Medinaceli is located in the province of Soria in the region of Castilla y León. Situated on a hill near the motorway, it connects Madrid with Barcelona. It is a small town with a monumental centre full of palaces, mansions, a monastery, remains of city walls, the ruins of a Moorish castle, and a special Roman triumphal arch.
The location must always have been strategic right in the middle of the Spanish plateau, 156 kilometres northeast of Madrid. Medinaceli owes its nickname ‘Ciudad del Cielo’ (city of the sky) to its special location. One of the most important noble families in Spain, the Dukes of Medinaceli gave the town its current name.
We were there on June 22, the first day after the lockdown. Because this was when people were allowed to travel within Spain again since the 15th of March. As a result, we had Medinaceli all to ourselves. The town is very old, yet it is remarkably spacious in contrast to other historic towns in Spain we know. Much of the old grandeur can be seen thanks to extensive restoration work. At the large car park behind the triumphal arch, we gathered it would normally be quite touristy here. And at the entrance to the village, there is a sign of the organisation ‘Los pueblos más bonitos de España’. A promising recommendation!
Roman triumphal arch
The village can pride itself on the fact that they have the only Roman triumphal arch on the Iberian Peninsula. Furthermore, it was built a century BC. Also, there are two special temples that adorn the arch, damaged by time and the elements. The Romans built the triumphal arch here to mark the boundary between two administrative districts. In addition, the arch was actually the entrance to the city, then called Ocilis. The arch could be seen from the route between ancient Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) and Augusta Emerita (the current province of Mérida). Also, the Roman edifice was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1930. And in 1963 the city of Medinaceli was declared a Historic-Artistic Site.