Earth bathed in gold
Écija emerges in the soul of the Sevillian countryside, guarded by soft hills and elegantly positioned on the banks of the Genil. It shows one of the most impressive villages of urban planning in southern Andalusia. Art and history merge to present us with the unique and unrepeatable vision of its temples, palaces, convents and towers that endow this spectacular Historical-Artistic Site with an unmistakable face. The passage of time has made Ecija the best example of balance between antiquity and the present.
The origins: Pre and Protohistory
The foundation of the city is located around the VIII century BC. in the field of Tartessian civilization. Until the Roman conquest, around 200 BC, it was a small turdetano town of cabins, located in the slight elevation next to the Genil river known today as Cerro del Alcázar or San Gil (“El Picadero”).
The splendor in Roman times
The city experienced its greatest period of splendor during the Roman domination, participated in favor of César in the Civil Wars against Pompey and, around 14 BC, the so-called “Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi” was founded, a large city with paved streets traced in regular grid, sewers and water distribution network, forum, temples, baths and amphitheater, next to a bridge through which the Via Augusta crossed the Genil. Since then it was the capital of a very extensive legal convent, one of the four in which the Bética was divided, which comprised no less than 49 cities and included a large part of the current provinces of Córdoba, Granada and Jaén. Its main wealth derived from the olive cultivation and the long-distance export of oil, using the fluvial route by the Genil and the Guadalquivir and, later, the maritime route from Seville.
Écija in al-Andalus
The city continued to be an important cultural and religious center at the time of the fall of the Empire, when it became the seat of a bishopric, and in Islamic times, when Istiya (or Astiya) was the provincial capital during the emirate and the caliphate The Arab chroniclers highlight the fertility and richness of their territory, in which settled an important Berber settlement. The Muslims introduced the irrigated crops and, among them, the cotton whose characteristic development in Écija, led to the coining of the nickname of Madînat al-qutn (“The city of cotton”).
The Late Middle Ages and the Modern Age: Ecija in the Crown of Castile
In May of 1240 Écija was conquered by Fernando III and distributed among new Castilian settlers, among them many nobles, the military orders and the Church. The development of the great landed property that has marked all the later, late medieval and modern history starts, to a large extent, from this feudal distribution and its development in the Modern era.
Baroque Écija: the “Ecijano Golden Age”
The entire eighteenth century, considered “The golden century Ecijano”, lives a splendor of civil buildings and churches linked to the concentration of property and ecclesiastical and aristocratic power. At this time there were about 40 noble titles in the city, 13 of them Grandes de España. The historic center of Écija preserves one of the best legacies of architecture and baroque art in Andalusia and, probably, of the entire Iberian Peninsula: palaces, churches (with the towers that have made the city famous), convents, public buildings and houses -palace that, together with its rich personal property and extensive documentary archives, constitute an exceptional historical heritage.
In 1402 Enrique III restituted to Ecija the title of city. The royal favors continued: Carlos I adds the title of “Very loyal” to that of “Very noble” that Écija already showed. Felipe V grants him the appointment of “Constant, loyal and most faithful” in 1710.
Pampered by royalty, in 1880 Alfonso XII granted the City Council the treatment of “Excellent.” Still in the twentieth century, Écija receives in 1966 a new title, as deserved or more than the previous ones: the one of “Historical-artistic set”.
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