Now we are going to visit the biggest green area of the city: a park which is almost two kilometres long and which is known as “The Island”. It is really a part of the Guadiana that is dotted with leafy islands where you can find a large bird fauna with birds like mallards, coots, cormorants, cattle egrets, grey herons and of course white storks.
The Island passes by monumental bridges from different historical periods: the iron railway bridge built by the engineer William Finch Festherstone between 1881 and 1883; the spectacular Lusitania bridge built by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 1992; the singular Roman bridge which we will tell you more about later on and finally, in the south, we can see the New Bridge built by Carlos Fernández Casado, one of the most prominent Spanish engineers of the past century.
This is where our city was planned and the bloodiest moments of the local history took place. Here is where you can also find one archaeological site after the other and as well as a unique building: the Alcazaba. Finally, you can also see the reflection of the new city in the Guadiana waters with buildings that are the result of famous national architectural studies.
In THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF MORERIAS (1) we can find the most extensive preserved stretch of Roman wall of the ones that were discovered. It shows not only its original construction (the preserved width is almost three metres and could have been almost eight metres high) and the reinforcements that were put against it in the late Roman period, but also the doors, gates and patrol ways. In this area the city wall also shows the radical solution the Caliphate adopted to stop the uprising of the people of Mérida by destroying some of its stretches leaving only the foundations.
But what Morerías really offers us is a clear vision of the evolution of the Mérida town planning, its porticoed roads, and several blocks of houses that were modified and restructured throughout time, since the 1st century until the Visigothic period. And the house called “Los Mármoles” (the marbles) especially shows us the full magnificence of a house at the end of the 3rd century, when the city was at its height. It occupied a whole block, reached the height of two floors and, as if this was not already enough, one of its two thermae invaded one of the roads to build a pool with cold water on it.
The site is also studded with palatial spaces from the emirate period and humble houses from the caliphate period.
In the Roman period, the name of the river we see was the Anas and the Arabian prefix ‘Gaud’ which means river was added to it afterwards. So this bridge over the river, “The Bridge” as they would say in ancient times, was one of the longest ones in the antiquity. This construction gives meaning to the existence of this town and because of its strategic value it is a crucial element for trading and all the wars that took place in the east of the peninsula.
THE ROMAN BRIDGE (3), built at the beginning of the Colony, is completely made up of concrete covered in granite ashlars. Today there are sixty semicircular arches; it is almost eight hundred metres long and twelve metres high at its highest points. The sturdy pillars these arches stand on show round cutwaters at the top, at areas that could be more affected by the current. Moreover, small arches were made in the pillars in these parts used as spillways in order to decrease the resistance of the sturdy structure of the bridge against the current.
We will not leave the bridge because from here we have an excellent view of the emirate Alcazaba, THE ROMAN DIKE (7) we are going to describe now and the current Mérida.
The purpose of this practical dike was to contain the water of the river when it was high, this way avoiding that both the road around the colony and the small industries and tombs you could find there would flood. It was also used for the city sewers to evacuate without any problems into one of the channels of the river current which has been artificially widened since the Roman period.
The dike originally covered the whole stretch of the river that went along the city, meaning that it went from the brick houses we see at the back until a few metres behind the LUSITANIA BRIDGE (2). On a stretch of the dike we can see how the part of the Alcazaba wall that looks over the Guadiana stands on it. From here we can also see the New Architectures for the New Capital.
From here we can admire how the current Mérida has organised its façade towards the river with a significant collection of our modern architecture. On the right bank we can see the colossal administrative building that Juan Navarro Baldeweg built over the ruins of the Morerías. On the left bank, next to the mouth of the bridge, you see the School for Public Administration, designed by Javier Saínz de Oiza. On its left there is a fountain with a representation of the god Oceanus, made by the sculptor from Cordoba Aurelia Teno. Among the trees we can see another group of sculptures made by Rufino Mesa, called “Las Siete Sillas” (The seven chairs). These are seven granite blocks like seven bookshelves that symbolize the summa cavea of the Roman Theatre. More at the back the grey mass of THE PUBLIC STATE LIBRARY JESUS DELGADO VALHONDO (5) catches your eye, designed by Luis Arranz. And behind the Lusitania Bridge, there are two gigantic concrete and glass blocks which hold THE CONVENTION CENTRE (4). The architects Enrique Sobejano and Fuensanta Nieto were the brains behind this original building which is a relief construction because on the whole parameter of this building, there are hundreds of concrete slabs that reproduce the plan of the archaeological site of Mérida.
Now, let’s go towards the Alcazaba. Before reaching it, in the middle of a small roundabout, you can see a replica of the Capitoline Wolf, a gift of the city of Rome to Mérida.
THE ARAB CITADEL (6) is a fortified site that had multiple purposes: it served as one of the headquarters to the Umayyad administrative departments and as a residence for the local governor, but it was especially an access filter to the city from the Roman bridge, the shelter for the Moorish minority during the repeated local commotions against the Cordovan powers, and the place where the emir’s troupes stationed to stifle the commotions of the Mozarabs from Mérida or to carry out pestering raids in the Christian realms of the North.
On the inside, the presence of a well stands out which is a unique piece of peninsular archaeology, made with pieces of Roman and Visigothic decorative architecture. On top of this well there was a mosque, which was changed into a church later on, of which only the floor remains. The third floor of this building, where there probably used to be a signal tower, has not been preserved. Excavated areas of the fortress show us the remains that are prior to its construction: a perfectly preserved stretch of a street, the kardo minor, the same which goes on until the Archaeological Site of Morerías.
The Prado Museum, the Royal Galician Academy of Fine Arts and the Santiago Cathedral Foundation jointly organize a monographic exhibition with works by Maestro Mateo for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which offers the visitor the opportunity to know in depth a golden price of viagra In the history of the basilica, between 1168 and 1211.
The BULLRING OF MERIDA (8), built by the famous architect from Badajoz, Ventura Vaca, was opened in 1914. During the foundation laying of the arena, a set of sculptures appeared, some of them donated by an important priest in charge of worshipping the god Mithras. On a field next to the bullring, a house appeared which, because of some of the peculiarities that we will describe and the ancient sculptural findings of the bullring, was called the HOUSE OF THE MITHRAEUM (9). This is yet another house built at the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AC outside the city walls, without any restrictions to its growth. Its size and the decoration of some of its rooms undoubtedly show that its owners were people of Hellenistic culture who were important within the society of Mérida.
From the House of the Mithraeum you can take a long corridor flanked by cypresses to reach an open space which shows us different types of funerary rituals and the various ways people from Mérida had to remember their deceased throughout history, THE COLUMBARIA (10). At the back, in a small river bed, there are two small buildings which originally did not have a roof. These buildings were used by the families, the Voconios and the Julius, to place the funerary urns. The Voconios tomb has a square shape and the Julius tomb is trapezoidal, with an added triangular space made with well edged ashlars. Both tombs are executed with well cut stone parameters (opus incertum) and the joints are sealed with edged mortar. The two buildings end in merlons.
At only a few metres from the Columbaria, both on the field where the Visigothic Museum will soon be built and on both sides of the Ensanche Avenue, there is a HYDRAULIC SYSTEM 'AQUA AUGUSTA' (11), that comes from the Cornalvo marsh located at about fifteen kilometres from the city and which brought water to the southern area of the city.