Calahorra: the robust tower of the Islamic Elche

Calahorra: the robust tower of the Islamic Elche
This historic building is one of the oldest, in use, of the city of Elche.

The Tower of Calahorra is an important vestige of the ancient Islamic wall, which defended and protected, first, the Andalusian medina and, later, the Christian village, after being rebuilt and reformed. Next to this robust tower, built between the 12th and 13th centuries, was the Lucentina (or Alicante) Gate, which led eastwards from the Vila Murada. It is believed that, originally, the Calahorra could be an exempt building and ahead of the wall, as a fortress.

In the vicinity of the tower there were other important contemporary buildings, such as Arab baths, whose remains can now be seen under the Convento de la Merced, or the main mosque of the Muslim settlement, on whose site the current Basilica of Santa Maria was built. In the fifteenth century it was annexed a building in its eastern part, which would be used as a lump of wheat and which, originally, should have been a portico with arches, which would later be closed. Likewise, and according to local historian Pedro Ibarra, the tower lost two thirds of its height in a fatal earthquake of 1829, which affected mainly the neighboring district of Vega Baja, where a total of 389 people perished.

In the second decade of the 19th century, the aforementioned almudín and Calahorra were converted into apartments by Rafael Brufal Melgarejo, Marqués de Lendínez, at which time different windows were opened in the thick walls of the tower and the battlements were added that are currently observed on the roof of the building. The almudín happened then to be used like dance hall and place of meetings of the illicitana Freemasonry. Pedro Ibarra was responsible for the decoration of this room, which embodied various Egyptian motifs on life and death. Also, if the people were surprised at one of their clandestine meetings, they had the option of running away through a trapdoor that connected to the basement.

Already in the first decade of the twentieth century, the whole was acquired by wealthy Jose Revenga and handed to his wife, Asunción Ibarra (widow of Dr. Campello, owner of the Alcudia). The Calahorra was then subjected to an important rehabilitation, being converted into a manor house. The muralist Agustín Espí Carbonell was commissioned, under the direction of the uncle of Asunción (Pedro Ibarra), of the decoration of the different rooms of the building.

At present, the Calahorra houses a permanent exhibition with different works of renowned artists, local and foreign, including Mariano Antón, Vicente Albarranch, Joaquín Sorolla and Cecilio Pla, among others.

The visit to this important patrimonial element is free every Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.