Ciudad Rodrigo is a Spanish town located in the province of Salamanca, Castille and Leon, near the border with Portugal.
As we leave the city of Salamanca and head into the rugged Salamancan terrain, scenic Castilian pastures invite us to observe their natural splendor. After visiting a city as impressive as Salamanca, you might not expect to find a town with such impressive historical architecture so closeby: Ciudad Rodrigo on the banks of the river Águeda dominates the fertile meadowland. Small in population, big in history, Ciudad Rodrigo confirms that it is all about quality not quantity.
This town is situated close to the Portugal border and next to the Extremadura boundary. A mosaic of fertile land, some irrigated, some dry, covers countryside and foothills. In a vast pasture, bulls are raised which are later used for bull fighting events.
The city itself has 14,000 inhabitants, while its municipal area, the most extensive in its province, contains a number of surrounding towns.
Historically, humans have settled in Ciudad Rodrigo since the Bronze Age, although some traces of stone tools found around the city lead us to believe that there has been human presence since the Stone Age. The Siega Verde archeological site, about 12 kilometers outside of Ciudad Rodrigo, has cave paintings. It has been declared a World Heritage Site.
The pre-roman Celtic people known as the Vettones left behind a sculptural representation of a pig that has come to be a symbol of the town. The roman presence has been reduced to three columns of an ancient temple. The columns have been part of Ciudad Rodrigo’s coat of arms since the Middle Ages. The crest was once called Miróbriga, hence the current nickname for the people of Ciudad Rodrigo: Mirobrigenses.
The town was rebuilt and repopulated in the eleventh century under Rodrigo González Girón, from whom the ancient, noble and loyal city took its name, as recorded in several royal documents found throughout history. A century later, Ferdinand II of León ordered a 2km wall with 7 gateways to be built around the city. Building works on Ciudad Rodrigo cathedral started at this time and lasted for two centuries. For this reason, the building shows a transition from Romanesque to neoclassical style. Ferdinand II made Ciudad Rodrigo Episcopal in order to strengthen the kingdom of León and confront both the Portuguese from the west and the Almohads from the south.
In the fourteenth century, Henry II of Castile ordered the construction of a fortified castle that now houses a National Parador. Most palaces, monuments and temples that adorn the city were built during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries reflecting a time of both political and economic boom in trade with Portugal.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, an important Jewish community was established in Ciudad Rodrigo. This immediately attracted the attention of the Inquisition and the application of all its efforts against Jewish people.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Ciudad Rodrigo suffered a decline. The French presence caused heavy damage to the architectural heritage of the city until it was retaken by the Duke of Wellington and his troops in 1812. As a reward for his victory against Napoleon's troops, he received the title of Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo.
The city’s rich history has left countless monuments that make Ciudad Rodrigo an essential point of reference for anyone interested in architecture. Its architectural importance was officially recognized in 1944 when it was declared a Conjunto Histórico-Artístico (Historical-Artistic Site). Its most notable monuments include: the Castillo de Enrique II de Trastámara (Castle of Henry II of Castile), the Catedral de Santa maría (Cathedral of Saint Mary, 12th-14th century) which also has an 18th century tower, and the town walls themselves which were begun in the 12th century (bastions were added in the 18th century which still display five original doors). Homes, palaces, plazas, convents and churches are all packed into this small but grand Castilian town.
A great time to visit Ciudad Rodrigo is during the festival of San Sebastián (January 20th), the town’s patron saint. The Carnaval del Toro (Carnival of the Bull) is another festive occasion worth experiencing which dates back to 1417. The Mercado del Martes Mayor (Tuesday market) has become an attraction for visitors of all backgrounds, a market that in a certain way recalls the city’s medieval past. Ciudad Rodrigo is a wonderful city that anxiously awaits our visit.