Trujillo, Famous Cradle of the History of the New World
Vista de Trujillo
Perched on a high hill, the town of Trujillo in Extremadura has one of the most charming personalities in all of Spain Its traditional appearance remains intact, along with its exceptional monumental heritage and evocations of history so intimately tied to the Americas.
A view of Trujillo’s castle and walls from a distance hints to the visitor that this medieval town and its architecture are rare indeed. The fortress and walled area that give the town so much character were built by the Muslims, who appreciated the strategic value of the hill on which the historic city sits. Christian conquerors would take 500 years to regain the town, after which, in 1232, began a historical phase that would leave in its wake the enormous amount of medieval heritage we find today.
Inside the city walls we find an unbroken account of medieval architecture, a monument district so pure it would be difficult to find anywhere else. The passage of time has not altered the essence of what we see there today. The absolute, undisputed dominance of Gothic and Mudejar architecture creates a medieval atmosphere that nothing can disrupt. Emblazoned buildings, lancet windows, elements that evoke the Muslim presence, Mudejar towers…these are just a few of the elements the city walls have protected for centuries.
At the foot of this monument district is scattered the rest of Trujillo’s old quarter, in a kind of harmonious disorder. The urban layout is an uneven web of streets and small plazas built without much forethought, with a completely chaotic design. The best way to orient yourself is to use the many church towers and palaces as landmarks, which provide a spectacular aerial view, with the ever-present storks’ nests as mainstays of the landscape.
The legacy of monuments is a long one, and the medieval architecture here intermingles with that of the 16th century, another of the city’s brilliant historical phases clearly linked to the riches brought from the Indies. However, the religious buildings, small majestic palaces and noble balconies all exist in harmony with the more popular, traditional architecture of Extremadura. These modest houses with white facades and reddish tiles give the town something special: their natural, everyday character, and the beauty of their simplicity.
All of these small streets and passages in seeming disorder invariably lead to one place: the Plaza Mayor, without a doubt the city’s most emblematic space. Trujillo’s famous plaza is as irregular and arbitrary as it is harmonious and attractive, a microcosm of the city itself. In the shadow of the Church of San Martín (14th-15th c.), the Plaza Mayor is lined with palaces and stately homes that create a regal, Renaissance enclave. As with the rest of Trujillo’s architecture, the plaza’s noble facades perfectly coexist with the vitality and dynamic aspects of daily life, being its commercial and nerve center since the 16th century. It is home to outdoor markets and summer sidewalk cafes, is a gathering place for tourists and locals and is the site of many public events.
Next to the Church of San Martín we find the famous statue of Francisco Pizarro on horseback. This Spanish explorer who conquered the Inca Empire and established the city of Lima in Peru, has become a symbol of the town. This symbol also embodies many other famous names that took part in the exploration and conquest of the New World such as Diego García de Paredes, Hernando de Alarcón and Francisco de Orellana. These names mark Trujillo as a truly prolific reference concerning the history of the Americas after Columbus.
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