for housings, until the middle of the present century the last great remodelling was undertaken, in which the building acquires its present image.

The improvements made in 1943 by the researcher D. Hipólito Sancho of El Puerto, restoring both interior and exterior, reunifying its double Islamic-Gothic origin: horseshoe arches and ornamental elements were added to the interior as well as Cordovan leathers, stained glass windows, a grill, and in the interior, the covering of the "mihrab". On the exterior, the pictorial decoration of castles and lions and the marine legends, also the whole restoration of towers and battlements that were in a terrible condition correspond to that period. Both Almohade and Gothic styles melted together once again as it was in its early origins.

 

Recently new maintenance work on the building and the restoration of the external wall and towers have taken place. Once more in free times, San Marcos´s castle is today found in the heart of the city and constitutes the main facade of the traditional square that shares its name with of the king which ordered its reconstruction in the time when the city was being established. Declared of Cultural Interest from 1920 then with a category of National Monument its walls guard the Gothic image of El Puerto de Santa María from a Spain of the XII-XIII centuries, so linked to El Puerto. Just as in the past, the Castle of San Marcos continues being an unmistakable symbol of El Puerto. Its tower of the Homage, with the Patron´s image, are present in the local coat of arms and its jagged profile is, almost inextinguishable, in its urban image.

The castle is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 11:00 to 13:30. Tuesday admission free, other times 1,80€, 1,20€ children. Phone: 956 851 751 Fax: 956 853 462.

Main Priory Church
The Dukes of Medinaceli, Gentlemen of El Puerto de Santa Maria, ordered the construction of the church which began in 1486, lasting until the XVIII century. The first phase of the construction is by the master builder Alonso Rodríguez who also worked on the cathedral of Seville. Both of these buildings as well as others in Jerez and of the rest of the area were built with sand stone from the quarries of San Cristobal´s Sierra.

 

The bullring
Bullfighting in El Puerto de Santa María, is one of the strongest and deeply rooted traditions in Spain. El Puerto de Santa Maria has an old prestige for bullfights. Already before the times of Pepe Hillo or Pedro Romero from Ronda, it had well rooted its fame for bullfighting in the city: the old bullring in Galeras Square which replaced the older one of scaffoldings in Polvorista Square and that was an advance of wooden bullrings in the same place where today we find the stone, iron and brick bullring, built at the end of the 19th century; one of the most beautiful bullrings in all of Spain.

 

The building is a regular polygon of 60 sides, with a diameter of 99.8 metres; this surface area is distributed as follows; an external gallery, above a second and third gallery where the royal and the presidential boxes are found and the covered stands, also the 16 stone seated sections known as "Tendidos"; it has a capacity for over twelve thousand people. The arena is 60 meters in diameter, one of the widest that exists. It is separated from the public by a two meter alley with a barrier. The management of its construction was carried out by the "Bullring Company", presided over by D. Tomás Osborne and Bölh de Faber, descendant of the family of " Fernán-Caballero " the illustrious writer. To mark the centenary celebrations of the bullring, another ceramic tile was placed in front of the one that reminds us of the unforgettable sentence of Joselito "El Gallito". It was inaugurated on the 5th and 6th of June 1880 with two bullfights in which Antonio Carmona Gordito, of Seville, and the Cordovan Rafael Molina Lagartijo, fought bulls from the ranch of Anastasio Martín and of Saltillo. " Bordador ", was the name of the first bull that was fought in the bullring, and its crowned head can still be seen in the Reception Room. The fair of El Puerto is held in the summer when bullfights are at their best.

 

Fiestas and celebrations
The carnival in El Puerto has a well deserved prestige and has taken place since the 18th century.

Holy Week. With its processions, floats, religious songs, Holy Week in El Puerto takes on a mixed religious and popular character. Every day during Holy Week, the Fraternities and Brotherhoods of El Puerto, some of which date back centuries and are of strong tradition, take their religious images out to the streets among which some could be highlighted for their artistic size and are of great interest and quality, carried on the shoulders of the members of the Fraternities and Brotherhoods and guarded by hundreds of penitents.

Spring Festivity. Celebrated in May this festivity is part of the big Andalucian fairs, the Spring Fair, a celebration that has a clear connection to the welcoming of the new fruits that germinate in the season that gives it its name.

Corpus Christi. A religious festivity which reaches its maximum expression in the evening procession that leaves of the Mayor Prioral Church and circulates through the main streets of El Puerto de Santa Maria.

The Seafaring Festivity, "Virgin del Carmen". 16th July, day of the Virgin del Carmen, a celebration with clear seafaring roots. The traditionally seafaring character of El Puerto de Santa Maria has offered a special devotion to the Virgin del Carmen. A traditional evening festivity of the summer in El Puerto that formerly marked the beginning of the season, and the festival acts organized by the sailors, summon the whole population and the numerous summer visitors that are here. The procession is accompanied by a fireworks display.

Festivity of the Patroness "Virgen de los Milagros". The festivity of the Virgin de los Milagros takes place on September 8th, the most important festivity of El Puerto. Along with the religious acts, there is the traditional celebration of the procession of the Patron Saint through the streets of El Puerto, adorned with flowers and with a special stop at San Marcos's Castle.

 
     
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