The provincial capital of Huelva is a large, sprawling and industrialized city nestled between the Tinto and Odiel estuaries.
More than 2,500 years ago born as Onuba, its location allowed it to develop and maintain intensive trade in minerals which were exported throughout the Mediterranean.
Huelva’s central area is about 1km square and many of its key sites are a short walk from the Plaza de las Monjas (Nun’s courtyard), the city’s palm-lined main square.
To the north of this plaza is located la Catedral de la Merced. In the 17th century it formed part of a convent which was subsequently destroyed by an earthquake. It is reconstructed and restored with a brilliant white interior and a salmon-pink colonial façade with elegant belfries.
North of the city is a more interesting church and one with Colombus connections, the Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Cinta, a simple white walled chapel where Colombus is said to have prayed before setting off. The location of this chapel provides a panoramic view of the city and Odiel estuary.
The Casa Colón stands as a tribute to the discovery of America. The complex consists of four buildings in Colonial style with beautiful gardens. These house a museum which houses numerous contemporary exhibits, a conference centre, the municipal archives and a luxurious establishment where the ceremonies celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Discovery of America were held.
Monasterio De Santa Maria De La Rabida
The monastery of la Rabida has been Franciscan property since the 13th century. Colombus found support among the monks and within this monastery the planning for his voyage of discovery was made.
Situated amid a forest of pines is the small whitewashed monastery which is rather surprising. The building is Gothic-Mudejar in style and it is reputed that Colombus took refuge in the monastery in 1490 after the Catholic Monarchs had rejected his request to send out an expedition in search of the Indies. The Prior and confessor of Queen Isabella intervened on his behalf and his proposal was heard.
Upstairs within a ponderous and impressive beamed room is where the final plans for the voyage were drawn up by the Prior, Colombus and the Pinzon brothers who captained the other two ships that accompanied Colombus.