Let’s start at the beginning: if someone has told you that the only thing to see in Cuenca is the Casas Colgadas (Hanged Houses), do not believe it for a single moment.
This place has a powerful history behind, but we are going to pass over the time of the Romans, who were there, and get to that of the Muslims, who were also there.
The Tower of the Mangana that we see today is not Arabic, although it looks like a bit, but it seems it is located where there was a castle once. In the history of this emblematic construction, reformed several times over the centuries, there is no lack of lighting strikes or the damage caused by the Napoleonic armies, two great protagonists of monumental catastrophes in our lands.
The Arabs built a large mosque that was destroyed by the Christians as soon as they returned to power. It is said that, when it was knocked down, a network of tunnels and passage ways appeared under the building, of which there are a lot of legends about crimes, tortures, treasures hidden in its caves and, naturally, the holy grail hidden in some corner… We don’t expect less from a city in which also the Templars spent some time.
The fact is that, where then there was a mosque, a magnificent cathedral was built, which yes! It has survived to this day. Its construction started in the twelve century and is one of the first great examples of Spanish Gothic, although the towers and that resemblance of a fortress are a matter of Norman influence that give it an even more unique look.
Cuenca, of course, it is not short of religious heritage: there is among other things, the Church of San Miguel, the Convent of Las Petras, the Chapel of Distress (Ermita de las Angustias) and the Convent of the Barefoot Franciscans, which preserves the “Cross of the Converted”. With such a name you can imagine there is a legend behind, and this the entertaining part: It is said that a gentleman named Diego who was a reveller, a cool dude and the biggest flirt, seduced the beautiful Diana as he usually did. One rainy night, Diana proposed a date in a secluded place where they could passionately make love. As they were getting down to business, Diego pulled up her skirt to discover an appetising thigh topped by a less appetising hoof. Horrified and realising too late that the young girl was the devil himself hiding behind those feminine forms, the young man ran as fast as he could to reach the nearby convent of the Franciscans rushing towards the Cross in question and hugging it he swore to do many things if he came out well of such situation… He had a narrow escape. But what we don’t know is if, after such a scare, he fulfilled all those promises of being a good and formal boy with the girls.
Changing the subject and to finish this audio guide, we just have to tell you something about the famous and amazing Hanging Houses suspended over the River Huecar Gorge. Of course, we are in Cuenca! They seem to date back to the fourteenth century and those that remain today are a small sample of the many that, they say, existed centuries ago. What seems indisputable is that the Cuenca people were hundreds of years ahead of the vertigo you can experience at the New York skyscrapers.