A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for catching and storing rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. In the Middle Ages, cisterns were often constructed in hill castles, especially where wells could not be dug deeply enough.
The Cistern in the Palace of the Vanes in Caceres was built under an Islamic fortress that protected the border of Al-Andalus from the Spanish kingdoms of the north around the 11th century. It was first built as a mosque and then, when the Christians pressed closer, the temple was waterproofed and turned into a cistern to collect water for the sieges to come. This is how we find those wonderful horseshoe arches, so unusual in cisterns.
The Christians eventually overran the Muslim, destroyed the fortress, and the kingdom of Al-Andalus came to an end in Granada in 1492, but the cistern was preserved under the Christian palace that was built on top of the ruins of the Islamic fortress. After having been constantly used by the people of Caceres untill a hundred years ago, it can be still be visited today as part of the Museum of Caceres, not 100 yards from where some of the exteriors of the 7th season of Game of Thrones have been recorded.
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September 20th, 2017
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