Although always faithful to its seafaring vocation, the beginning of the exploitation of the Rio Tinto Mines by the English “Rio Tinto Company Limited” in the 19th century marked the starting point of its transformation into one of the most important industrial centers of southern Spain. We can visit natural beauty spots (Marismas del Odiel), archeological sites like the “Cabezo de San Pedro”, religious buildings like the cathedral or different churches such as San Pedro´s, majestic monuments like that of Columbus.
It is an area of special natural interest due to the beauty spots that surround it, it is also the Andalusian city eminently involved in the Discovery of America; it was in the nearby Monastery of the Rabida that the Columbine feat took shape; it was from Palos de la Frontera that the caravels set sail, manned by citizens of Huelva, and for many years the Port of Huelva, nowadays an important place in the so called “route of the shellfish”, monopolized trade with the Indies.
The splendour of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century is also reflected in the historic city centre, where emblematic buildings such as the Great Theatre, with its façade of great columns, were built. Also from this period is the impressive Casa Colón (Columbus House), which used to be a hotel and now houses diverse offices; it is there where, at the end of the summer, one of the most important cultural events in Huelva takes place since 1975: the “Festival de Cine Iberoamericano de Huelva” (Spanish-Latin American Film Festival) in mid November.
We would like to thank the Huelva City Council for the information and photographs provided.
Casa Colón (Columbus House)
Inaugurated in 1883 as “Gran Hotel Colon”, it is a luxurious hotel where the events of the 4th Centennial of the Discovery of America were celebrated. The building consists of four individual sections of different architectonic styles, around a central courtyard with elegant gardens and a fountain. It is the site of the major Spanish-Latin American Film Festival; it houses the Conference Hall, Exhibition Halls, Municipal archives and different council offices.
Nuestra Señora de la Merced Cathedral
Located on the Plaza de la Merced, it is part of the convent of the order of “La Merced” founded in 1605 by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. Its construction ended in 1612.
The church, rebuilt after an earthquake according to the design of Pedro de Silva, is a colonial style building distributed in three naves, with an outstanding elegant facade. With the creation of the diocese of Huelva in 1954, it was chosen as the Cathedral. The convent, after its disentailment, has been used for different activities: Provincial Hospital, Diputación Provincial (Provincial Council) and Instituto General Técnico. Nowadays it houses one of the faculties of the University of Huelva.
“Humilladero de la Cinta”
A shoemaker walking towards Gibraleon had a strong headache and, praying to the Virgin, he tied a ribbon around his head and was healed. Thus, he decided to build there a chapel which was known as “Humilladero”. Some centuries later the Moors destroyed the chapel. In the year 1400, a young shepherd fleeing from a bull sank in that same place and an image of the Virgin appeared before him. It was then that the present building was erected.
Obviously this is what the legend says.
Actually, the building is from the late Moorish period, and it was probably built not long before Huelva fell in the hands of Alfonso X the Learned. The small chapel had once a door on each side with horseshoe arches, but they disappeared during the restoration made in 1921. Before this, it may have suffered other alterations. It is possible that it originally belonged to some Arab hermit.
Monument to Columbus
Two Km away from the city centre, overlooking the confluence of the Rio Tinto and Odiel rivers, is one of the most colossal monuments dedicated to the Discovery of America. In 1929 the American sculptress Gertrude V. Whitney crafted a monumental figure representing Columbus according to the cubist style.
The Riotinto Company Docks
The minerals extracted from the Riotinto mines, brought by train, were shipped from these docks. They were inaugurated in 1876 , designed by the English engineer George Barclay Bruce. It is a sample of functionality, designed according to the Eiffel Tower. It became an integral part of the port, and is now a pleasant promenade by the river mouth.
Mora Claros Palace
The owner of this palace was Don Antonio Mora y Claros. On April 1st 1920 he was elected mayor of Huelva, and all the decisions affecting Huelva were discussed in this palace. The architects were Moises Serrano and Perez Carasa. The palace is from the end of the 19th century.
The building is historicist and one of the most elegant in the area belonging to this period, mainly its exterior, since in the interior we find combinations of other styles, including modernism. The turret that tops the facade has Mansard roofs, typical of French architecture of the Second Empire; here we observe pillars, frontispieces and ornaments of classicist tradition.
In the interior we can appreciate the decoration with elements of both modernist inspiration and classicist style, mainly in the railings (iron with copper flowers) and large windows.
The pillars and the ceilings decorated with corbels at the entrance of the house are ornamented with cherubs. The tiles retain the Andalusian tradition of the beginning of the 20th century, featuring plants and animals (mainly birds). Donated by the owner to the city, and recycled in 1997, it is now a residential home for the elderly.
Major Parish of San Pedro
Located on the Plaza de San Pedro, it was built on the site of an old Mudejar mosque. It is the oldest religious building in the city. The style is Gothic-Mudejar, and it was probably built between the 15th and 16th centuries.
It is a typical Sevillian Mudejar temple: three naves separated by an arcade and a polygonal apse. The building was slightly remodelled in the 17th century, but massive remodellation was necessary in the 18th century due to the 1755 earthquake.
Plaza de las Monjas
The origin of this square dates back to the establishment of the convent of the Augustian Nuns, therefore its name (“monjas” means nuns). As the convent was built at the beginning of the 16th century, we can suppose that the square took shape in front of the convent during the first years of that century. The other building that contributes to the identity of this central square is the Palace of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, built in 1656-1657.
For many years this was the district meeting place during the hot summer evenings of Huelva. For this reason it was specially taken into account in the planning of the urban reforms at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The great remodelling project, led by Architect Francisco Monis y Morales, enlarged the square in 1907 at the expense of the palace’s stables, renewed the pavement and added gardens and trees.
After the civil war, part of the convent was demolished to allow a connection with the Plaza de San Francisco (Gran Via). Later, in 1964, other changes took place to allow traffic circulation, designed by architects Alejandro Herrero and Ricardo Anadon, which greatly altered the shape of the square.
Sanctuary of “Nuestra Senora de la Cinta”
Located in the “El Conquero” area, at the end of the Avenida Manuel Siurot, it is the building that shelters the patron saint of Huelva, Virgin of La Cinta.
Built in the 15th century, it features Mudejar style, it has three brick naves, the middle one still exhibiting the horseshoe arches typical of its Mudejar origins. There is a mural painting depicting the Virgin of La Cinta. The place was visited by Christopher Columbus following a promise made to the Virgin during critical moments of his journey; his visit is depicted in the blue-and-white tiled illustrations, designed by artist Daniel Zuloaga in 1920.
Cabezo del Conquero
It is a high area on which are based the fishing districts: El Carmen, Las Colonias and La Orden districts. It is one of the most outstanding places and it is on the way to the sanctuary of the Virgin of La Cinta, patron saint of the city. On the top of the hill, we can discover the viewpoint of El Conquero, which offers wonderful views of the Marismas de Odiel, the city and its surrounding areas.