Hanging houses of Cuenca: History and legend

The Hanging Houses located in Cuenca are, without a doubt, one of the most towering tourist resources in its region, Castilla-La Mancha. This article will cover the history and legend surrounding these peculiar houses.

Theses houses are located on the curvature of the river Huécar -the main river of the region-, leaving a spectacular view from the balconies of these houses that are located on the edge of the cliff. Although it is known that at the end of its construction it was composed of more houses, only three are now preserved attached to each other, which are Casa de los Reyes («The House of the Monarchs») -giving this name to two of the hanging houses- and Casa de la Sirena («The House of the Mermaid») which is the protagonist of the legend covered on this article. At present, two of these houses have been used to house the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art and the remaining third has been converted into a restaurant.

The origin of these houses dates back between the year 1300 and the end of 1400. And its monumental complex came to get the title of World Heritage of UNESCO in 1996, and twenty years later, in 2016, was declared of Cultural Interest.

The legend of «The House of the Mermaid»

This peculiar house has a historical past since, in the 14th Century and during the First Castilian Civil War between the Trastámara brothers (Pedro I and Enrique II) for the throne of Castile, Enrique fled to this hanging house with his lover Catalina, where she became pregnant with their son Gonzalo.

Illustration of the battle between Peter I – nicknamed «The Cruel» – and Henry II.

Continuing with the battle against his brother, Enrique decides to leave Cuenca locking his lover Catalina and his son inside this house and later, during this war, he meets Juana Manuel de Villena with whom he has two daughters, Leonor and María de Trastámara and a son, Juan I.

After killing his own brother, Enrique decides to visit a clairvoyant who tells him that his second son, Juan, was in danger due to the fact that he could be killed by his brother, repeating the same history as that of Enrique II and Pedro I.

Enrique then returns to Cuenca and kill his firstborn to prevent the future murder, leaving Catalina devastated.

The legend tells that, after many nights of crying, Catalina begins to have hallucinations and starts to hear the voice of her son calling her through the window. For this reason, she decides to throw herself off the cliff, thus putting an end to her life.

The neighbours who heard Catalina’s cried claimed that they were listening to a mermaid singing, giving this house its name, and some of the nights you can still hear Catalina crying, which awaken the memory of the mermaid’s songs.