Today we are going to tell you a story about Moors, Christians and archaeologists. It takes place in Jaén and begins in the times when the city was Islamic and therefore had its mosques, its palaces, its fountains and its sophisticated and artistic baths.
The Arabs were very fond of their baths. Corporal hygiene was part of the duties of a good Muslim, and not everyone had the chance to wash at home, so they often had to go to the hammam. The same could not be said of his intimate Christian enemie, who surely did not smell of Chanel when, commanded by Fernando III, reconquered the city in 1246.
At the beginning in the new Jaén, however, the Arab baths maintained their use but later were used for such ordinary things like the tanning of skins. Finally, in the sixteenth century, Don Fernando de Torres y Portugal, Count of Villardompardo, arrived and decided to build a palace directly above them.
The Count wasn’t just some guy, of course. He had been the second lieutenant of Jaén and mayor of Asturias and Salamanca and was even going to be named viceroy of Peru at the end of his life. In other words, a noble knight of those times, servant of God and his king.
The thing is that Don Fernando thought that the place where the beautiful Islamic baths were, would be the perfect one for his Renaissance mansion, even though they were over five hundred years old. Bad idea? Well, depending on how you look at it, because if they had never built here, perhaps the installations where the followers of Mohammad soaked themselves would have never reached our days.
The rooms of the Arab complex were half-buried and hidden among the foundations of the Count’s home, and so the centuries passed … until 1913, when they were discovered by Enrique Romero de Torres, brother of the famous painter Julio, who worked in the making of the Monumental Catalogue of Jaén and was probably flabbergasted when he came across them.
They were a real treasure of archaeology and ended up being declared a National Monument. The Arab baths in Jaén are among the largest in Europe and today you can see them, naturally, in the basements of the palace in question. Listen to us and don’t leave the city without visiting them.