The image corresponds to a steel plate engraving of the city of Cuenca in the 19th century, year 1850. It was drawn and engraved by one of the Rourage brothers, the illustration comes from the work Voyage pittoresque en Espagne et en Portugal by Émile Bégin, a French writer who was dedicated to travel around Europe. The image was obtained from the virtual Library of Andalucía.
During the 19th century, Spain was transformed. Agriculture was modernized and industrial activity started to become significant. In addition, the old absolutist monarchy was replaced by a parliamentary and constitutional system, whereas the feudal society was converted into a class society. All these changes caused political inestability, represented in civil wars, social revolutions and the ascendancy of liberalism. In the Third Carlist War Cuenca was attacked twice, in 1873 and 1874. The Carlist troops (still absolutist) entered the lower part of the city, burned it down and killed many prisoners, looting everything and imposing new contributions. The war ended in 1876 and Cuenca lost its political and economic importance. Textile manufacturing, farming and forestry collapsed and then started a period of decline. Throughout the 20th century, the primary sector has been still important, but the second and third sectors gained importance.
Concerning its location and urban aspects, Cuenca is a city that belongs to the region of Castilla-La Mancha. It is a medieval city, as it can be seen in its walls and clustered housing. Cuenca is integrated in a natural landscape because it is situated on a rocky terrain that favoured the defense and its strategic position. Due to its history and its topography, it can be seen that it has an irregular urban layout and a medieval architecture. Therefore it includes a rich heritage formed by churches, towers and palaces. Also, elements of the Moorish period are also added, such as the immense gates and the set of houses very close together.
One of the principal towers, The Giraldo, fell down in 1902 and caused one of the biggest catastrophes in the city. It crumbled part of the cathedral, one of the greatest Gothic temples of Castile, built on an old mosque. We can also see the convent and St. Paul, belonged to the dominican order, which was located outside the city . The name of St. Paul comes from an patronage offering to the apostle Paul of Tarsus. The convent is currently a national Parador of Tourism. Also, it can be seen the brigde of St. Paul, built between 1533 and 1589 in stone to sort the canyon of the Huécar river and to communicate the convent and the urban center. However, that stone bridge collapsed and in 1902 it was rebuilt using wood and metal.
The city of Cuenca had and has several functions. Initially defensive, then agricultural-comercial centre, in the last century its economy moved to cultural activities. Cuenca had first a relevant manufacturing function because the textile activities were at the head of the Castilian economy and also its religious function because because there were a lot of religious foundations which are reflected in the urban morphology. This is one of the reasons for its cultural function, as its unique landscape and settlement in a rocky terrain provides a major touristic attraction nowadays.
Shuleyma Rodríguez Mabrouki