Torrelaguna: late medieval enclave in the mountains of Madrid

The town of Torrelaguna It is situated in the middle valley of Jarama, in the middle of the Sierra Norte of Madrid. Due to its proximity to the Spanish capital and its tourist offer, it is postulated as a very charming destination that you can not miss. Do you want to know it and enjoy the experience?

The first signs of settlement in Torrelaguna date from Prehistory. However, it will not be until Roman times when there is a real population establishment through the construction of several agricultural villages dependent on Uceda (Guadalajara).

Old Town - PromoMadrid / Flickr.com

In the Middle Ages it was integrated into the Muslim sphere (Middle Brand), until in 1085 it was reconquered by Alfonso VI of Castile. From then on, the town began its greatest period of splendor. Specifically, when in 1390, King Carlos I of Castile granted him the title of Villa Libre, the privilege to hold a duty-free market and benefits over the passage of the Mesta.

Between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Torrelaguna was configured as one of the most important nuclei of the Crown of Castile and the archbishopric of Toledo. To this would be added the construction of the church of Santa María Magdalena, the presence of important noble families and the urban and cultural development promoted by Cardinal Cisneros, a native of this town.

However, although in 1749 Carlos III granted him the rank of municipality, its development was progressively declining. First with the War of Succession (1701-1713) and then with the War of Independence (1808-1814). Both seriously damaged the heritage of this enclave.

Already in the nineteenth century, with the foundation and construction of the Canal de Isabel II, Torrelaguna recovered a minimum part of the splendor of yesteryear. Even so, the civil war deteriorated some of its buildings, because a bomb seriously damaged the facades of the Salinas palace and the convent of the Franciscan Mothers.

In 1974, the town was declared a Historic-Artistic Site and is currently experiencing a moment of growth, in part, due to tourism.

What can you see in Torrelaguna?

When walking through Torrelaguna, we immediately moved to another era, because in its streets we can admire all kinds of medieval and modern constructions. These have been defined as the hallmark of the town over the centuries and have created a perfect dialogue between past and present. Let's get to know some of its most emblematic buildings.

Church of Santa María Magdalena (XV-XVIII centuries)

Church of Santa María Magdalena

Presiding over the Plaza Mayor, This temple stands as the best example of Madrid's Gothic, although it also contains Renaissance and Baroque elements. This is so because its construction lasted about 400 years.

The building was defined as a basilica temple, with three naves covered with ribbed vaults and five terraced chapels. Inside, highlights the baroque altarpiece made of golden wood and chaired by a stature of the Mary Magdalene Penitent of Luis Salvador Carmona, head of this parish. It was declared of Cultural Interest in 1983.

Old porch (16th century)

Old deposit - santiago lopez-pastor / Flickr.com

Next to the church is the old pósito, founded by Cisneros in 1514 as a grain store for times of famine. In fact, as he prays on his founding tombstone, the cardinal left stipulated that there were always 5000 bushels of wheat available to the population.

This is a Renaissance building, civil and municipal. Along the history It has been library, jail, school… Currently it is the seat of the Town Hall of the town.

Convent of the Barefoot Franciscan Concepcionists (16th century)

Located in the Plaza Mayor, its construction was sponsored by Hernán Bernaldo de Quirós and his wife, Guiomar de Berzosa, in 1560. It was done coinciding with the celebration of the Council of Trent. As an anecdote, it should be noted that in the nineteenth century in this abbey he stayed five years, during his exile, Sr. Patrocinio, counselor of Isabel II.

Nowadays, of the original building only the Renaissance cover is preserved which gives access to the church, attributed to Gil de Hontañón, and the sepulcher of the founders

The wall (IX-XVI centuries)

Door of the Christ of Burgos - Rowanwindwhistler / Wikimedia commons

His construction It was promoted as a defensive program in the High Middle Ages, during the Muslim presence in the area and subsequently reinforced with the Reconquest.

This stone masonry construction that it had several defense towers and four access gates It remained intact until the War of Independence, when it was seriously damaged. Today you can only appreciate some of its canvases and one of its access doors, the door of the Christ of Burgos.

Franciscan Monastery of the Mother of God (16th century)

Franciscan monastery - Marco Chiesa / Flickr.com

It was founded in 1512 by Cardinal Cisneros, with the aim of making the town one of the main cultural centers of the Crown of Castile. So, It was set up as a dependent center of the University of Alcalá. However, the huge building was destroyed during the French invasion. Today only his belfry, known as 'the tower' is preserved.

Salinas Palace (16th century)

Salinas Palace - santiago lopez-pastor / Flickr.com

The construction of this Renaissance palace is attributed to the workshop of Gil de Hontañón and originally belonged to Juan de Salinas the Elder. Later it passed through the hands of different families, until nowadays it became the headquarters of the Civil Guard.

Of this palace only the facade is preserved, in which you can see a clear similarity with that of the University of Alcalá de Henares. This fact indicates that this palace served as an architectural outline for the subsequent construction of the cisneriana university.

There is a local legend that says that the objective of Cisneros was to build the university in Torrelaguna, but that the citizens of the town refused believing that the students were going to steal the grapes. However, this legend is not true, because from the beginning the university project was associated with Alcalá because it already had higher schools.

La Alhóndiga (14th and 15th centuries)

This civil building originally it was a food market and, after the opening of the deposit, it was converted into a storehouse or salt store for cattle. Then it fell into disuse, until in the 20th century it was rehabilitated and turned into a restaurant.

Inside you can see two of the most interesting vestiges of the medieval history of this town, two small Mudejar tombstones that are a clear reflection of the social heterogeneity that the town had in the Middle Ages.

Video: 2º ENCIERRO DE TORRELAGUNA 2 - 9 - 2019 (November 2019).

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