- A short guide to some of Vejer's Monuments
One of the great pleasures of Vejer is simply walking around the quiet backstreets along cobbled lanes sandwiched between tall white houses. In Vejer time escapes & it is easy to imagine oneself being drawn back into another distant part of history. The monuments are not grand & oppulent but all form an important part of the history of the town. Take your time to enjoy them as you wander around.
- Text and photos - James Stuart
- The fortified walls
You can still trace the outline of these ancient monuments and in places they appear proud & defensive & in others disappear into homes & you’ll see somebodys washing being hung on the ramparts. Heavily restored in places the walls were built in the 15th.C. as part of the defensive investment after the Christian reconquest of the region. The best sections of restored walls are to be found next to the north face of the church, in the Judería including the old gates of Puerta Cerrada and the entire section from the gate of Sancho el Bravo to the Plaza de España including the Casa del Mayorazgo (see below).
A notable feature are the various arches that lead into the old town through the walls. Unlike in many other towns all the original gateways still exist & form a feature of the everyday life of Vejer.
- Arco Sancho IV : The oldest & best preserved gate to the old town.
- Arco de la Villa : The main archway into Vejer in the Plaza de España. Originally this was the termination of the old Roman road up from La Barca.
- Puerta de la Segur : The lowest and best fortified of the archways squeezed between the fortifications & the church.
- Puerta Cerrada : Traditionally the 'closed gate' as it was supposedly most susceptible to attack from the south. The arched gate next to it was opened in the last century.
- The Castle
The old moorish built ‘alcazaba’ is tucked away down a narrow backstreet. Only one facade reveals this monuments history as the town has been built right around the edifice. A classic 11th.C. ogee arch leads into a jasmine scented courtyard. Beyond this there is not much to see as now much of the castle is residential. If you are lucky the local scouts who have their den here will show you around the ramparts from where there are fine views of Vejer.
- The Church
Built on the site of the old mosque the minaret is still standing now although now crowned with a bell tower. Under the church is the outstanding ‘aljibe’ or water deposit built by the moors (not open to the public) so large that it can be navigated around in a small dinghy. The church itself has two contrasting styles. Towards the front of the main aisle is visigothic while the remainder is mudejar. The interior was completely bespoiled during the Civil War & little remains of the churches riches. Its simplicity however is most attractive. Take a close look at the burial niches along the outside north wall of the church.
- The Plaza de España or ‘Plaza de los Pescaitos’
A most attractive plaza this is a favourite spot for visitors & locals alike. Ringed with date palms with some immense bouganvilla bushes as a backdrop the Plaza de los Pescaitos (Plaza of the Little Fish), gets its name from the goldfish that used to swim around the fountain. The ornate fountain is not as old as it seems and dates back to the 1940’s. Decorated with bright ceramics & 4 spouting frogs you will find an almost replica fountain in the main plaza of Algeciras. The town hall (‘Ayuntamiento’) overlooks the square & a notable feature is the facade of the 16th.C. Casa del Juzgado (below)
- The Casa del Juzgado now known as Hotel La Casa del Califa
One of Vejer’s most notable privately owned buildings is the intriguing Casa del Juzgado now better known as a secondary entrance to La Casa del Califa. Until 2018 the ground floor (level of the Plaza) was home to the local Magistrates office and after a decade of legal wrangling this part of the building reverted back to its righful owners, James Stuart and Regli Alvarez founders of the Califa. The main building dates back to 1527 although the façade was added almost a century later. Built on the site of a 10th. Century arab building you can still see the aljibe and remaining stairs from this era by visiting the hotel itself.
- Casa del Mayorazgo
Next to the Gate of Sancho el Bravo you will find this large private house now a ‘patio de vecinos’ with 5 families living around its large central courtyard. Visiting the medieval tower is free, just walk through the courtyard and leave a donation on your way out. This is a good opportunity to see how families communally live, at one time sharing not only common living spaces but kitchens and toilets. From the tower you will see fabulous views of town, country and coast plus a splendid birds eye view of the Plaza de España. Open every day during daylight hours.
- Convento de la Concepcionistas
Standing proudly overlooking the south axis of the old town this chapel was built in 1552 as a tomb for Juan de Amaya and his family. In 1584 the nuns of the Conceptionista order occupied the neighbouring convent. In 1773 a brutal earthquake shook Vejer damaging many monuments. The giant buttresses holding up one side of the chapel now frame what is one of Vejer’s most popular views (see the Photo Gallery). The building was heavily restored in the 1990’s and is now open as an ethnographic museum most days of the week except mid-winter.