Baeza's main square, the Plaza del Pópulo, is a two-story open colonnade. The buildings here date in part from the 16th century, and the tourist office, where you can get a town map, is housed in one of the most interesting. Look for the fountain containing four half-effaced lions, the Fuente de los Leones, which may have been brought here from the Roman town of Cantulo.
Head south along the Cuesta de San Gil to reach the Gothic and Renaissance Santa Iglesia Catedral, Plaza de la Fuente de Santa María (tel. 95-374-04-44), built in the 16th century on the foundations of an earlier mosque. Look for the Puerta de la Luna (Moon Door), and in the interior, remodeled by Andrés de Vandelvira (architect of Jaén's cathedral) and his pupils, the carved-wood and the brilliant painted rejas (iron screens). The Gold Chapel is especially stunning. The edifice possesses one of the most important Corpus Christi icons in Spain, La Custodia de Baeza. Climb the clock tower for a panoramic view of town. The cathedral is open October to May daily 10:30am to 1pm and 4 to 6pm, June to September 10:30am to 1pm and 5 to 7pm; admission is 2€ ($3.20).
After leaving the cathedral, continue up the Cuesta de San Felipe to the Palacio de Jabalquinto (tel. 95-374-27-75), a beautiful example of civil architecture in the Flamboyant Gothic style, built by Juan Alfonso de Benavides, a relative of King Ferdinand. Its facade is filled with interesting decorative elements, and there's a simple Renaissance-style courtyard with marble columns. Inside, two lions guard the ornate baroque stairway. Visiting hours are daily 10am to 2pm and 4 to 7pm.
With your back to the tourist office on Plaza del Pópulo, head up the stairs to your immediate right and go left on Calle Conde de Romanones. At the end of the street you'll see the old university of Baeza, Antigua Universidad. It was founded back in 1595 and is one of the oldest in the area. The poet Antonio Machado taught French here from 1912 to 1919; his fans request a key from the custodian to visit his classroom. Entrance to the school is on Beato Juan Avila s/n (tel. 95-374-04-44). Open Monday to Friday 9am to 2pm. Admission is free.
When you've seen the university, continue down Calle Conde Romanones until you reach Iglesia de Santa Cruz. Built sometime in the 1200s, this is the town's oldest church and one of the few Romanesque buildings still standing in Andalusia. Inside you can see frescoes of the Virgin Mary, San Sebastián, and St. Catherine. Admission is free and hours are usually Monday to Saturday 11am to 1pm and 4 to 7pm, and Sunday noon to 2pm.
Next door you'll see an entrance to a little museum displaying florid icons, ornately gilded carriages, and regional artifacts of the area. Its most interesting exhibits are bizarre costumes worn in the annual procession of the religious brotherhood of Santa Vera Cruz at the time of the Semana Santa. Don't make a special point of visiting the museum, but if the doors are open, you might pop in for a look. Free admission; it is usually open Monday to Saturday 11am to 1pm and 4 to 7pm and Sunday noon to 2pm. But don't count on those hours being honored.
Before leaving Baeza, you might take in the facades of two more buildings, one the Ayuntamiento at Plaza Cardenal Benavides, north of the landmark Plaza del Pópulo. It was designed by the same Andrés de Vandelvira who worked on the cathedral and the facade is a stellar example of the Plateresque style. Between the balconies you'll note the coat of arms of Philip II, among others. Sometimes a custodian will let you in for a look at the Salón de Plenos, the primary hall of the building, noted for its carved and painted woodwork.
Just a short stroll west of the Ayuntamiento is the Convento de San Francisco, Calle de San Francisco, another of Vandelvira's architectural masterpieces, dating from the 16th century. In the 1800s an earthquake struck the building, partially destroying it; it was further damaged when the French army came through. Although it's been partially restored, a quick look is probably sufficient.
To cap your visit to Baeza, head for the park atop the old city wall. To reach it, stroll along Paseo de las Murallas. Once here, you can take in the panoramic view of the Guadalquivir Valley, a carpet of green studded with olive trees.
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