This was my first time ever in Cádiz, but hopefully not my last. It is a tiny little place with which you feel oddly well acquainted with only after a couple of days. It is well worth a visit and whilst I was there, there was always something to do. It is a place you do not want to leave - even less so when you're sat waiting for your train to leave in the blistering sun because overnight Andalucía had transitioned into Summer!
On our first day we went to the Museum of Cádiz. This was a short walk from my friends' apartment, and an even shorter walk from where she lived before. I think what I noticed after a few days there is that you really cannot be far away from the main sights unless you are in the new town, in which case it would be a bit of an effort. Renfe trains are lovely though (describing a train as lovely is something I suspect to be very English because I have noticed everywhere has nice trains except for here) so it wouldn't be the end of the world to hop on one between the old and new parts.
Anyway, the museum was placed right where you wouldn't see it on the Plaza de Mina. The plaza is very pretty (as they all are) and according to friend/tour guide, the palm trees had been taken from Morocco or somewhere and planted on the square. It looks really diddy from the outside and we did get confused about how to get in. However, we settled with the entrace that had 'Museo de Cádiz' written above it in the end lol.
If I remember rightly, the staff do not really speak English (do not expect the Costa del Sol where every other person speaks English, bring a phrasebook!), However, there is a museum guide/leaflet/floor plan available in a few different languages at reception.
A little bit of history, according to my leaflet: Building designed in the 1830s by an architect called Juan Daura. He had remodelled what was previously a Franciscan convent into a late-neoclassical style building. By 1852, the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts had been created as an extension of the Academy of Fine Arts. This change may be due to the amounting pressure that came from the Disentailment Act of parliament made active under the leadership of Juan Alvarez Mendizabal. This act was responsible for the displacement of fine art from monasteries across the country...and they needed a home. The Disentailment Acts of the 1830s was basically part of a wider plan to secularise Spain and manage their crippling debt. The act meant that religious property (not only religious but they were clearly targeted) could be nationalised and then sold off to make some money. After this, it wasn't until 1887 until the next big event for the museum took place. The discovery of the anthropoid sarcophagus. From this point onwards the realisation of Cádiz as an archeological hotspot had been well and truly made. More things were found over the years and therefore the museum grew, and would eventually grow into the collection it is today.
The inside of the museum feels like a contemporary space with character, probably due to its 1980s renovation. White washed walls constructed into a 3-tier loggia, complete with an inside courtyard.
The ground floor hosts their archeological collection. The first couple of rooms concern themselves with pre history, so lots of archaic tools and things that were found in the caves in the area. Carry on and you will see lots eerie tombs, Roman marbles with missing heads, Roman ceramics, jewelry, hair pins, Roman armour among loads of interesting ancient artifacts. Adjacent to the Roman rooms are the Moorish rooms, with pottery, jewelry and the usual archeological loot, adorned with gorgeous arrabesque patterns and sculpted from fine materials, that the historical Moorish population of Andalucía enjoyed.
Upstairs you enter the fine art gallery. Literally a gallery, with their collection dispersed across the walls of the loggia and the odd room behind it. The collection begins with the proto renaissance, images adorned with terrifying baby Jesus' that look more like gremlins who have been fed after midnight than a little baby. Moving on, you enter the glorious Spanish renaissance, then the Baroque and Rococo. The period of time represented here was approximately the mid 15th century to the 19th century. The most impressive thing by far (in my opinion) was the amazing collection of Francisco de Zubaran. There is an entire room dedicated to the caravaggesque 17th century Spanish painter. His paintings are dark, contrasting, emotive and religious. We accidentally caused the alarm to sound a couple of times in here, don't do that, you will get followed... Another note worthy piece in here is of course their Rubens! It is tiny. It does however give their room that tells the story of the flemish influence in Spanish art credibility of the best kind.
The Zubaran Alterpiece
The third and final floor is dedicated to modern art. I really enjoyed this. Modern art collections can be a bit hit and miss, but this one was enjoyable. My favourite thing ever was a modern reproduction of the evangelists. It reminded me of Jack Vettriano's portrayal of people but with a great twist: these were mobster like men bearing the message of God. Ha, amazing!
Jose Hinojo, 1997, the Evangelists.