Photography Juan Miguel Salido

Brief history of Úbeda

Origins and first communities

According to legend, Úbeda was founded by a descendant of Noah, Tubal.
The first settlements that existed in Úbeda date back to prehistory, when during the cultures of the Copper and Bronze Age – III and II millennium BC – different communities inhabited the place that today occupies the Alcázar neighborhood. It is known that these towns were dedicated to livestock and agriculture due to the multiple remains that have been found: ceramic vessels, punches, sickles, etc.
Remains from the late Roman and Visigothic times have also been found, which suggest the existence of a small population nucleus dependent on the Roman colony of Salaria, known as Úbeda la Vieja.
In search of exchanges, the Greeks and later the Carthaginians arrived in Úbeda, the latter being defeated by the Romans after long wars. Under the Roman Empire the city would be known as Bétula (Baetula). However, Úbeda acquires its true entity as an important population center in Arab times.

Arab period

Il est fondé par Abderramán II (822-852), qui l’a appelé Medinat-Ubbadat Al-Arab (Úbeda des Arabes). En raison de son artisanat, de son commerce et de son agriculture, elle est devenue l’une des villes les plus importantes d’Al-Andalus. Son enceinte clôturait plus de 35 000 hectares.


The city is conquered – after some attempts such as the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), with Alfonso VIII – in 1233 by King Fernando III “the Saint”, who skillfully took advantage of the anarchy of the Almohad kingdom for its annexation, forming part of the conquests he made: the Kingdom of Jaén, Córdoba, Seville and Cádiz, giving a decisive boost to the Reconquest.
The taking of Úbeda gave way to the coexistence of different cultures (Arab, Jewish and Christian), although in the Christian era Úbeda saw its jurisdictional scope increase notably, reaching its term from Torres de Acún (Granada) to Santisteban del Puerto, passing through Albanchez de Úbeda, Huesa and Canena. Although already in the middle of the 16th century its jurisdiction had been established over the terms of Cabra de Santo Cristo, Quesada and Torreperogil along with some alcaicerías.
A decisive factor in this period is its important geostrategic value. Its border character (Granada-Castilla), causes the Castilian kings to grant it numerous privileges and concessions, such as the charter of Cuenca.
The wealth and splendor that Úbeda achieved in the 16th century was determined by a multiplicity of factors, among which its communication networks, its extensive territorial jurisdiction, its strategic geographical location and the presence of an increasingly powerful nobility stand out. However, during the 14th and 15th centuries the unstable war situation was the protagonist, with Muslim raids and offensives, and the fights between nobles with the intention of dominating the Council.
Although social conflicts damaged the economy, based mainly on vineyards and cereals, at this time livestock production reached a remarkable development due to the richness of the pastures.
The Mudejars were the base of agriculture and the existing artisan industry (pottery and esparto), although the Muslim population could not be large due to the proximity of the Nasrid Kingdom.
In 1368, the city was devastated due to the civil war between Pedro I of Castile and Enrique II of Trastamara, which, in combination with other circumstances, led to a renewed rivalry between the local sides, which was resolved when the Catholic Monarchs took part in the matter.


The 16th century will be the time of maximum splendor in the entire history of Úbeda, which experienced significant economic development due to the increase in agricultural production and the diversification of the artisan industry. In addition, economic development brought with it a demographic increase, with the city reaching a population of 18,000 inhabitants. During this stage, the presence of illustrious characters that would leave their mark in history, such as San Juan de la Cruz, stand out.
Society is strongly stamentalized, divided into three classes, fixed-rulers (nobility), clergy, and pecheros. The latter constituted the majority of the population, being the only producing class. Economic power is held by a small and medium aristocracy that owns agricultural and urban farms, also monopolizing municipal power. The other ruling class is the clergy, whose presence in the city is notorious, since they owned numerous properties and received part of the taxes.
In this century, members of the ubetense nobility participate in the highest positions of both the civil and ecclesiastical bureaucracy, highlighting the Cobos Molina family, whose main member, Francisco de los Cobos, will hold the position of secretary of Emperor Carlos V, reaching the highest social status with the acquisition of several noble titles and a great fortune derived from his administrative activity.
Other members of his family, such as Juan Vázquez de Molina or Diego de los Cobos, also follow in his footsteps and leave in the city the most important architectural works of the 16th century in Úbeda, made by great artists of the time such as Siloé, Vandelvira, Berruguete. …


At the end of the century, bad harvests and other adverse circumstances such as epidemics, wars, fiscal pressure and reduction of its jurisdictional scope, caused the splendor reached by the Úbeda of the 16th century to decline. However, in the last decades of the 18th century Úbeda witnessed an attempt at economic recovery.
Later, with the War of Independence, in which the French remained between 1810 and 1813 in the city, great economic damage was caused, not recovering again until the end of the 19th century, experiencing a small resurgence with the improvement in technical advances. arriving late in the city, which is still a rural area hardly affected by the industrial revolution.
In the social aspect, the existence of casinos, as social gathering centers, in which different tendencies have a place, supposes an ideological opening typical of this century.

19th and 20th centuries

In the 19th century, the foundations of liberalism were established in Úbeda, which were based on the predominance in the politics of large landowners, and caciquismo and electoral falsification were implemented.
At the end of the 19th century, the petty bourgeoisie with some landowners revived the activity in the city thanks to agriculture and industry.
During the 20s of the 20th century, the regenerationist rhetoric, whose ambitious idea was to launch Úbeda into a new Renaissance, put into practice numerous reform and improvement projects in the city. That is why in these years education and basic services have been extended.
During the Civil War, violence, repression and political revenge plunged Úbeda into a long phase of depression. The city was not a front of war, but suffered the sacks of prisoners from both sides. The postwar period is still remembered by his contemporaries as “the years of famine.”
During the 60s and 70s, the local industry has a strong rebound thanks to the development pull, but insufficient to compensate for the strong population increase, aimed at emigration. Slowly, the renaissance Úbeda is going to reach its current place as a provincial reference, head of the region and as a center of industry and services at a regional level of growing importance. That is why on July 3, 2003 it is named, together with Baeza, a World Heritage Site.