Jaen City - Things to see

Sunrise at the Santa Catalina Castle, Mirador in Jaen. © Michelle Chaplow
Sunrise at the Santa Catalina Castle, Mirador in Jaen.

The Santa Catalina Castle

This is the place to start. From the motorway, it’s easy to find your way up the hill to the castle. Simply follow the signs and find parking at the top. There’s a Parador (national hotel) with a full bar and a lovely restaurant, which makes it easy to make a day of it. However, if you bring yourself a picnic, there is a path out around the outside of the castle wall and you may find a place to perch and have your lunch.

The Castle itself is very tourist-friendly with a lovely, easy to follow tour set up inside. This includes multimedia presentations at different points. The best part, however, is standing atop the castle to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountain ranges.

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The Cathedral

The city of Jaen is rich in history, with impressive monuments such as the Cathedral. © Michelle Chaplow
The city of Jaen is rich in history, with impressive monuments such as the Cathedral.

 

Now here’s a story for you. It so happens that the Cathedral in Jaen is at odds with four other religious sactuaries – all claiming to possess the “Santo Rostro” or “Holy Face”. This is supposedly the veil of a woman who was following Christ as he carried the cross. Legend says she took off her veil to dry his tears and the imprint of his face stayed in the cloth. From there, it was supposed to have miraculously made it to either Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, The Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris, the Santa Faz Monastery in Alicante, the Holy Face Hermitage in Honrubia (Cuenca, Spain) or the Cathedral in Jaen. You can be sure the locals (jinienses, as they are called) believe the secret lies with them.

The Jaen Cathedral is an example of rennaisance architecture. It is a magnificent edifice both inside and out – definitely worth a visit.

More Churches, Convents and Monastaries

As would be expected in a city with Jaen’s history, there is quite a collection of religious buildings, each with its own special architectural offering. The San Ildefonso Church is the largest centre for Catholic mass (after the Cathedral, of course). It offers a wide range of styles, including gothic, rennaissance and neoclassical all in one package, as it was built over two centuries (1300’s and 1400’s). Other religious buildings of interest are the Magdalena Church, which is the oldest in the city (and even contains remnants of an old mosque) and the Santo Domingo Convent that was build in the 1500’s. The Santa Ursula Monostery also makes its home in Jaen along with numerous other smaller sanctuaries and temples.


Arabs and Jews

The Arab Baths in Jaen.

Obvsiously moorish rule left its mark on Jaen and in fact laid the foundations of the city. One of the main monuments to this era today is the Arab baths that are located under the Villardompardo Palace and date all the way back to the reign of the muslim ruler Abd-Al-Rahman II.
Jewish residents also played an important role in the city’s history. If you’ve ever been to Seville or Toledo you might have been impressed with the old Jewish neighbourhoods. Not many know that Jaen has one too. You can still visit the narrow, winding streets and imagine the Sephardic culture that originated here. Stop by the Synogogue as well. 
Jaen is a virtual treasure chest, full of monuments to a rich history. Visit the tourist office to learn about guided tours and don’t be afraid to ask the natives for more information about their beloved home.