It's situated in a valley where two rivers converge, the Guadiana and Albarregas, between the hills of Calvary and San Albin and is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura. The city of Merida was founded in 25 BC by Emperor Octavian Augustus and his name was Colonia Julia Augusta Emerita. It became the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, being an important military, economic and cultural center besides being the ninth most important city of the Empire. At the end of the 3rd century Diocletian named it the capital of the Diocese of Hispania. With the Visigoths Merida would also live another period of splendor between the V and VII centuries. In the sixth century Christianity took hold and at this time the figures of several bishops, the so-called Holy Fathers of Merida, stood out. Then, with the Arabs, the city began to decline, Abderraman II ordered the construction of the Alcazaba and the dismantling of the Roman-Visigothic walls that defended it, and its population and power were seriously reduced until in 1230 it was reconquered by Alfonso IX who converted it into a Priory of the Order of Santiago.
It was during the time of the Catholic Kings that the city began its recovery and its presence in political and military events. Significant was also its contribution to the colonization of the new world. Napoleon's troops in the War of Independence also left their mark on Merida, which suffered a regrettable loss in its historical and artistic heritage. In 1810 it was named capital of the Prefecture of Guadiana and Guadajira. In 1983, it became the capital of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura and in 1993, Merida, which held the title of "Historic-Archaeological Site", UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.
Walking through Merida is to walk through the history and culture of the different peoples and people who found a good place to live there. Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Christians have left their mark on this timeless city where different constructions from different centuries live together in good harmony making the visitor to Merida feel the need to tour it with avid curiosity and admiration. Already in Roman times Merida was a walled city which was accessed by several gates, and two large bridges over the rivers Guadiana and Albarregas. The bridge over the Guadiana is the largest Roman bridge built in the peninsula around 25 BC. Water was brought to the city from Cornalvo and Proserpina reservoirs through aqueducts. There are few remainings of San Lazaro Aqueduct and the Aqueduct of the Miracles, built between 1st and 2nd centuries.
In Merida, public buildings had a special relevance, thermal baths, forums, temples, of these the only one that is preserved is the temple of Diana located in what was the municipal forum and was built in the first century, but the theater stands out from all of them, and is today the monument par excellence of Merida and that in its time was one of the most important of the Roman Empire; It was built between 16 and 15 B.C. by Agrippa, and years later, in 8 B.C., the Amphitheatre was erected next to it, where the shows with gladiators and wild animals were the delight of the Roman people. Near the entrance to the architectural complex formed by the theatre and amphitheatre you can enjoy the National Museum of Roman Art, the most important of its kind in Spain. Merida, of course, also had a circus that was built outside the walled area in the first century and renovated in the fourth. The Arch of Trajan, which could well have been a colossal triumphal arch, houses and mansions such as the House of the Mitreo with its more than famous mosaic depicting gods, heaven and earth, also form part of the legacy left by the Romans in this city and coexist with the Arab heritage of the Alcazaba, a fortress built in the time of Abderraman II and which houses a curious cistern carved into the rock, or the archaeological zone of La Morería.
From the Middle Ages, 5th century, are the origins of the Basilica of Santa Eulalia, the first Christian temple that was built in the peninsula after the Edict of Milan in which the Emperor Constantine allowed Christian worship. Can be seen the crypt with a necropolis, where the body of the patron saint and martyr of Mérida was buried, and the remains of the primitive temple. Outside the enclosure, the so-called Little Furnace of Santa Eulalia stands out, which houses an image of the saint. Walking along the centuries we arrive to the XIII century in which the co-cathedral of Santa María la Mayor was built and from later times are the church of Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, Santa Clara, the hospital of San Juan de Dios, the convents of San Francisco, de la Concepción, San Andrés or the palace of the Mendoza family. A quiet and peaceful walk through the island's park can be a good end to this intense visit to the beautiful city of Emerita.
Mérida honors its patron saint, Santa Eulalia, on December 10. The most important festivities of the city are celebrated the first week of September, it is the September Fair. The Holy Week of Merida has been declared of National Tourist Interest.
The tradition of the celebration of the Roman Carnival of Merida is not very clear from when it dates but there is evidence of the first municipal regulations for the celebration of carnivals in the city which are from the beginning of the 20th century.
The Emperor Augustus, after the Cantabrian wars in Asturias, decided to graduate his most veteran soldiers, the emerits, and for this he founded Emerita Augusta. With the aim of rewarding his emeriti of the legions X Gemina and V Alaudae with fertile lands in a territory totally away from the conflictive places, he chose the settlement of the colony next to the river Anas, today Guadiana.
The Christians were cruelly persecuted for their faith when the girl Eulalia, at the age of twelve, decided to cry out before the emperor her love for the true God and the doctrine of Jesus. The Roman court tried by all means to convince her to renounce her beliefs and to worship the gods, which did nothing but increase her faith and her love for the Lord. The praetor then ordered her to be tortured in order to make her weaken, but the opposite effect was felt in the girl. The Roman soldiers beat her body with iron rods, poured boiling oil on her and paraded her naked through the streets of the city, but suddenly a thick fog surrounded her, covering her before the astonished eyes of the people of Emerita. Seeing that they could not make Eulalia recant, they set fire to her, and when the flames touched her face, the girl bent over and absorbed them, and from her mouth came out a dove whiter than snow, and from the sky fell a heavy snowfall that covered the naked little body of the martyr Eulalia. This happened on December 10 and since then, around that time, a thick mist spreads over the ancient Emerita Augusta, they are "The Mists of the Martyr".
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The A-66, or La Plata motorway, goes to Merida and connects it with Seville to the south and Caceres to the north. The A-5 also crosses Merida from east to west and from Madrid to the city and continues to connect it with Badajoz and Portugal. Of course, there are several local and regional roads that connect it with the different towns in its surroundings.
Mérida has a bus station located at the Libertad Avenue, 45, where interurban services arrive with regional, national and international routes. The telephone number for further information is 924 371 404.
Merida has rail services that communicate with Madrid, Lisbon, Seville, Badajoz, Caceres or Ciudad Real, Plasencia, Talavera de la Reina, Don Benito, Villanueva de la Serena, ... Merida Station is located on the edge of the historic center, in the street Cardero, s / n.
The closest airport to Merida is Badajoz.
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