Lost heritage

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Approaching Úbeda from the south, the church of San Lorenzo is hard to distinguish from the old city wall, having been built against one of its towers and out of the same reddish sandstone, like so many old buildings in Úbeda.

In the façades of great houses, built of blocks of dressed stone, the stone is left bare, often carved with caryatids of extraordinary elegance, done by a French sculptor who worked here in the 16th century and is said to have run afoul of the Inquisition, perhaps because his figures look more like classical divinities than Catholic saints. In the ordinary houses, built mainly of rubblework rather than dressed stone, which is reserved for the surrounds of doors and windows, the walls are uniformly whitewashed, producing an impression of sober elegance, architectural harmony and of continuous urban tissue. When I was a child, more houses than now were built against the wall, like organisms that had grown out of it. Old palaces with columned courtyards had been subdivided into populous tenements.