Historic Walled Town of Cuenca (1996)

Back to index

Built by the Moors on a defensive position in the heart of the caliphate of Cordoba, Cuenca is a very well preserved fortified medieval city.  Conquered by the Castilians in the twelfth century, it became a royal town and bishopric rich with major buildings.  Admirably making the most of its location, the city crowns the magnificent countryside surrounding it. 

United Nations (Geneva) 2000. World Heritage Site of Cuenca, Spain. Cuenca is renowned for its "casas colgadas", or hanging houses, wooden structures built to project over the steep gorge and sheer cliffs overlooking the Tagus and Huécar rivers.  

The beautiful wooden balconies of these hanging houses seem to be suspended in space.  The Romans were the first to experiment with this unique architecture which was adapted to the peculiar rock formations of the landscape in this part of La Mancha.  

  • United Nations (Geneva) 2000. World Heritage Site of Cuenca. 

Spain's first Gothic cathedral was built in Cuenca.  Started in 1182, it has undergone a transition from Romanic to Gothic with Norman influence.  Between 1190 and 1250, three naves were built in Gothic style.  It was consecrated in 1208, and over the centuries additional chapels have been added.  Imbued with history and a wealth of culture, Cuenca was added to the World Heritage List in 1996.  Cuenca is the capital of Cuenca Province, east central Spain. The city of Cuenca is situated on the western border of the wooded Serranía de Cuenca mountains, 139 km (86 mi) southeast of Madrid. Cuenca lies at an elevation of 924 m (3030 ft) above sea level. The city has cold winters, hot summers, and an average annual rainfall of 580 mm (23 in). 

The older section of Cuenca rests on a steeply sloping wedge of land between two streams. The streets are narrow, crooked, and steep, and the houses are low, although those along the streams have a number of stories below street level. 

To the west is the newer quarter, where the industries are located. Overlooking the city from a hill to the east is an ancient castle. Below it is a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. 

  • Spain 1998. The castle of Cuenca, seen from a nearby hill-top. 

Spain 1998. The castle of Cuenca, seen from a hill-top.

Spain 1967. The Enchanted City of Cuenca.

Cuenca was long a Moorish city. Because of its position on the Christian-Muslim frontier, the city was given special privileges by the monarchs of the ancient kingdom of Castile. 

The city became an industrial and intellectual center, but its location prevented it from benefiting from the rise of modern transportation. 

Cuenca was once a thriving market and processing point in the Castilian wool trade until that trade began to decline. In modern times, the city became a popular tourist destination. 

  • Spain 1967. The Enchanted City of Cuenca, featured through a deformed tree that gives the impression of housing a huge supernatural being, the Big Troll. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Spain (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Spain-section, for further information on the individual properties. 

Back to index

Revised 19 jul 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
All Rights Reserved