Balneario de Archena is possibly one of the most historic spas since its beginnings date back to the 5th century BC, when the Iberian settlers setled in Archena, were the first to use the hot springs nestled in the Region of Murcia. The spa then became a must place to stop on the trade route into the interior of the peninsula to Castulo, capital of Turdetani. The Romans discovered the hot springs (possibly used by indigenous always) and decided to build a Spa.
The Thermal waters of Archena always maintained a steady reputation for their medicinal properties, which were not lost to the Romans as evidenced by the stone found by chance in the spa, while digging the foundations for building a tank in 1751, chich reads:
C. CORNELIVS CAPITO . L. HEVIS LABEO
II . VIR . AQVAS EX.D.D. REFICIENDAS
CVRARVNT . I.Q.P.
Su traducción podría ser:
CAYO CORNELIO CAPITO AND LUCIO HEIO LABEO, DUOVIROS (MAYORS), WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR RESTORING THE AQUEDUCTS BY A DECREE OF THE DECURIONS (MUNICIPAL COUNCIL) AND THEMSELVES ATTEST (THE THEY IT)
The archaeological excavations carried out in recent years have brought to light the remains of what was the Spa in the 1st century AC. Among the latest findings we highlight the thermal gallery, where is found what would be the entrance to the ancient Roman baths. Also remains of columns, capitals, and a full tile even with the seal of the potter and an inscription that votes are made by health were found.
In the new parking area, it appeared a ceramic oven to bake in a mansio (hotel) with a fortified patio on the ground floor and first floor, and with murals that are being restored. The mansio is surrounded by a containment dyke for the continuous river floods. Outside the area protected by the dike there were a castellum aquae (reservoir for drinkable water distribution), with elevations of 4 m. and running water inlet area and a necropolis in which two large gravestones of over 1.5m. High were found. Stresses also the appearance of the remains of two water wheels for drinkable water, one of the 12th – 13th centuries and other 19th century in the same place where the castellum aquae was.
During the Middle Ages the spa passed to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and was from 1579 when most visits began to occur due to the peak it starts to take.
After the Independence War, King Ferdinand VII of Spain decided to undertake new reforms, fixing the road between Archena with the spa and increasing the rooms and, at that time, historical reference of the spas in Murcia, also become one of the main spas in Spain. The improvements made since the Viscount de Rías were acquired many important property, specially considering that between 1850 and 1878 the current spa setting was made.
When in 1850 the sp was disentailed and passed into private hands in the person of Mr. José de Bustos and Castilla, Viscount de Rías, a large urban “revolution” in the property occurs. It was then that the Hotel Leon was built in 1858. Four years later, in April 1862, the Hotel Termas was opened, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. In 1898 the Arabian decoration that characterizes this hotel and the beautiful dome was added. At the back of the dome there is an indoor patio also very richly decorated with neo Nazari elements. The author of this decoration was Manuel Castaños. The dome is date and signed by the author in central capitals on each side of the stairs. In 1868 the first phase of Hotel Madrid was opened, that is, the area that overlooked the square and main street.
In 1877 the first tanks were built to cool the water and store it in order to give the baths. The “problem” was that the water emanated at 52.7ºC so logically we may cool to use it. In teh 19th century they devised a method they called “cooking coil” which consisted in the circulation of the thermal water in a pipe through a stream of cold river water coming in and out from the perimeter of the thermal gallery. Thus they ran down several degrees the temperatur to use.
In 1878 the Hotel Levante, Madrid twin, was opened. In 1982 it opened as a 2* and completely remodeled in 2001 opening as a 4*. The chapel was opened for worship in October 1878, and was built by José María Aguilar, an architect of Madrid who also made the Hotel Levante and the Bar Casino. Inside the chapel we can find our Lady of the Health, which was sculpted in 1877 by Salvador Paramo, a sculptor specialist in religious imagery. This virgin is the patron saint of Archena from 1st April 1939, because both the image and the worship objects had been introduced in a niche of the cryp and escaped from the fire that hit the church. The village was then proclaimed its patron.
On the tirumphal arch is a fresco painted by Carlos Luis de Ribera (the author of the frescos of the House of Representatives in Cartagena) representing the pool of Bethsaida in Jerusalem. The interior walls were painted by Vicente Sabater. Finally the Casino was opened in 1898. Its decoration was also made by Mr. Castaños and has many similarities with the Casino de Murcia although this is 7 years before. Originally, it was a casino for betting till its prohibition by Primo de Rivera.
In 1943 Mr. Nicasio Perez Galdó was in the Balneario de Fortuna where his wife was relieved of his illness. One day strolling with his car, reached Archena where he discovered a set of buildings painted in green and ocher, spotted, like army camouflage. It was virtually deserted. He was seeing it, liked it and was informed of the properties of water. He found that the water was better for his eife ailments than those of Fortuna and returning to Madrid got in touch with the owner Ms Maria Elio and Gaztelu, Marchioness of Campo Real, and the following year he leased it with option to purchase, what he executed thre years later.
Since 1950 Mr. Nicasio Perez began to develop the business project of the Balneario de Archena And the hotels. Since then thermal complex acquired market power of the national spas, receiving each year customers from all Spain to benefit from the advantages of the famous minero-medicinal water. In 1958 the outdoor thermal pools was built (today does not exist) that was pioneering at the time and an attraction for spa guests.