The year 1993 is a key date for the Heritage of Alange, following the inclusion of the Roman Baths in the report presented to UNESCO declaring the archaeological site of Mérida a World Heritage Site, an act later to be supported in the XVII Assembly held by the World Heritage List, in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias on December 8, 1993.
“Closely related to the life of the colony were the Roman baths of the current neighboring town of Alange, about 18 kilometres south of the city.”
The spa today called Aquae, according to texts from the time of Wamba, concerning the consecration there of a bishop by the name Cuniuldus, was very important and to it came prominent members of Roman society, including a senator and likely governor of the Cappadocia during the times of Maximin, Licinius Serenianus who, grateful for the healing of his daughter Serena Varinia, presented an area in honor of Iuno Regina.
The spring, whose waters emerge at a temperature of 28 degrees and a flow rate of 216 litres per minute and with notable radioactive characteristics, is of exceptional quality and has well recognized properties for patients suffering from nervous disorders, who usually attend in good numbers during the bathing season. It was probably known before the arrival of the Romans, as explained by various pieces of archaeological evidence denoting an important settlement in the area, strategically focused on major routes.
The group of buildings forming the spa, from all aspects exceptional and almost unique, occupies a good area encompassing a long and pleasant walk, modern offices and the Roman building. Its exterior appearance, irregularly shaped, is not enough to give an idea of its inner grandeur.
The Roman baths themselves constitute a core of a rectangular building, 33 metres on each longer side and 16 metres rach shorter. Its orientation is from west to east and it includes two rotundas or twinned chambers.
A steep staircase, attached in modern times to one of the shorter sides of the building, leads to a corridor covered by a barrel vault, where the entrances are formd by the twin chambers.
Both, now in use, offer the same features and provide 10.9 metres of diameter and 13.86 metres of height. At the centres are the two pools, circular, and provided with steps leading down. The ceiling in each case is a hemispherical dome, in the center of which was introduced an oculus or circular aperture or to provide light and ventilation to the chambers.
The vaults at the time were decorated with paintings, of which it was still possible to see some signs in the late eighteenth century. They appear to have shown images of species of plants.
Symmetrically distributed on the walls of each room are four openings in the form of apses or niches, some matched in size by constructed partitions to provide space as a dressing area for swimmers. Its purpose was none other than architectural, as the weight of the dome was supported on columns in the form of large curved-backed figures.
In the courtyard of the Balneario, built into the wall, can be seen the votive altar to the Goddess Iuno.
The baths were renovated after secular abandonment in the eighteenth century and used for public use, with successive restorations undertaken in the past century and several in the present. Currently the building has been returned to an appropriately dignified state.
The spa at Alange, with its exceptional state of preservation, is a unique document demonstrating a Roman bath of the first order. It is true that these were more modest than others in the Empire, such as Baia, but matched the quality of other known examples. The fact of being near the capital of Lusitania and later the capital of the diocese of the Hispanias undoubtedly aided its status and development. For comparison we could, in addition to those referred to, look to the Baia de Baños de Montemayor, which is much more modest, or those of Cazadores de Leptis Magna, etc.
The chronology of the site, in the absence of further excavations to be made, would place it for its architecture in the Flavian era.
The condition of the site is exceptional in regard to the twin chambers, the remainder being unknown as the archaeological excavations have not been made. Extensive archaeological study would be required to determine the perimeter of the spa, its dependencies and the environment intimately linked to it. Further in-depth consolidation work would be necessary to complement work already undertaken what commendably by its current owners.
The ownership is private, a partnership comprising several families of Badajoz, descendants of D. Abdon Berbén, former owner of the complex. The property is shared by the Hon. Provincial Government of Madrid and the Hon. Provincial Diputacion of Badajoz.
The baths were declared a National Monument in 1931.
Extracted from documents sent in their day to UNESCO in support of declaring the archaeological site at Mérida a World Heritage Site.
The baths are the most important artistic and historical monument known in Alange. In the 30s they were declared National Monument, and in 1993 a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Currently, they are in use, and offer the chance to undertake a unique and unparalleled spa experience.