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Previous notes

  • According to Biclarensis, Leovigildo founded a city in Celtiberia that he called Recópolis, in honour of his son, in a very elaborate design on its walls and vicinity, and granting privileges to its dwellers.
  • The remains were partially excavated in 1944 1nd 1945, and later, between 1976 and 1978, confirming they corresponded to Recópolis.
  • The Archaeological Park of Recópolis has been created latley, including an interpretation centre of the site.

Historic environment

Recópolis is one of the two cities founded by the Gothics in Spain. The other one is Victoriacum, in Álava; it is apparently the origin of Vitoria. They are the sole cities of new plan in western Europe between the 6thand the 8thcenturies. It was built by Leovigildo in honour of his son Recaredo in 578, as his seat in his condition of associated king and it was abandoned in the 10thcentury, after it had been inhabited by Muslims, under the name of Madinät Raqqubal. It contains the remains of the most important palace of that time and was the most ancient royal foundation in that period of European history.

It consists of a centre of population of a great historical worth where, following the Byzantine urban models, it included the function of royal residence as well as administrative seat of the government. Recópolis: Reconstrucción de la fachada principal del palacioThe importance of these data has been reaffirmed by the archeological discoveries that include, within an urban planification in steps, a palace, the palatial church, the walls, the aqueduct, commercial areas and houses, streets, mint and quarries. All of that within a piece of land of high ecological value; of Mediterranean farming, cattle richness and lots of hunting in a place that has not gone through great change. The inhabited part was 30Ha and the area, surrounded by solid walls formed by stretches of ashlars with towers every 30 meters and with one only entrance door to the west, consisted of two differentiated centres of population: the Villa Alta and the Villa Baja. The high town that had access through a monumental gate, also of Byzantine style contains the remains of a great palatial ensemble and of the church to which it is connected. The servants, the armed forces and the rest of the residents of the city settled themselves in downtonn.


The palace had huge dimensions: 133m long by 9m wide. The construction had the shape of a rectangular nave with Recópolis: Palacio, vista de su estado actualcentral supports, what suggests a gabled roof. It was a two storey building and for the rest of the decorations and the pavings that have been found, the upper one must have been of greater relevance. It had inner towers in its interior side.

The church, which remains lie under the small Romanesque chapel of Nuestra Señora de Recatel, is probably the last Arrian Visigothic church and because of its plan structure it clearly belongs to the Transition phase and can be considered as a precedent of the cruciform churches.

In principle, it has the structure of a three nave basilic with a sort of transept that sticks outRecópolis: Planta de la basílica. Observese que los muros laterales no son perpendiculares a la cabecera from the lateral ones, an apse with inner shape of a semicircle prolonged and rectangular in its exterior and a nartex with one only entrance door that seems to have included a baptistry in a lateral compartment. But in this case the lateral naves are separated from the central one by continuous walls forming two lateral galleries that communicated the portico with the crossing but not with the naves. This peculiarity turns its plan into a Latin cross with two lateral aisles that are not recognizable from the interior, and consequently, in a clear precedent of the later group of cruciform churches. Its distribution, according to the conditionings of the Arrian cult would have dedicated the chevet and the crossing to the clergy; the vestry in the northern nave; the central nave to the baptized faithful; the nartex and the southern nave to the catechumen, and the baptistry at the entrance to the left. Between the door to the nartex and the entrance door of the church, six column bases have been found that must have given a really solemn appearance to the entrance of the church. Part of theses columns, as well as other remains of the decoration, have been reutilized in constructions of Zorita de Los Canes; also, remains of decoration of unmistakeable Visigothic style have apppeared in the excavations that had been created for this church, like capitals, abacus, an inner door.

Recópolis: Basílica, reconstrucción estimativaBearing in mind the importance of this church, from which we know the date it was built; its Arrian adscription and that it unquestionably represents the official thinking and that it was built with the king's will, it is a trascendental link in the Transition period from the churches with chevet modified towards the cruciform churches that appeared nearly one hundred years later, already under Roman rite.

With regard to the building technique, the main buildings were in ashlars, sandstone and tufa stone from the near by quarries where they also were engraved with Roman technique, whereas the rest of the constructions were built in masonry. The covers were generally of curved tiles, gabled over a wooden structure.

It is also interesting to point out the sculpted remains that have been found, in which we see mingled the capitals, keel mouldings and inner doors of the church we have already mentioned, Recópolis: Detlle de las basas de las columnas que existían en el nártex de entradaengraved at two planes with usual Visigothic techniques, with other Early Christian techniques, probably from sarcophagus.

The Archeological Park of Recópolis is now (2005) being created. It includes a visitors' reception where the archeological richness of this Visigothic city may be known, its history, its natural environment, and the way its people lived, as well as a research centre and a museum that will conform the Centre of Interpretation of the Archeological Park in a new building located in an easy to reach zone on the way to Recópolis, in order to visit three most important places in this area: the site of Recópolis, the Tajo river valley and the hamlet of Zorita de Los Canes. It is structured in two parts, one of which will contain the reception, exhibition and audio halls; offices and toilets. The second one will integrate the research zones, the warehouse and the work with the elements of the site, since, so far, only the 10% of this Visigothic city has been excavated.).

Other interesting information

Access: Leave Madrid by R-3 (toll freeway) until the detour by M-300 to Campo Real, Eurovillas and Zorita de Los Canes. Recópolis lies 4Km south of Zorita, on a plateau over the Tajo river. GPS Coordinates: 40º 19' 15,37"N 2º 53' 36,60"W.
Information telephone: Ayuntamiento de Zorita de Los Canes: 949 37 69 23.
Visiting Hours: From  1 de Septiember 2012 the Parque is closed.. 



Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomo III
Ars Hispanie: Tomo II
L'Art Preroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE


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