The Hotel La Casa del Califa is made up of the union of eight different houses dating in ages from the 10th/11th century through to a complete contemporary rebuild of a 17th century property. The site has always been strategic 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). The original road into Vejer (its origins may be Roman or even Phoenecian) arrives at the foot of the Casa del Juzgado (the local popular name for what is now the principal façade of the hotel). The Barbate river is just a 15 minute walk away from here and until the early 1900’s the river was still a major artery for transporting people and goods.
The early history of this location goes back to when the ‘Moors’ were the dominant culture in Vejer between 711 and 1264 continuing to play an important part in Vejer’s history until the late 1400’s. Take time to have a look at the inside of the aljibe at the back of the restaurant. This is for water storage and is probably 10th-11th.C. The current Casa del Juzgado 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 offices of the Juzgado. The Nationalist forces in the 1930’s used the house as stables for their horses and billetting for their soldiers.
The other properties that make up the hotel were undoubtedly residential & stabling quarters all varying from different ages. The service area (not open to the public) has rooms that are less than 1,80m. high indicating use by servants of the Casa del Juzgado. The Patio de los Jazmines was undoubtedly 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 eight houses that make up the Califa complex (four in the Plaza and four in Calle Cilla Vieja) 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 seven entries on three different streets, 12 different stairways, 78 windows, 51 doors, four courtyards & a cave.