Birthplace of Saint Thomas of Villanueva
Stroll around Fuenllana, traverse its streets, sit on one of the stone benches in the square of the Convent admiring the façade. Make our way to its historic castle, walk around it imagining other times and allow the rural flavour that Fuenllana still maintains embrace us. This, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of the greatest pleasures Campo de Montiel has to offer us.
Fuenllana’s name comes from a bountiful fountain (Fuenteplana) which had its place at the time when it was most densely populated in the XIII century. It’s situated in the centre of Campo de Montiel just over 5 km from Villanueva de los Infantes and is one of the most beautiful municipalities of the area as it conserves the picturesqueness of the Manchegan villages. Of medieval design, Fuenllana lays at the foot of its old castle. Streets and blocks of irregular layout slope downwards, of Arab characteristics with interior corridors, whitewashed façades with pitched roofs, wrought iron grilles, small balconies…
Small squares brimming with tranquility can be found among its streets, squares such as Thomas of Villanueva with a sculpture dedicated to the Saint in the centre; in the north of the village you can find the beautiful Convent square; there is also Don Antonio Rodríguez Huescar square, dedicated to the philosopher and thinker of the Don José Ortega y Gasset school or the Cruz de Mayo that in the past held prayers in times of shortage to ask for water for the fruit trees.
Fuenllana is one of the villages of Campo de Montiel that best maintains Manchegan picturesqueness
Church-Castle of Saint Catalina
The parish of Saint Catalina sits on a hill located to the west of the village of Fuenllana, on the urban boundary. Only ruins of its primitive factory remain, the main walls are still standing whilst all the wooden roof and palm vaulting have been lost, as have the crown of the tower, the annexed and interior structures such as the gallery, the baptismal chapel, etc. Some of the remains, which we will go on to talk about, have been transferred to the present day parish temple located in one of the buildings of the old convent of Saint Thomas.
The polygonal presbytery with its five sides is reinforced externally by four thick buttresses made with ashlars and masonry. The roofing no longer exists, having fallen down on the church itself, a circumstance which determines the elevation of the ground, masking the original elevation.
Historically, this church was constructed during the latter years of the XIV century, consecrating a fortified area. In the year 1515 the Chapel of Santiago was built. It was from the year 1535 that a complex expansion process started overseen by the Hurtado family, a family of stonemasons. In an initial period that covered the first third of the century, completely influenced by the so-called ‘Catholic Kings’ style, the best example being its magnificent pentagonal presbytery; in a second phase, that coincides with the last third of the XVI century, a refining of the building work and a certain tendency towards classicism can be seen, particularly the Chapel of Saint Peter, the gallery and the belfry. From the second half of the XVII century the church suffered abandonment and destruction, culminating in the annexation of its cult by the Convent of Augustinians of Saint Thomas of Villanueva. In this case the determining factor of such a phenomenon was the huge devotion to the aforementioned saint, reflecting the growing power that, at the time, the religious orders had acquired compared to the traditional dominance of the Order of Santiago in the region.
Built in 1735 in the northern part of the village next to the square that currently bears the same name. In sharp contrast with the agglomeration of the old part of the village, it forms an open area. Popular tradition holds that it stands on the birthplace of Saint Thomas of Villanueva.
It was founded next to the site of the Saint Thomas of Villanueva Church, of which no remains can be found today. The layout of the construction is down to one of the many friars-architects the Order had at its disposal. It’s highly likely that it is a project of Friar Lorenzo of Saint Nicholas or one of his more accomplished disciples. The work reached an end in 1747, year in which work on the cloisters was completed. The Ecclesiastical Confiscation process put an end to the presence of friars in the village.
The current parish, renovated in 1973, occupies the south-east sector, the remaining areas been given over to different local government offices. Indeed, its entrance door is the most monumental part of this façade. It is a linteled door with shafted pilasters boxed on either side; above the entablature there is a projecting balcony on which the lower pattern is reproduced on a smaller scale, culminating in a relief of the Sacred Heart under the archiepiscopal stamp. A medallion with the image of Saint Agustin dominates and completes the picture.
This door leads to a charming cobbled hallway with a palm vaulted ceiling, antechamber to the Town Hall. The building was declared a National Cultural Heritage in 1992 (BIC Bien de Interés Cultural) for its historical and artistic value. Today it is home to the Town Hall, and Municipal Museum
Fountain-Public Washing Place
It is a small rectangular building with an open porch on one side in which five stone sinks can be found where clothes were washed for centuries. There is also a kind of basin where water fell to make a fountain, and finally machinery of an old water-wheel. All of the afore-mentioned have been restored and are well-cared for. The Fountain – Public Washing Place is accessible from Fuenllana via a wooded pathway with benches. The Church-Castle of Saint Catalina can also be seen from this spot.
House of the Inquisition, 13 Saint Thomas Street: A linteled stone portico with a circular shield and a cross. From its name we can gather it was a house of members of the Holy Inquisition or was the place where inquisition trials took place, without there being any evidence found to date to corroborate this. Ancestral house, 4 Saint Thomas Street: Combining popular and baroque style. A country house, consisting of two floors and an interior patio. It has a façade with a linteled stone portico with a shield, and the shape of a leaf with angel on the lower part. The rest is whitewashed wall, some openings without frame, and wrought iron grilles on the ground floor. There are metal balconies on the upper floor. It has a tiled roof and load-bearing walls. Ancestral house, 2 Hernan Cortes street: A recently refurbished house, with a coat of arms with a dressed door lintel.
Bridge Over the Tortillo River
A stone bridge with large ashlar tables that form an arch over which lies an old Roman road, also made of stone. One has to cross it to get from Fuenllana to the Public Washing Place. A small bridge, of just one arch, that allows access over the river Tortillo on the way to the Public Washing Place or to the CM-412 road.
Who was Saint Thomas of Villanueva?
Tomás García Martínez was born in Fuenllana in 1486, where his maternal grandparents lived and where his parents took refuge during the plague. He was educated and raised in Villanueva de los Infantes from where he gets his name.
He was renowned for the austerity in his personal life and for his continuous and tireless exercise of charity, especially with orphans, poor maidens with no dowry and the sick. Despite his family being wealthy, he walked around naked many times when he was a young man, as a result of giving his clothes to the poor. He once even sold the mattress on which he slept in order to give the money to those in need. He did however, have an astute conception of piety, so that although he was very charitable, he did endeavour to find a definitive and structural solution to poverty by means of active redemption, offering work to the poor thus enabling his charity to yield results. He wrote:
«Charity is not just giving, but lifting from poverty those that suffer it and to free them from it when possible».
He studied Arts and Theology at the Alcalá de Henares University, he joined the Order of the Augustinians of Salamanca (1516) and in 1518 was ordained a priest. He was also professor at the university and advisor and confessor to Charles I of Spain.
Fiestas and traditions
Patron Saint Celebrations
On May 22nd the day of the Patron Saint Rita of Casia is celebrated. The Saviour of the World is celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday and on September 18 it is the day of the Patron Saint Thomas of Villanueva. These celebrations are well-known in Campo de Montiel and there are many people that gather at Convent Square to enjoy the dances that go on into the early hours of the morning
Saint Anton, the day of ‘La Candelaria’, the carnivals, the May Crosses, Saint Isidro, Saint Marcos, Jueves Lardero (Thursday before Lent) and Corpus Christi.