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CULTURAL HERITAGE

Controversy erupts over castle restoration in Cádiz

Architect says the project followed legal requirements, but activists claim it is a complete disaster

Castillo de Matrera en Cádiz
The tower of Matrera Castle, before and after its restoration.

Has a restored ruin lost its charm? The work carried out on the Castle of Matrera, in Villamartín (Cádiz), has been harshly criticized by experts on historical heritage sites.

Built in the ninth century, the castle bears the designation of an Asset of Cultural Interest.

“The landscape and the historical aspects of the site have been perverted,” says Carlos Morenés, vice-president of Hispania Nostra, a non-profit that works to defend Spain’s natural and cultural heritage.

The Andalusian government’s heritage department says it has received no complaints to date

Scholars are particularly critical of the restoration work on the tower, which has been raised back to its original height by adding a smooth, white, modern-looking wall.

“The work has been compared with the 2012 restoration of the Ecce Homo of Borja by Cecilia Giménez,” notes Morenés, alluding to an elderly lady’s botched restoration of a religious painting that became an international joke.

The infamous restoration of the Ecce Homo of Borja drew thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The infamous restoration of the Ecce Homo of Borja drew thousands of visitors from all over the world.

“It brings shame to Spain,” he adds. “The international press has called it the worst restoration in the world. Restoration legislation making it mandatory to clearly distinguish the original parts from the new has been taken to extremes, and the area has been damaged with this huge white thing. It goes against all existing regulations, including the Andalusian heritage law.”

In 2014, his association had included the Castle of Matrera on its red list in order to draw attention to its state of dereliction.

What’s the problem?

But the architect in charge of the restoration says he is surprised at all the commotion.

“It’s not the first intervention of this kind, so I don’t know what all the hoopla is about,” says Carlos Quevedo, who worked under the aegis of the Andalusian department of culture.

Quevedo explains that besides buttressing the walls, workers restored the tower’s volume using leftovers from original building material, then covering it with a layer of whitewash to distinguish the old parts from the new.

“It is a similar facing to the original one that used to cover the tower,” he adds.

The municipal archeologist, José María Gutiérrez, also supports the restoration work and says it meets all requirements of contemporary regulations.

Meanwhile, the Andalusian government’s heritage department says it has received no complaints to date.

English version by Susana Urra.