Tomorrow night, at midnight, we will celebrate Halloween. This is a very short-lived tradition in Spain since we used to have our very All Souls Night. It is a very special night, full of mystery and magic, where the souls of the dead come back to spend a short time with the living. Everybody celebrates Halloween these days and there are so many different parties where people dress up, but if you want to live a terrifying Halloween night book a tour tomorrow night from eight pm with Sonia and the girls of Escuela Habla to hear, first hand, all those legends and ghost stories. It will surely be dead terrific!!
On the 25th of the current we shall be celebrating our Saint Patron festivity. His name is Saint Frutos (yes, like the fruits you eat) and, just like every other year, the miracle will take place and the saint will turn yet another page of his Book of the Apocalypse that gets us nearer the end of days every year.
Regardless whether or not you are a pious human being, the night of Saint Frutos is a fantastic opportunity to fill yourself with the local spirit and folk and also to have a few drinks with your friends and relatives. Just after midnight, locals will start to clear off the Main Square on their way home with a grin in their faces and perhaps feeling a little tipsy.
We will come back next week to talk about Spanish Halloween; if you want to get to know about local ghosts and legends, do not miss the opportunity to join the last Legends of Segovia tour this 2017on the 31st of October!
Illustration of Saint Frutos by Mónica Carretero.
Segovia is ideal to do sports; actually a lot of locals as well as visitors can be spotted jogging, skating and cycling around the green belt surrounding the Old Town. Every time you take a stroll up the calle Real you are doing sport although you do not realise you are… Our splendid winner of the 1988 edition of the Tour de France started his career in this his hometown Segovia. This, along with a thousand more stories, is the reason why you cannot miss the exhibition about sports at the Torreon de Lozoya, Plaza de San Martín s/n. Tickets are free with a controlled access.
It is, without a doubt, one of the most ancient civil buildings in the town of Segovia, and a great number of historians have shown keen interest in it. It is no other than the Convent of Santo Domingo el Real, located right in the town centre opposite the Romanesque church of the Trinidad.
The building belongs to the order founded by Saint Domingo de Guzman. This famous clergyman used to pray, when he was in Segovia, in a cave close to the Eresma River where the Santa Cruz convent would be later built (we already wrote about this one). Concerning the feminine branch of the order it looks like implementation in Segovia was quite early relating to privileges granted to the order by several kings, renewed from one to the next and that would start originally in the 14th century according to Professor Antonio Ruiz Hernando.
It looks like this construction was, at the time it was purchased by the Dominican nuns, the property of local authority Juan Arias de la Hoz. From the start the property, basically the Tower of Hercules and the old palace, was too small and so it became necessary to purchase several adjacent buildings. The construction is basically made with mason stone with 8 metres high walls with some interesting slit-arrow, living proof of the defensive purposes the fortress-house fulfilled some centuries ago. Entrance to the church is done with limestone block and we can still see half a Romanesque arch later absorbed by a more modern construction.
Another unusual construction belonging to the ensemble is the Tower of Hercules, also unusual the statue inside, away from the public eyes. It was described in the 17th century by local writer Diego de Colmenares, probably telling the story from the words of a nun. The statue shows a man riding a pig or a wild boar. This human figure has always been portrayed as Egyptian Hercules, allegedly the founder of the town and always according to the legend. However, this legend was considered by all to be outright true for many years, including some prestigious local writers, such as Colmenares himself.
Finally it is worth mentioning the paintings in the second floor of the palace, very similar to the ones we can see at the Alcazar, done in white and a burgundy shade of colour by mudejar artists around the 12th – 13th century in Romanesque-Mudejar style; these are considered an artistic treasure of great importance.
The Roman aqueduct of Segovia is the town’s main tourist attraction. At the same time its whole construction remain a mystery for there are no documents from the era related to these works, so that basically everything we know about it is through archaeological findings. Please find below the link to a piece of recent information in the English edition of El País written by Aurelio Martin and based upon the findings made by Santiago Martinez Caballero, archaeologist and Director of the Local Museum, which tell us about the definite time of construction, after years of speculation. Enjoy!
We continue where we left it last week; if you remember we did mention that history is always told by its winners and therefore many of the chronicles and badinages about the king’s impotence were written after his death. Recent findings tell us that he suffered from various illnesses and that it is more than likely that he could not have children as a consequence of those.
The reputed doctor Gregorio Marañon studied the king’s remains and wrote an essay about all the conditions King Henry suffered from: “impotence, penis abnormality and infertility, a malformation in his genitals, flank sickness and blood in his urine”. He also wrote about his appearance: “a broad forehead, his hands were out of proportion (hence the King never allowed people to touch or kiss his hands, at the time this led people to the wrong idea that the king was being rude), long and strong fingers”.
