Dax Cathedral has been the the bishop's seat officially since 1833 when it was transferred from Aire Cathedral. In the late 13th century, when the town of Dax was at the height of its prosperity, the bishops had a number of ecclesiastical buildings constructed, among which was a new cathedral on the site of an ancient Romanesque sanctuary which had become too cramped. This Gothic structure collapsed in 1646; all that remains of it is the magnificent Portal of the Apostles in the north transept: 12 metres high and 8 metres wide, this doorway contains a quantity of beautiful sculptures, fairly rare in the south of France, despite some mutilations and damage incurred during the passage of time.
Apart from the portal, which was classed as a national monument of France in its own right in 1884, the present cathedral was built from 1694 onwards in a plain style of classical inspiration. The main façade and south elevation have a massive, almost austere, appearance. The north elevation however, which looks onto a small square in the historical centre of the town, does not lack charm, despite a certain rigidity.
The dome over the crossing is decorated with murals. The quire houses the old stalls (16th century) of the canons, saved from the former cathedral. The mid-18th century high altar and the altar of the Virgin Mary are of polychromatic marble and are the work of the Mazzetti brothers, originally from Switzerland but resident in Avignon. The organ loft, of the late 17th century, was the work of Caular, a local ebonist. After its recent restoration this organ loft is considered one of the most beautiful in France.
The building also contains a number of paintings, among them 'Jesus and His Disciples' by Gerrit van Honthorst (17th century), and the 'Adoration of the Shepherds' by Hans von Aachen (late 16th century).References:
Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.
It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.
Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.
Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.
The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.
The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.
With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.
Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.