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The World Heritage City of Mérida, Spain

Discover Merida in Spain Video

 
 

Overview
Mérida is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura. It is situated in a valley at the convergence of two rivers, the Guadiana and Albarregas that the waters of which lap its foundations and guarantee the fertility of the surrounding land. The short distance to other influential cities in the surrounding area led to it becoming the centre for the economic, cultural, architectural and ecological wealth of the region.

Mérida
There Like a lot of towns in ancient times, Mérida developed between two rivers, in this case the Guadiana and one of its tributaries, the Albarregas (known respectively as Anas and Barraeca in Roman times). The problems of crossing these rivers and avoiding flooding were the first challenges that the Roman engineers had to deal with when planning the urban development of the new town. The bridges meant that merchandise had to pass through the city and also made Mérida a prime target in the strategy of any army aiming to control the west of the Iberian peninsula.

From its foundation as a Roman colony, which occurred in 25 BC, and throughout the first two centuries of its existence, the people responsible for designing the urban layout and embellishing the city were trying to recreate the grandeur of Rome in this far flung outpost of the Empire, in an attempt to bring the Roman way of life to places and people unfamiliar with their traditions. In 15 BC, Augusta Emerita was designated as the capital of an extensive new province known as Lusitania.



It became a cosmopolitan city, attracting people not only from the rest of Hispania, as the Romans called the Iberian Peninsula, but also from the many provinces of the Empire. This led to the development of customs and ways of thinking which, while following Roman traditions, also embraced more exotic influences from the Middle East and Egypt. Within this melting pot of cultures created by the Romans, Judaism and Christianity also began to develop in the city.

When the Western Empire was on the point of collapse, Mérida emerged as the capital of the whole of Hispania, from where it was governed by a Vicar accompanied by a court of officials. Later, under Visigothic control, the Bishops of the Merida Church were commissioned with maintaining the city’s prestige, a situation which continued even during a good part of the Omeyan Emirate. Owing to its development in Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages, the city is in itself a form of living archaeological museum. However, the various archaeological museums and collections, particularly the National Museum of Roman Art, give us a clear and comprehensive idea of everyday life in Mérida over the centuries, charting customs that have long since ceased to exist. In short, Mérida transports us back through more than eight centuries of Spain’s history.

José Luis Mosquera Müller
Official Chronicler of the City of Mérida

 

Getting There
Mérida is the hub of an extensive area and an important crossroads. The A-66 Via de la Plata motorway (Gijón-Seville) runs from north to south while the A-5 (Madrid-Lisbon) and the A-43 (Lisbon-Valencia) cross it east to west. It is also an important rail intersection with the lines for Madrid, Lisbon,
Seville, Badajoz, Cáceres and Ciudad Real converge in the city. The nearest airports are Talavera la Real (40 km) and Seville (200 km).

 
 


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