Twelve Treasures of Spain – Roman Theatre at Mérida

Roman Theatre Merida

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Eighth in the competition was the Roman Theatre at Mérida in Extremadura.

Extremadura is considered to be the traditional boundary between Moorish and Christian Spain and Mérida itself has previously passed between Christian, Moorish, and even Portuguese control.  Because of its rich and varied history it was declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 1993.

On our visit to the city we walked first along a busy main road towards the crimson and saffron coloured Plaza de Torres where tattered bull fight advertising posters were peeling from the pot-marked walls and near here was our first excavation to visit.  We bought an all sites pass for €12 each which seemed like a good deal and went inside to see the remains of a house that had been the home and office of an important Roman citizen in the first century A.D. and after that we visited an adjacent ancient Roman burial site and cemetery.

It was getting hot as we made our way to one of the main attractions, the amphitheatre and theatre and as we walked we were aware of hundreds of school children arriving in buses, far too many for this to be a normal school trip occasion and we wondered what they were all doing here.  We found the entrance to the site and all was revealed because today, and all week, there was a production of the Greco-Latin Youth Festival Theatre which meant that the theatre was in use and access was restricted.  I was annoyed about that and wondered just how restricted?

Merida Spain Roman Theatre

We went first to the amphitheatre which was completed in 8 B.C. and was able to seat up to fifteen thousand spectators within the elliptical stadium.  The previous month we had visited the amphitheatre at Pula which accommodated twenty-thousand spectators but this seemed just as huge.  It wasn’t in such good shape however because a lot of it has been subsequently dismantled for alternative building projects, some of it as far away as Cordoba in the east.

Mérida was the capital city of the most westerly Roman Province of Lusitania so this was an important place and the amphitheatre here would have been on the main gladiatorial and events circuit of the Empire and it continued to be used for this purpose until the fourth century.  Today, on account of its past, Mérida is a sister city of Rome.

The site was beginning to fill up now with chattering school children and the volume levels inside the Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano) were beginning to build so we left the amphitheatre and walked the short distance to the theatre next door.  Two thousand years ago this would have been a massive entertainment centre for the city and today we were going to see it being used once more for its original purpose.

Although we couldn’t get down close to the stage area and the columns and the statues and the central seating area was full of excitable school children we could make our way around the upper circle and visitors were invited to stay awhile and watch the production.  We sat and watched for about half an hour but it was a three hour show and struggling with interpretation we finally left and moved on.

Merida Roman Theatre

And next I have to move on straight to number ten in the competition and leave out number nine because I have never visited the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia and to be honest – probably never will!


16 responses to “Twelve Treasures of Spain – Roman Theatre at Mérida

  1. Great post and cool blog.


  2. Well, I have to admit, I have never even heard of the Roman Theatre at Mérida in Extremadura – until now!

    It’s a pity you don’t think you will make it to Valencia, Andrew – I would urge you to try. It’s fascinating!


    • Thanks and yes I will visit Valencia just not sure that I would prioritise the City of Arts and Sciences – but then again maybe I should, it looks quite fascinating.
      You should visit Mérida – it is a wonderful city!


      • It IS quite fascinating – one of the new buildings looks like Darth Vader’s helmet!

        The old part of Valencia is wonderful and the city market is not to be missed at any price 🙂


  3. I’m sure I have read this before. So will repeat the same comment. Never visit Mérida on a Monday (or any other historic european site).


    • Good advice – I have been caught out before. My reciprocal advice is visit the Spain Royal Palaces on a Wednesday and take your passport – entry is free for EU citizens (or at least it used to be)! Better visit soon however before the Cameron’s referendum which may take us out!


      • Been there, done that 🙂 Do you mean the one in Madrid? Spectacular, seriously.

        I was very pro EU at one time, and pro-Euro.

        I think it will/should revert. Total load of rubbish now!


      • All of them – San Ildefonso o La Granja was my favourite - but Aranjuez was good too.
        I am still pro-Europe but it looks as though we are better off without the Euro for the time being but then again, I am not an economist, but if the Euro is so bad why is the £ weakening? Rates are crap at the moment & only 3 weeks before I fly to Madrid!


  4. Our Adventure in Croatia

    never been, didn’t even know it existed…. must add it to my places to visit in Spain!


  5. The amphitheatre is awesome. To think how long ago it was created and how precise and long-lasting is mind-boggling.


  6. Tomorrow I go to see the biggest Roman amphitheatre (not theatre) in Spain, in Italica near Seville, Spain 🙂


  7. I loved Valencia! I will add Merida to my list, but it may be a year or two before I can return to Spain.


  8. At least you got to see it with some life there, Andrew, and in use. I vote that a good thing, though I know you’d rather have had the peace to use your imagination. Madrid! It wasn’t on my list till recently but it does look like a magnificent city.


  9. Pingback: Travels in Spain – UNESCO World Heritage Sites | Have Bag, Will Travel

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