The city of Murcia was founded by the Moors (Arabs) in 825 AD, though then named Mursiya. The Caliph of Cordoba, Abd ar-Rahman II, founded it on the site of a Roman colony. There is a great deal of Moorish influence still present in Murcia, not least in the impressive city walls.
The 11th century brought civil strife and the Caliphate was overthrown by native Spaniards to make way for an independent kingdom, including (at its height) part of the modern provinces of Alicante and Almeria.
Relative peace exuded until 1243 when Murcia and its surrounding territories were re-conquered by Alfonso X of Castilla and Leon. Governed from central Spain changes were afoot; one of which was the conversion of all 20 resident mosques into churches. Under this new government the city of Murcia grew and prospered. By the turn of the 18th century it was one of Spain’s architectural treasures, dotted with elaborate urban palaces, churches, and of course its magnificent baroque cathedral. All this largely funded by a flourishing silk industry and agricultural prosperity.
At the peak of Murcia’s popularity amongst the rising bourgeoisie disaster struck. It all started with the sacking, and subsequent looting of the city by Napoleonic troops in 1810. This was followed by epidemics of plague and cholera. Murcia fell into gradual decline until modern times.
The 20th century saw Murcia relegated to minor city status. In 1936, during the Spanish civil war it was the site of intense fighting. Many of its churches and other monuments were burnt to the ground. Economical misfortune also occurred, as the well established silk trade ceased to be competitive on the open market, against competition brought by man made fibres.
These days Murcia is sustained by citrus fruit farming and associated industries. Industrial development is clearly evident, but the city centre still remains an attractive destination, characterised by its 19th century promenades. Now a university city, Murcia is home to many national and foreign students, adding a vibrant modern atmosphere to a place steeped in history.