Historically, Extramadura has always been one of the least populated and remote regions of Spain and the Iberian Peninsula as a whole. Today the population is a little over one million inhabitants, less than 3% of the Country’s total, but has been in decline since the latter decades of the C20th. as people have moved to the larger population centres around Spain. It is a pattern seen in earlier times witnessed by the large number of ‘Conquistadors‘ that went to the Americas and whose origins were in Extramadura: names such as the Pizzaro brothers, born in Trujillo, Pedro de Valdivia, born in Villanueva de la Sarena and his mistress Inéz de Suárez – infamous for fighting alongside the men and for beheading seven Indians being held hostage during an attack – born in Plasencia.
While there is evidence that the site has been occupied since antiquity and at one time known as Ambroz, the present city of Plasencia was founded in 1186 AD. The city stands on a bend of the Rio Jerte and the Via Delapidata with impressive double-line medieaval walls, with 6 gates and 68 towers, that were constructed at its founding in the late C12th. The old town can be clearly seen in the narrow street plan centred around the cathedral. The Alcazar, or Keep, was demolished in 1949.
‘Las Catedrales’ is a composite of two cathedrals built on the same site. The first Romanesque building was started in 1189 AD, but in 1498 AD work began on a new Gothic building on the same site and part of the original cathedral was demolished in the process. Further changes in style occurred until work was abandoned in the C18th. leaving an edifice that was both incomplete and comprised of a mix of several architectural styles – the latest being ‘Stork’.
By the C15th. local nobles began moving into Plasencia and a university was founded in 1446 AD further adding to the city’s draw for wealthier citizens looking to educate their children.
The impressive aqueduct of St. Anton was built in the C16th. to bring water into the city from springs around Caze…. and El Torno to the northeast.
During the Peninsular War around the turn of the C19th. the city was of strategic importance to the French who had to capture and recapture it no less than 12 times leading to the destruction of numerous buildings and many of the population being killed.
Today the population stands at about 40,000 inhabitants and has seen a dramatic tripling in the last 60 years, whilst in the 1570s AD it was recorded at about 1000 souls.
Modern urban Plasencia
Market day is on Tuesday.