I’ve never been anywhere like Cadiz before. I’m not sure there is anywhere like Cadiz other than Cadiz. It’s a city with a rich and complex history, full of mixes of different cultures and influenced by every nearby former empire that ever existed. There are Roman ruins, Catholic churches, castles with remains of ancient mihrabs and statues of Hercules… things I had never expected to see in the same place. There are still aspects to the city that match up with what I expected from Spain but mostly my experience has been full of wonderful surprises everywhere we go.
For example, the catedral de Cadiz. On the outside it’s already a remarkable building, but as a group we got to go in and take a tour around. The building is just as beautiful on the inside, full of statues to commemorate saints and Popes, as well as a lower level that was just as interesting to explore. Beneath the altar, in the lower level was the crypt, while upstairs in the main level were the various statues and paintings as well as vestments and a place for silent prayer and meditation. When we got back, my host family informed me of how they worked to restore part of the stone ceiling. Due to the building’s age, it needed a bit of upkeep to keep it safe for visitors. To do that, they injected liquid into the stone to help it solidify once again. This way, the cathedral can remain as beautiful as it is for more visitors to get to see for a long time to come.
With how many different groups had power over Spain, it’s actually rather remarkable that anything belonging to a former culture or group remained behind at all. This cathedral is actually just as great a symbol of the various influences as anything else in Cadiz. There’s a clear difference in the styles of the cathedral, which was built over a period of 116 years. Over all this time, the project was picked up by different architects, who all shifted the style to what they wanted to do instead of what it had been. So, the cathedral starts in the baroque style but ends up neoclassical- a common theme across a few of the buildings in the area. One of our other excursions was like this as well, the castillo in La Puerta de Santa Maria. For the Castillo San Marcos, the different styles were thanks to the various cultures that came in and used the base of what was there for their purpose instead. The Castillo actually has the remains of an ancient mihrab that was preserved by the church covering it to reorient the building to the town instead of towards Mecca. So, they built a wall and preserved it very well, building on top of what had been the mosque, which was built on top of the roman base. Just walking around Cadiz, the influence of all of the groups that have been here is clear. All of the different styles of architecture and different materials used gives Cadiz a really unique feeling as a city.