La Casa del Califa was opened in 2001 by James Stuart and Regli Alvarez. The principal Califa building dates from 1527 and incorporates parts from the 10th.C. The eleven buildings that make up the Califa complex range from the Islamic era of Vejer to the present day.
The site of La Casa del Califa has been strategic in history for many reasons; it overlooks the principal medieval access to the town; the properties face the Plaza de España, Vejer’s largest flat open space ideal for markets & cultural events; the house is very close to Vejer’s principal gateway (Arco de la Villa) and the original road into Vejer (its origins may be Roman or even Phoenician) arrives at the back door of the property.
The earliest known history of this location goes back to when the ‘Moors’ were the dominant culture in Vejer between 711 and 1264 and continued to play an important part in Vejer’s history until the late 1400’s. The ‘Aljibe’ at the back of the restaurant is a 10th-11th.C water cistern and the room directly above it (the Sala del Nogal) is contemporary to this era too.
The current principal house was erected by the local diocese in the late 15th C. & was opened in 1527 as a grain store (Cilla), while the the upper levels (the top floor is an addition from the 1960’s) were residential and administrative quarters. Goods carried up the valley or from the barges that ferried the river Barbate would all pass through this building to be weighed, measured & taxed before going to market or being placed in storage. The building was used for this purpose up until the mid-1770’s when increasing humidity forced the Diocese to build a second ‘Cilla’ on Vejer’s Calla Sagasta.
The main façade overlooking the Plaza dates from the 17th C. but the building possibly suffered damage during the earthquake of 1775 and many ornamental features have been lost. In the 1950’s, a large window in the façade at street level was replaced by the door that is the current entrance into the Magistrates office who are tenants of the Casa del Califa. The Nationalist forces in the 1930’s used the house as stables for their horses and billeting for their soldiers.
The other properties that make up the hotel were undoubtedly residential & stabling quarters all varying from different ages. The service area has rooms that are less than 1,80m. high indicating use by servants of the principal building. The Patio de los Jazmines was a stable (the stairs leading to it were a ramp until a few years ago & the large double doors indicate that use). All the rooms from 1 to 7 are located around the courtyard of a 17th.C building in such bad repair it was demolished to make way for the rooms. The courtyard retains the exact same orientation & size as the original one. Three water cisterns were discovered here with possibly the oldest being 15th. Century.
The union of the eleven houses that make up the Califa complex including Las Palmeras (four in the Plaza, six in Calle Cilla Vieja and one on Calle Triperia) are a good example of changing structures & the adaptability of Vejers’ houses where ‘seamless’ unions are easily made between different dwellings. In the whole complex seven cisterns (wells) have been found (two of them still in use), there are nine entries on four different streets, 16 different stairways, 90 windows, 97 doors, six courtyards & a cave.
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