Roman palace in Cordoba was destroyed for train station

by Deborah Cater
Cordoba rain station which destroyed a Roman palace and other Roman heritage sites

Archaeologists in Spain reflect on the dubious anniversary of a Córdoba train station that was prioritised over the protection of important cultural heritage, including an entire Roman palace. In 1991 the station became an important connection point with the Expo in Seville.

In that year, Spanish archaeologists tried to protect the site of Cercadilla. They requested an urgent procedure for monument status (bien de interés cultural), the highest degree of protection. There was no response from the Andalucian government to a signed petition. In 1995, when more than half the archaeological finds had already disappeared, official protection was granted to the remaining elements.

“Indistinct looting”

Archaeologist Camino Fuertes of the Andalucian Agency for Cultural Institutions calls the destruction of the Roman building “a brutal attack on the historical heritage and an oversimplified looting”. It concerns the destruction of a palace from the Roman Empire of Cordoba. The palace was built between 293 and 305 at the behest of Emperor Maximian. Construction work for the high-speed train station started in May 1991 on the eight-hectare complex.

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Good connection to Seville for Expo 1992

A station was built on the Roman site of Cercadilla as early as the fourteenth century. This medieval edifice was converted into a contemporary train station in 1991, with the surrounding Roman remains disappearing within days. That decision was taken by the local, regional and national authorities to facilitate the AVE train service between Madrid and Seville in view of the World’s Fair that was to take place in Seville a year later. At the time, press reported the destruction of a Roman theatre, mosaics, temple, amphitheatre and entire palace.

Unique monument

According to Fuertes, authorities reported the site was of no particular value. They also said the excavations were only good for archaeologists’ purses. In addition, they said the Roman remains would be processed in the train station. Furthermore, the train tracks would be laid in such a way that no unnecessary damage would occur. Thirty years later, it can be concluded not much of that is true. In September 1992, an international committee of experts announced it was a unique monument that should have been respected and further investigated.

In 2015, the Andalucian government transferred the management of Cercadilla to the Municipality of Cordoba, which is keeping the site closed. Since then, there has been no policy for the maintenance or preservation of the surviving Roman remains.

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