The Phoenicians founded (c.1100 BC) on the site the port of Gadir, which became a market for tin and the silver of Tarshish. It was taken (c.500 BC) by the Carthaginians and passed late in the 3d cent. BC to the Romans, who called it Gades. It flourished until the fall of Rome, but suffered from the barbarian invasions and declined further under the Moors. After its reconquest (1262) by Alfonso X of Castile, its fortifications were rebuilt.
The discovery of America revived its prosperity, as many ships from America unloaded their cargoes there. Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his second voyage (1495). In 1587, Sir Francis Drake burned a Spanish fleet in its harbor, and in 1596 the earl of Essex attacked and partly destroyed the city. But it continued to flourish and in 1718, after Seville's port had become partially blocked by a sandbar, Cádiz became the official center for New World trade. After Spain lost its American colonies, the city declined. During the siege by the French—which Cádiz resisted for two years (1810–12) until relieved by Wellington—the Cortes assembled in the city and issued the famous liberal constitution for Spain (Mar., 1812). Cádiz fell to the Nationalists almost immediately in the Spanish Civil War.
In 1980 Phoenician sarcophagi were discovered at two different sites, supporting the theory that the city is of Phoenician origin. One of the oldest and best-preserved Roman theaters was discovered in Cádiz in 1980. The clean, white city has palm-lined promenades and parks. Its 13th-century cathedral, originally Gothic, was rebuilt in Renaissance style; the new cathedral was begun in 1722. Cádiz has several museums and an art gallery with works by Murillo, Alonso Cano, and Zurbarán. In the church of the former Capuchin convent hangs the Marriage of St. Catherine by Murillo, who was at work on this painting when he fell from a scaffold to his death.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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