Carmona’s cultural landscape

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Carmona’s cultural landscape is part of the Tentative list of Spain in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Carmona’s cultural landscape covers the city of Carmona and its agricultural surroundings, with a settlement history of 5,000 years.

Map of Carmona’s cultural landscape

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Caspar Dechmann

Switzerland - 18-Mar-24 -

For many years the Spanish tentative site included the “Casco antiguo de Cadiz” which has now been removed. When I visited western Andalucía in February 2024 I visited Cadiz, supposedly the oldest city in Europe, dating back to the Phoenicians and almost 3000 years. When you arrive at the city you are potentially in for a surprise: The city is situated on a peninsula (though originally on several islands) and seems more like an island:  a splendid, almost Venice-like apparition. Since the space is extremely limited in the old town the houses stand very tight and only intercepted by a few attractive squares. Despite the density most streets are straight, so you often have the feeling of being in a colonial city. And if you look more closely most buildings are late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, a few churches that are older but even those are mainly baroque, and it is rather difficult to find anything medieval let alone ancient. With some effort you can find remnants of a roman theatre, one basement with remnants of the Phoenician port wall in a Flamenco cellar, one museum with roman and Phoenician walls and a park further south with an ancient necropolis. All in all, we find an attractive lively city in a splendid location but with very few remains of its major period of claim to fame, the Phoenician period. After wars and earthquakes most of what we see today comes from its second heyday, the 18th century, when Cadiz inherited from Sevilla the monopoly for trade with the West Indies, and later.
Maybe this is the reason why Cádiz was never nominated and now replaced by another city that has similar claims of being one of the oldest towns in Europe and having been inhabited continuously since the Phoenicians: Carmona. Even before knowing that this was on the tentative list, I decided to make this my last stop for the night of my one-week trip starting from Cordoba and leading around the Sierra de Grazalema trough Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Gibraltar and Ronda as the main stops. Like Cádiz but in a very different way Carmona’s main attraction may also be its location: when you arrive from the southeast you see the old town sitting on a hilltop over a wide rural landscape. This part is surrounded be walls and corresponds to the Moorish town that was later extended to the west only whereby the character of this main area was well preserved. Other than in Cadiz this old town has still a medieval feel to it and walking the old town is not so different from walking around Cordoba or the Albaicin in Granada since the street plan seems to have changed hardly since then. You can easily spend a day here: The most attractive building is the Porta de Sevilla the most important defensive structure with attractive Moorish arches and gothic elements. There are even some crumbling walls showing that the structure goes back to Phoenician times!  You can walk around the walls with nice views on the city and the landscape, I even met a goat herd. Of course there are several churches, many closed though: Most important certainly Santa Maria in the center with an impressive gothic vaulting and an orange court, a remnant of the lost mosque at the same spot. At least from the outside I also enjoyed the small Capilla de la Caridad and the splendid mudejar towers of churches of Santiago and San Pedro. There is an archeological museum but without great highlights. Very attractive is the round Plaza de San Fernando and in the adjacent town hall you find a large roman mosaic with Medusa head. In the east of the old town, you find the large ruins of the Alcazar which was closed for security reasons when I was there. Within its walls you find the Parador from the 20th century with mudejar elements, certainly worth for a short glimpse or a drink at the bar.
To the west of the old town, you find the two major roman sites: the Necropolis. It makes for a nice walk, and you see the great variety of tombs in roman times in size and style but there is not much left of the tombs’ decoration: Most interesting is the huge Tumba de Servilia: the family tomb of a rich family as large as small villa with oratories, kitchens and banqueting areas. Also here there are not many decorations left: Most attractive is a vaulted tomb with a little (pre-Christian!) fragment of a balance of souls. This was probably influenced by gnostic beliefs as is much of the early Christian faith. Across the street you can see the large but not very well-preserved amphitheater. It was closed but you can get a good view from either side. In a parking under the Estatuo square you can find the remnants of a roman mausoleum. To the northeast of the old town you can find a large roman quarry, similar to the ones in Tarragona and Syracuse to name just two that are already inscribed. It is good for a nice walk with good views on the old town. But be aware you can only get there by foot or car and it is rather far, and the roads are difficult.
All in all, this was a nice and quite interesting visit but should it be inscribed? On the upside it has remnants from almost all periods of its long occupation though there are very little pre-roman remains. It has a very attractive location and cityscape. On the downside the combination of modest testimonies from different periods makes hardly for a good inscription and IMHO no single element here has OUV on its own. And while it reminds us of cities with an ancient and long history like Syracuse, this comparison also shows its weakness: Syracuse offers several splendid single sites: the temple-basilica, the catacombs, the largest ancient Greek fortresse etc.  that may have individual OUV and make for a splendid site when combined. While Carmona is worth a visit and is probably better and several sites that have inscribed in recent years It would only make a modest WHS even within Spain.

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Carmona’s cultural landscape
Cultural Landscape - Continuing
2023 Added to Tentative List

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