MAUSOLEO DE LA ALBERCA
- Declared Historical Artistic Monument of National Interest in 1931.
- It was discovered in 1832, but it was not studied until 1947, when it had already been totally devastated.
- It formed part of a Roman villa surrounded by a necropolis still awaiting to be researched.
The remains of this small mausoleum are located among those of a villa of the same period. It is important because besides being the most ancient Christian monument preserved in the Spanish southeast, the first one of a series of double vault buildings that would later start to appear throughout all the periods of Spanish Pre-Romanesque. In fact, the Mausoleo de La Alberca may be considered as the first known precedent of important monuments, such as Santa Eulalia de Bóveda, from a difficult to determine period; the Visigothic crypt of San Antolín in the Cathedral of Palencia and the Asturian buildings of Santa María del Naranco and the Holy Chamber of the Oviedo Cathedral, all of them from different periods but with the common feature with this mausoleum of being formed by two vaulted stories of a
rectangular plan and with the apse at one end, except in the case of Santa María del Naranco that has two viewpoints at the sides as it was built as a royal palace.
It was discovered in 1892 and destroyed years later by the owner of the land and his partners who were in the search of treasures. No preservation effort has been deployed so far and very little studied despite the interest that these rests contain.
It was a two story building of small proportions with only one rectangular nave each. The lower one -the only one that still keeps remains- has an external measure of 7.50 m wide by 12.50 m long. The interior is almost half; i.e.: 3.45 m wide by 5.85 m long. Its orientation is east-west and counts with one small lobby at the oriental side. There are remains of its tiled floor of a rectangular nave and of a semi circular apse of 2.70 m diameter ending at the opposite side. The apse in the lower plan is separated from the nave by a wall, what makes us suppose that it was devoted to a martirologium and might have contained relics of the saint to whom this mausoleum was dedicated to. All the upper part has disappeared.
The part that has been preserved of 1.60 m high seems it also originated from under the floor level. It consists of a nave with four tombs formed by big tombstones, located in a transversal position, the four of them of the same size: 2.45 m long by 0.9 m wide and 1 m high. It has a door in the rear part to which one can descend by a stone staircase, attached externally to the wall built in a base of tenon rough stone. It is very interesting the existence of buttresses in the lateral walls, that will later become one of the characteristics of the Asturian Pre Romanesque architecture. The walls are also made of tenon rough stone and they kept on their internal face rests of decorations of tiles with geometrical drawings. This nave must have been covered by a half barrel vault of which still exists the base of the arches in the four angles of the walls.
Although all of the upper part has disappeared, in view of its similarity with other martirium of the same period in the Oriental Mediterranean, we may figure out its original structure. As in those, whilst the lower part was dedicated to a mausoleum, the upper part was devoted to worship. The apse there would not be separated from the nave, but covered, possibly by a semi dome vault to lodge the altar. The nave, possibly with just one entrance door located in the same position as the mausoleum, one which would also have had access through a stone staircase attached to the wall, would be covered by a barrel vault, like the lower one, but in this case with a saddle roof.
Other interesting information
Access: Calle de la Paz, in La Alberca (Murcia). Leave Murcia by A30 to Cartagena; take exit 401 to La Alberca at 1 Km. GPS Coordinates: 37º 56′ 16,61″N 1º 8′ 28,20″W.
Museo de Arqueología Gran Vía Alfonso X (closed for reatauration).)
Visiting hours: Closed. To pay a visit a permit has to be requested at the Museo Arqueológico de Murcia.
Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomo III Ars Hispanie: Tomo II
L’Art Preroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE