It is located in the last foothills of the Sierra de San Pedro, on a promontory on the left bank of the River Tajo, near the mouth of the River Alagón, in the so-called Raya, on the border that separates Spain from Portugal. Its strategic and border location has been a determining factor in the development of its long and important history. In these lands have been found remains of population settlements and megalithic culture, as the menhir of Cabezo and a considerable number of dolmens of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. Although it is known that the Romans were already in the area in the second century BC, as evidenced by the discovery of the Bronze of Alcantara, when historical sources appear is in the second century AD with the construction of the famous Alcantara Bridge on which hard battles have been fought. The Muslims fortified it to protect the passage of the bridge, which ended up giving the name to the town AlQantar "the Bridge".
The strategic location of Alcántara made it a key point and very disputed between Muslims and Christians until in the year 1213 Alfonso IX of León took it definitively for the Christians, delegating its defence to the Order of Calatrava who entrusted it to the Military Order of San Julián de Pereiro. When the latter moved its headquarters to Alcántara, in 1218 it was renamed the Order of Alcántara. The town maintained its protagonism in the numerous conflicts of history during the Middle Ages, and when the Catholic Kings incorporated the order into the crown, the town lost its jurisdictions and commendations. Another important historical fact for Alcántara is when in 1703 Felipe V declared, from here, the war to Portugal. With a great architectural heritage, the disentailments of the nineteenth century caused a great disaster in the town. During the 20th century, the Civil War and the construction of the José María Oriol dam left their mark on the socio-economic evolution of the population.
When walking through the oldest Alcántara the visitor finds the primitive urban layout, narrow and steep streets, some with no exit, and small squares, reminiscent of the Muslim origin of the population of whose time there is hardly any canvas left of the primitive wall. Of all the gates in Alcántara's walls, the Arabic one and the one that was extended after the Reconquest in the fifteenth century to serve as a defence in the constant confrontations with Portugal, only the Conception gate remains, although it was extensively restored in the Baroque period. The popular architecture is simple and among it, large ancestral homes are protected, with coats of arms on their facades, such as the palace of the Topete-Escobar, the Torreorgaz, the Roco-Campofrío, the Barcos or the houses of Bernardo Aldana, the Bootello, Arias de Quintanadueñas, Pereros, Barrantes Maldonado....Religiousness has been present in Alcántara since time immemorial and its buildings speak of it, such as the Convent of San Benito from the 16th century, one of the most representative groups of the Extremaduran Renaissance. The church of San Pedro of Alcántara, from the 17th century, was built in the place where the house where the saint was born was; between the façade of the church and the head of the church, in the square of San Pedro, a sculpture of the patron saint of Extremadura can be seen. The beautiful parish church of Nuestra Señora de Almocovar dates from the 13th century and was built over the local mosque and reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The church of La Encarnación, known as the "Old Incarnation" from the 15th century, was the parish church of the walled town. The ruins of the Sancti Spíritu convent, once inhabited by the Commendatory Nuns of the Order of Alcántara. The chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, from the 18th century, belonged to the convent of the Tertiary Franciscans. In the Jewish quarter we find the chapel of La Soledad, from the 14th century and reformed in the 18th century. The chapel of San Antón, from the 13th century, belonged to the old Franciscan infirmary. In the Municipal Library is the chapel of La Piedad, which was part of the Hospital de la Piedad, built in the 16th century. In the historical centre you can see the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias. Next to the Corredera Square the hermitage of the "Encarnación Nueva" is from the 16th century... When the visitor sees the spectacular and famous Roman Bridge of Alcantara, built between 105 and 106 by the Roman architect Cayo Julio Lacer, he is amazed by the beauty and majesty of such a great work of engineering and does not get tired of going through it while he thinks about the historical events experienced here, and tries to recreate some Roman legion crossing it or the resonance of the hoofs of the horses of the medieval and later knights. Alcántara also offers trekking lovers beautiful routes through this unique environment.
Alcántara celebrates its patron saint, San Pedro of Alcántara, on 18 and 19 October and the Virgen de los Hitos is celebrated with a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Virgen de los Hitos, which is five kilometres from the town, on the weekend closest to 25 March.
In Alcántara it is a tradition that in the festivities in honour of San Pedro of Alcántara people blacken their faces with a burnt cork and at night and after the burning of bonfires the neighbours, pretending to fight among themselves, throw firecrackers and rockets.
In the amphitheatre of the Convent of San Benito, the Classical Theatre Festival of Alcantara is held during the first week of August.
Legend has it, like all Marian legends, that the Virgin appeared to some shepherds in an oak tree that is next to the hermitage and that this oak tree is still preserved with the hole in the middle. A hermitage was built on the site, and everything suggests that this hermitage already existed in the year 1235. After the wars with Portugal, the hermitage, which had been turned into a powder keg, exploded and the building and the marble image of the Virgin were not so much destroyed as its silver crown which, due to the shock wave, flew several tens of metres and its collision with the ground produced a crater about one metre deep. When the faithful devotees of the Virgin collected the jewel, they decided that so that no one would step on the place where the crown had touched, they would throw pebbles into it, something that all the pilgrims did for more than two hundred years.
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The EX-117 road reaches Alcántara, linking it with Portugal and Piedras Albas on the one hand and with Villa del Rey, Brozas, Navas del Madroño, Arroyo de la Luz and Malpartida de Cáceres on the other. The local road CC-113 also reaches Alcántara, connecting it with Mata de Alcántara and Garrovillas de Alconétar.
Alcántara has a bus service that connects it with the capital Cáceres from Monday to Friday.
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