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Úbeda ( ) from Arabic ( Ubada / Ubayda ) is a town in the province of Jaénmarker in Spainmarker's autonomous community of Andalusiamarker. It has 34,462 inhabiants (INE 2008). Both this city and the neighboring city of Baezamarker benefited from extensive patronage in the early 16th century resulting in the construction of a series of Renaissance style palaces and churches, which have been preserved ever since. In 2003, UNESCOmarker declared the historic cores and monuments of these two towns a World Heritage Site.

History

Recent archeological findings indicate a pre-Roman settlement at Úbeda. Romans and later Visigoths occupied the site as a settlement. This area became an important city in the Muslim conquest of the Iberia. It was refounded by Abd ar-Rahman II (822-852), who called it Medinat-Ubbadat-Al-Arab. It was included in the area of Jaén. In this period, its territory extended to more than 35,000 hectares.

During the Reconquista, in 1233, king Ferdinand III (called "the Saint") was able to wrest the town from the Muslim rulers. After that, the Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures coexisted for a long time.

In the Christian period the territory of Úbeda increased a lot, including the area from Torres de Acún (Granadamarker) to Santisteban del Puertomarker, passing by cities like Albánchez de Úbeda, Huesamarker and Canenamarker, and, in the middle of the 16th century it also included Cabra del Santo Cristomarker, Quesadamarker or Torreperogilmarker.

During the 14th and the 15th century, internecine fighting among local nobility and populace impaired the growth of the town. In 1368 the city was devastated because of the civil war between Peter I of Castile and Henry II of Trastámara. This fact, combined with other circumstances, caused the worsening of the rivalry between the families de Trapera and de Aranda in the first moment, and the families de la Cueva and de Molina after. This produced many problems and fights which solved when the Catholic Kings took part in this problem: they ordered the Alcázar the nobility used as a fortress to be destroyed.

Úbeda, on the border between Granadamarker and Castille-La Mancha, was an important geographic buffer, and thus the population gained from the Castilian kings, a number of official privileges, such as the "Fuero de Cuenca", which tried to organize the population formed by people from Castilla and from Leónmarker, in order to face the problems that there could be in the border. With the "Fuero de Cuenca", a popular Council was formed, which developed to a middle-class nobility, which tried to make the high-ranking official hereditary.

Úbeda's apogee of wealth occurred in part because of the rise of local Francisco de los Cobos to the role of Secretary of State for Emperor Charles V. Cobos married into the local noble family of House of Molina. The Mudéjar and Morisco population of the region had provided manpower for the agriculture and the handmade industry (pottery and esparto); this economy expanded during this century and the population of Úbeda rose to about 18,000 people. It is also a period in which many important buildings were built, thanks to architects like Diego de Siloé, Berruguete, and Vandelvira. The time of prosperity ended with several natural disasters, and in the last years of the 18th century Úbeda tried to recover its economy, with the help of the agriculture and the handmade industry.

In the early nineteenth century the War of Independence (this war against Napoleon is often called the "Peninsular War" in English) produced economic damages again, and Úbeda did not recover until the end of the 19th century, when several technical improvements were applied in agriculture an industry. Ideological discussions took place at the "casinos", places for informal discussions about several items.

Economy

The city is near the geographic centre of the province of Jaén, and it is the administrative seat of the surrounding Loma de Úbeda comarca. It is one of the region's most important settlements, boasting a regional hospital, university Bachelor's Degree in Education college, distance-learning facilities, local government facilities, social security offices, and courts. According to the Caixa yearbook, it is the economic hub of a catchment area with a population of 200,000 inhabitants. Twenty-nine percent of employment is in the service sector. Other fractions of the population are employed in tourism, commerce, industry, and local government administration. The agricultural economy mainly works with olive cultivation and cattle ranching. Úbeda has become in one of the biggest olive oil's producers and packers of the Jaén provincemarker.

One of the main seasonal attractions of the town is the annual music and dance festival which is held in May and June including opera, jazz, flamenco, chamber music, symphony orchestra and dance. Just south east of the town lies the nature park of Sierra de Cazorlamarker, Segura y las Villas.

Main Sights

The most outstanding feature of the city is the monumental Vázquez de Molina Squaremarker, surrounded with imposing Renaissance buildings such as the Palacio de las Cadenas (so named for the decorative chains which once hung from the façade). The Chapel of the Savior or Capilla del Salvador was constructed to house the tombs of local nobility. Both the interior and exterior are decorated; for example, interior has an elaborate metawork screen by the ironworker Bartolomé de Jaen. The Hospital de Santiago, designed by Vandelvira in the late 16th century, with its square bell towers and graceful Renaissance courtyard, is now the home of the town's Conference Hall. Ubeda has a Parador hotel, housed in a 16th century palace which was the residence of a high-ranking churchman of that period.

The town lends its name to a common figure of speech in Spanish, andar por los cerros de Úbeda (literally 'to walk around the hills of Úbeda'), meaning 'to go off at a tangent'.

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