PALACIO DE ALTAMIRA

The older people of Elche remember when it still served as a textile factory and even intermittently, as a prison. The dramatic process of renovation experienced by the Palace of Altamira, or Alcazar de la Señoría,makes it one of the best preserved strongholds in the province of Alicante, and at the same time an essential monumental point of reference of vital importance for the city.

Residence of the noblemen of Elche between the XV and the XIX centuries, its Torre del Homenaje or Keep also housed the Kings Jaime II and Pedro IV and the Catholic Monarchs during their stays in the city and hosted the meetings of the General Council of the City up to the XV century.

Factory and Prison

In the construction process of the Palace of Altamira several important stages stand out. The first corresponds to the Islamic period between the XI and XIII centuries. In the present day some stretches of the City Wall from this time may be seen, along with remnants of dwellings and drainage channels, which are not visible, as well as a monumental entrance gate and the Keep, of which only the ground floor belongs to this period.

The second phase, between the XV and XVI centuries, occurred after Gutierre de Cárdenas took possession of the lordship. This rebuilding work, defined by its decisive and extensive nature, shaped the general lines of the current form of the Palace. Subsequently, in the XVIII century, the Count of Altamira added a manor house of two floors to the original wall, which currently constitutes its south-facing facade.

It is polygonal in shape, with angles defined by projecting circular hubs, except in the area occupied by the Keep, which has a square base and three floors. Its rooms and the outbuildings of the western wing intermittently housed a prison from the XVIII century until 1959.

In 1915, the building was acquired by a local industrialist who built a textile factory in the Patio de Armas or parade ground, adjoined to the east wall, which was in operation until the end of the 1960s, at the same time as the prison. Nowadays this same parade ground is sometimes made use of as a perfect arena for social and cultural events.

Restoration

After being expropriated by the City Council in the 1970s in the last century, restoration of the building was carried out, including the outbuildings of the former factory, which, once refurbished, went on to house the Alejandro Ramos Folqués Municipal Archaeological Museum. In 2005, after further restoration, which brought to light remnants of the original stronghold, including an upper entrance gate from the banks of the river, whose existence was previously unknown, the palace came to form part of the new Archaeological and History Museum of Elche (MAHE). This centre was inaugurated in 2006 in conjunction with the return, for a period of six months only, of the Lady Elche, who was housed on the ground floor of the Torre del Homenaje or Keep, where an exact copy of the Iberian bust is currently displayed, ceded by the Provincial Archaeological Museum (MARQ).