Baeza is placed in the geographical centre of the province of Jaén, surrounded by the rivers Guadalquivir and Guadalimar, and has historically been a crossroads of important natural ways. Its peculiar and strategic geopolitical location has fostered the settlement of different peoples over the centuries (Iberians, Romans, Visigoths and Muslims). The mishmash of these cultures has made of Baeza a splendid monumental site, with astounding Renaissance architecture and whimsical pebbled streets worth getting lost in.
In the acme of the Roman Empire, Baeza consolidated its status as an administrative and commercial power and it became the most important urban nucleus of the region. Occupied by Muslim troops in the 8th century, the majority of the population converted to Islam. It would not be until 1227 that Fernando III the Saint reconquered the town and made it the leading stronghold for the Reconquista of Al Andalus, with relevant privileges. The 13th century witnessed the return of the Catholic Church and the arrival of the most influential religious orders of Spain, who settled as authentic urban foci. For the two subsequent centuries, Baeza underwent a process of artistic and architectural splendour, with the foundation of the University and the Seminario Conciliar. However, the town will decay in the 18th and 19th centuries due to the Mendizábal Disentailment, which confiscated the goods of the Church, the crisis of the reign of Carlos IV and the War of Independence against the French. This situation empowered the agricultural bourgeoisie and olive trees became the main source of wealth.
From the 20th century onwards, Baeza enjoyed a significant urbanistic development and in 1996 it was declared “Historic and Artistic Complex”. The declaration of Baeza and Úbeda as World Heritage Sites in 2003 has boosted the development of cultural and monumental tourism in the latest years, as well as the Antonio Machado site of the International University of Andalusia (UNIA) has revived its eminent university tradition.
The dense and rich past of Baeza is attested in the architectural beauty of its buildings and in the grandeur irradiated by its pebbled streets.
· The Plaza de los Leones (Square of the Lions) welcomes the traveller coming from Jaén.
· The Antigua Universidad (Old University) held classes for nearly 3 centuries till it was demoted to Colegio de Humanidades (School of Humanities) in 1824 and later to Instituto de Bachillerato (High School). Its Renaissance walls witnessed the classes of French Grammar by the brilliant poet Antonio Machado, who praised his hometown in poems like “Los Grises Olivares” and “Los Alegres campos de Baeza”.
· Despite the clear predominance of Renaissance, Baeza holds wide panoply of art currents. The Iglesia de Santa Cruz (Church of the Holy Cross) attests a late Romanesque, and the façade of the Palacio de Jabalquinto (Palace of Jabalquinto) is a remarkable token of the so-called Flamboyant Gothic.
· In Plaza de Santa María (Square of Holy Mary) you can find the renown Fuente de Santa María (Fountain of Holy Mary) and the Seminario de San Felipe Neri (17th c.) (Seminary of San Felipe Neri).
· The Cathedral is the jewel of Baeza. Built over an old mosque, the Cathedral has undergone many transformations, especially in the 16th century, when it got its distinctive Renaissance beauty. The Gothic of the two main doors and of the stained glass combines perfectly with the Baroque altarpiece, fence and Custody and with the Mudejar-style cloister.
· The Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), declared National Monument, is one of the best examples of the Andalusian Plateresque style.
Roughly 10 km away from Baeza, we find Úbeda, the splendid, courtesan and exquisite town of the lavish Renaissance of princes and artists. It is in the 16th century that Úbeda reaches its acme, school of artists and home of powerful people spattered with palaces and towers. Its main sights, the Sacra Capilla del Salvador (Holy Chapel of the Saviour), the Plaza del Mercado (Market Square) and the many beautiful churches and convents, have made Úbeda World Heritage Site by the UNESCO alongside Baeza.
All the information has been taken from http://turismo.baeza.net/ and https://www.turismoencazorla.com/dondeiryquever/ubedaybaeza.html and has been summarised and translated into English by Joaquín Bueno Amaro.