San Esteban Site
Murcia’s history is embedded deep within the roots of our culture and is present in our heritage. The most faithful testimony of our past is represented by a wealth of material and immaterial testimonies distributed throughout our municipality.
A few years ago, during the rehabilitation work of the San Esteban Garden, archaeological remains from modern and medieval times were found, among which those corresponding to the old suburb that medieval documents called "La Arrixaca" stood out significantly.
This set of remains, grouped in a small fragment of the urban fabric of that suburb, have been recognised by specialists as one of the most representative examples of Andalusian urbanismfossils.
Murcia City Council, aware of the importance of preserving that legacy to future generations, and placing firm beliefin historical heritage as a social value, assumes responsibility for its recovery, as well as the rehabilitation of the San Esteban surroundings, integrating the Renaissance church that for many years acted as an exhibition hall, as well as the extension of the project, that runs into the adjacent streets that make up this block.
In short, we want to return a public space, the central San Esteban Plaza, to Murcia.
It has an area of 10,000 m2, and has allowed us to document the evolution of this urban space from Andalusian times to the present day.
The visible remains correspond mainly to the appearance of a 13th century Andalusian neighborhood, with some visible elements from the 12th century and possibly even from the end of the 11th. Bearing this in mind, it can be understood that they would correspond to the time of greatest political and cultural splendor of late medieval Murcia.
This neighborhood, which has emerged thanks to archaeological work, corresponds to what the medieval written sources call "rabaḍ, rrabal or suburb of the Arrixaca";
a large neighborhood that stretched across the area between the current Malecón garden, the Silk garden and Puerta Nueva. According to the poet al-Qarṭaŷannī -who lived the last moments of Andalusian Murcia- the northern part of the same had beautiful almunias, palaces and gardens. With the Castilian conquest and the subsequent occupation of the Madīna, the remaining Mursi population concentrated in that suburb.
The archaeological excavation has markedly changed the image that al-Qarṭaŷannī offered us, because undoubtedly, judging by the remains found, he had to be referring to some neighboring place. On the contrary, in San Esteban an urban plot has been found that denotes a strong demographic pressure that would go back, at least, to the 12th century - the century of Ibn Mardanīš, the famous "Wolf King" -; moment in which the madina was overwhelmed, and spaces like the one we are dealing with had to be urbanized.
This urbanization included all kinds of social groups, so that, in addition to the houses, we also find signs of large buildings, almost palatial. In fact, the excavations carried out in the past in the Palace of San Esteban allow us to intuit the existence of a large mansion from the Islamic period under it.
The urban fabric of Murcia is well known to us from the excavations that in the last three decades have been documenting all the lots affected by urban renewal. The same thing that we found in San Esteban exists under the old quarter of the city of Murcia, and is being systematically studied.
Analysed individually, and from a purely architectural point of view, the dwellings documented in the excavation present a level of constructive quality usual in the excavated sites of the urban area of Murcia. What arouses the greatest interest in the remains found in San Esteban is the possibility of having an overview of a large urban space that brings together houses, streets and walkways.