Gathering all this information we still do not know exactly if all this stories are true or not, what historians know for sure is that Henry the 4th has gone down in Spanish history as one of the worst-treated; this is due to a number of reasons of which we point out two.
The first one is that, although he was a child with poor health, he had an excellent education which made him a man very fond of music and art, as well as hunting and hawking. A monarch he was with an extraordinary sensitivity towards his peers and subjects; his eccentric personality led him to keep a zoo with exotic animals in his Valsain palace, up the Guadarrama mountain range. The second is that his half-sister, Isabella, the Catholic Queen, tried her best to void her brother’s reignfrom historyand succeeded to a point; of all she could not do, her chroniclers made a really big effort to make up stories and twist past events in order to give birth to a black legend of which probably little resembles true events.
Next week we will tell you about the buildings and stories in Segovia from his reign. Have a fantastic week!
This monarch, son of John the 2nd of Castile and Maria de Aragon, was born in 1425 in Valladolid and died on the 11th of December 1474 in Madrid. He was the famous Catholic Queen Isabella’s half-brother and his life was controversial in all of its aspects.
The chronicles and stories about his difficulties to have children, his conflicts with the nobles and even his very personal relationships with his favourites are widely known. But what part of this is real and what has been made up by his enemies? We may never get to know where to draw the line between reality and fiction, as history is always told by those who came out triumphant of all conflicts; however, there are some recent findings which try to shed some light into his black legend and more precisely into his impotence.
This difficult matter started off after his first marriage with Blanca the 2nd of Navarra. He was married to her for 13 years. As time went by and the couple were unable to produce an heir to the throne, rumours started to spread across the country about the king’s inability to copulate. Henry the 4th tried to solve his problems by using quite a few ointments, he even contacted some Italian doctors who prescribed him a series of sexual exercises and yet, the heir would not arrive. As a consequence, Blanca and Henry’s marriage was dissolved. His second marriage, to Jane of Portugal, finally brought the so much sought after heir, the first and only child of Henry, Princess Jane “la Beltraneja”. Why was she nicknamed so? The rumours about the king’s impotence had already reached far and beyond the kingdom, and so his enemies saw the opportunity to concoct a plot against him; the story about how Princess Jane was not the king’s daughter but the King and Queen’s favourite’s Beltran de la Cueva, a handsome twenty year old counsellor, was unfurled.
At the time of Henry the 4th ‘s death, the Castilian crown belonged by birth right to his daughter, Princess Jane, but Isabella was a determined woman and she took advantage of those rumours to openly question the legitimacy of her niece to be the heir to the throne as she expressed her doubts on the princess’ paternity. After a long and crude civil war in Castile between Jane and Isabella, the latter came out victorious and proclaimed herself Queen of Castile.
We will continue this story next week, have a nice one!
This painting from 1600 by Florentine artist Bartolomeo Carduccio is known as “The Epiphany of the Three Kings” is located at the Royal Chapel of the Alcazar of Segovia, where Spanish King Philip the 2nd married his fourth and last wife, Anna of Austria, in 1570. It is the one and only painting which has remained inside the building ever since it was painted, in 1600, until today. You may be wandering what the big deal is; you have to know that the fortress suffered a mayor fire in March 1862 where everything was lost after the whole building burned for three days; at that time, the Alcazar served as premises for the Royal College of Artillery, founded by Spanish King Charles the 3rd on the 16th of May 1764. The fire started in the lounge next to the Chapel, which was, at the time, the office of the Head of Studies; it spread rapidly and so some of the cadets entered the Chapel, rose to the altar where the painting was and, with the help of a common knife, tore the painting from its frame, folded it and threw it out of the window to the outside north garden. Shocking isn´t it? Come and visit Segovia, we will tell you may more stories like this…
The tour along the river bank is full of historic building, all of them of great importance for the town history. Following the path surrounding the walls we come across the old Convent of Santa Maria la Real, the first Dominican convent built in Spain at the request of Saint Domingo de Guzman in the 13th century in Romanesque style. It was later on renovated during the Catholic Monarchs rule in the 15th century. In fact the convent church bears, in one of the outside Wall under the eaves, their motto “Tanto monta”. The infamous General Inquisitor of Castile and Aragon during the 15th century and Queen Isabella’s confessor, fray Tomas de Torquemada was the prior for a number of years. The church may well be the one displaying a greater number of Gothic style features in the whole town. Its façade is extremely beautiful, with a scene of Jesus Christ crucified, by his sides, the Catholic Monarchs praying on their knees. It is also worth mentioning the cave where Santo Domingo de Guzman used to pray in solitude… Found this interesting? Come and see for yourself for many more stories.
