Monuments and places of historic interest
San Fernando has a lot to offer in terms of artistic worth and interesting architecture. It underwent its most rapid growth during the 18th Century and so it makes sense that its most important buildings come from that prosperous time. The Mudéjar influence is evident in the ornate baroque architecture of the houses. A walk along Calle Real and the surrounding area gives full flavour the colourful and beautiful workmanship that has gone into these typical buildings.
There is a sense of the rich history and numerous archaeological treasures that have been found in the area. The locally famous Zuazo Bridge was built in the 16th Century over the remains of the original Roman aqueduct and is a fine example of the excellent engineering skills of its time.
The well preserved San Romualdo Castle dates back to the 14th Century and is a curious example of Mudéjar art with a rather strange distribution of the space, perhaps because it was built on an ancient building whose foundations dictated the lay out.
Islote de Sancti-Petri (The Small Island of Sancti-Petri)
The small island of Sancti-Petri with its fortress is right at the far south end of San Fernando, in the very mouth of the Sancti-Petri channel where historians believe that the legendary holy temple of Hercules once was. This area has been the spotlight of archaeologists who understand the importance that this spot held in the history of Iberia. They have not been disappointed with their numerous discoveries from the building on the island dating back to the 16th and 17th Centuries, the walls of the fortress showing signs of damage caused by enemy flotillas during times of war.
Puente de Zuazo (Zuazo Bridge)
At the entrance to San Fernando, protecting mouth of the Sancti-Petri canal is this renowned bridge thought to date back to Roman times. The name Zuazo comes from the family name of the builders who undertook the reconstruction. It is built on the foundations of the aqueduct which used to take its water from El Tempul in Jerez, to Cadiz. At the beginning of the 19th century the Zuazo Bridge played an important role against the attack of the French and holding them off for two-and-a-half years. In 1812, the main part of the bridge had to be destroyed to prevent the French from advancing, showing the importance of the bridge in the history of Spain.
El Castillo de San Romualdo (San Romualdo Castle)
Neither the origins nor the date of construction is certain, although historians are fairly sure that this castle dates back to medieval times. It is thought to have been used as both convent and fortress. It was officially declared as a historic monument by the Spanish authorities in 1931 and is easily located near the town centre, half way between the town hall and the Zuazo Bridge.
La Iglesia Mayor (the Main Church)
This neoclassic style building with baroque façade was built in the mid 18th century. It is thought to have been planned and designed by Alejandro Perdía and then completed by a French engineer. It is also known as the church of San Pedro and San Pablo and it has three aisles, the central one being twice as wide as the outer two. The crypt is popularly referred to as “la cueva” (the cave).
Real Instituto y Observatrio de la Armada de San Fernando (The San Fernando Royal Naval Institute and Observatory)
Built on the Torre Alta mound, next to the Admiral Laulhé Park, this recognised worldwide as a most important scientific centre. This is where the official Spanish clock time is set, in a similar way to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in the UK.
Amongst the many areas of investigation, the main one is the “Hour Section”, which comprises an array of atomic clocks which, since their installation in 1973, establish and maintain the Co-ordinated Universal Time Scale.
The “Geophysics Section”, which has been functioning without interruption since 1879, is also extremely interesting and is the first geomagnetic centre in Spain. The library has 25,000 volumes and within those are three incunabula editions (i.e. books printed before 1501).