The Aqueduct of Segovia (or more precisely, the aqueduct bridge) is a Roman aqueduct and one of the most significant and best-preserved ancient monuments left on theIberian Peninsula. It is located in Spain and is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the city’s coat of arms.
As the aqueduct lacks a legible inscription (one was apparently located in the structure’s attic, or top portion), the date of construction cannot be definitively determined. The general date of the Aqueduct’s construction was long a mystery although it was thought to have been during the 1st century AD, during the reigns of the Emperors Domitian,Nerva, and Trajan. At the end of the 20th century, Géza Alföldy deciphered the text on the dedication plaque by studying the anchors that held the now missing bronze letters in place. He determined that Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) ordered its construction. The beginnings of Segovia are also not definitively known. The Vaccaei people are known to have populated the area before it was conquered by the Romans. Roman troops sent to control the area stayed behind to settle there. The area fell within the jurisdiction of the Roman provincial court (Latin conventus iuridici, Spanish convento jurídico) located in Clunia.
The water was first gathered in a tank known as El Caserón (or Big House), and was then led through a channel to a second tower known as the Casa de Aguas (or Waterhouse). There it was naturally decanted and sand settled out before the water continued its route. Next the water traveled 728 m (796 yd) on a one-percent grade until it was high upon the Postigo, a rocky outcropping on which the old city center, the Segovia Alcázar, was built. Then, at Plaza de Díaz Sanz (Díaz Sanz Plaza), the structure makes an abrupt turn and heads toward Plaza Azoguejo (Azoguejo Plaza). It is there the monument begins to display its full splendor. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 28.5 m (93 ft 6 in), including nearly 6 m (19 ft 8 in) offoundation. There are both single and double arches supported by pillars. From the point the aqueduct enters the city until it reaches Plaza de Díaz Sanz, it includes 75 single arches and 44 double arches (or 88 arches when counted individually), followed by four single arches, totalling 167 arches in all. The construction of the aqueduct follows the principles laid out by Vitruviusas he describes in his De Architectura published in the mid-first century.
The first section of the aqueduct contains 36 semi-circular arches, rebuilt in the 15th century to restore a portion destroyed by the Moors in 1072. The line of arches is organized in two levels, decorated simply, in which simple moulds hold the frame and provide support to the structure. On the upper level, the arches are 5.1 meters (16.1 ft) wide. Built in two levels, the top pillars are both shorter and narrower than those on the lower level. The top of the structure contains the channel through which water travels, through a U-shaped hollow measuring 0.55 tall by 0.46 meter diameter. The top of each pillar has a cross-section measuring 1.8 by 2.5 meters (5.9 by 8.2 feet), while the base cross-section measures 2.4 by 3 meters (7.9 by 9.8 feet).
The aqueduct is built of unmortared, brick-like granite blocks. During the Roman era, each of the three tallest arches displayed a sign in bronze letters, indicating the name of its builder along with the date of construction. Today, two niches are still visible, one on each side of the aqueduct. One of them is known to have held the image of Hercules, who, according to legend, was founder of the city. The other niche now contains the images of the Virgen de la Fuencisla (the patroness of Segovia) and Saint Stephen.
The first reconstruction of the aqueduct took place during the reign of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as Los Reyes Católicos or the Catholic Monarchs. Don Pedro Mesa, the prior of the nearby Jerónimos del Parral monastery, led the project. A total of 36 arches were rebuilt, with great care taken not to change any of the original work or style. Later, in the 16th Century, the central niches and above-mentioned statues were placed on the structure. On 4 December, the day of Saint Barbara, who is the patron saint of artillery, the cadets of the local military academy drape the image of the Virgen de la Fuencisla in a flag.
The aqueduct is the city’s most important architectural landmark. It had been kept functioning throughout the centuries and preserved in excellent condition. It provided water to Segovia until the mid 19th century. Because of differential decay of stone blocks, water leakage from the upper viaduct, and pollution that caused the granite ashlar masonry to deteriorate and crack, the site was listed in the 2006 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. Contrary to popular belief, vibrations caused by traffic that used to pass under the arches did not affect the aqueduct due to its great mass. WMF Spain brought together the Ministry of Culture, the regional government of Castilla y León, and other local institutions to collaborate in implementing the project, and provided assistance through the global financial services company American Express.