Villa de la Zarzuela (Light opera’s village)
The noun La Solana comes from a water well known as “la fuente” (the fountain), located in a very sunny place of the village. This place is Southwards and formerly it was called “La Fuente de la Solana” (solana, from sunny). Because of the economy of the language, it ended up being called just La Solana.
Some legends tell that La Solana was the so called “El cerro de los Dioses de Cristal” (the hill of the crystal gods) in Orentan times, when a crystal palace, full of stars, was in that place. But the origins of the village must be searched in parallel to the rise of the Christian Military Orders that shared and organized this territory after conquering it, at the beginning of the 13th Century. The first housing under the protection of the Order of Santiago and its assignments arouse around the parish Church of Santa Catalina. The arrival of shepherds from Soria, looking for a better climate and pasture, was the beginning of an increasing in population, which let the independence from the neighbour Alhambra. Later on, La Solana got the title of Village.
Plaza Mayor (16th century)
It is a perfect starting point to visit La Solana and the Campo de Montiel district, as around this Plaza the development of the village began. It is declared as Provincial Historical Monument. It has two well defined different areas relating to period and aspect.
The East side has lintel porches and the Town Hall in the center of the plaza, is dated in the 16th century. They are works of the master architects Luis de Bejar and Christobal Diaz, in 1530.
The west and north sides, built in the 19th century is a two storey of asymmetric openings on porches of round arches, and at their back there is a lunette decorated barrel vault. This second storey was built to serve as a residence for the priests of the Colegiata. That was the origin of the arch of Doña Angela street, that would connect this new building to those at the limit of the former plaza of the village (smaller than the current one). The push and growth of La Solana involved the neighbors of the village to expand the old town plaza in the 16th century, with the contribution of 60,000 “maravedies” (coins) to demolish other homes and thus build the building of the Town Hall as we know it in the present. Today, the Plaza Mayor de La Solana is Provincial Historical Monument since 1978 and combines a variety of shapes and colours that give it a singularity and beauty unique in La Mancha. It is one of the most beautiful monumental settings throughout the region.
La Solana was a very important settlement of the Order of Santiago.
Church of Santa Catalina
This church is located in Plaza Mayor and it is late Gothic style, although it has elements from other artistic styles. Its construction started in 1320, but for different reasons, it was not finished until 1524. The temple has elements from the late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. In the outside, to highlight its two gateways. The North one or Santa Catalina’s, with Herrerian elements and the South one of Santiago’s. It stands out especially the North one with a decoration between Renaissance and Baroque, with harmonious shapes with columns, pavilion and semicircular tympanum completing the beautiful access to the temple. Worth mentioning is the Bell Tower dated in 1765, topped by a magnificent chapitel that turns it to be one of the most majestic in the district. The current tower was preceded by two other that fell during the 17th century. Inside, several side chapels flank a nave with starred vaults separated by arches. In the 17th century the Clock Tower was built, completing thus a more ornamental perspective from Plaza Mayor.
Hermitage of San Sebastián
This Hermitage is located in the quarter of the Saint and it is the oldest temple in La Solana. It was declared Artistic Historical Monument in 1982. The information on the date of construction is confused. Some studies date it in the 14th century and some other in the 15th. Its appearance is early Gothic style. To highlight its Mudejar ceiling, with colour handicraft, inlaid pearl, and in the epistle chapel, ebony wood. During a recent restoration, some frescoes were found with some figures barely distinguishable and some Gothic inscriptions.
Church of San Juan Bautista (former Trinitary Convent)
Former Convent initiated in 1624 and from which only this church remains (rebuilt in 1970) and the elevated walkway that crosses the Arco del Convento street. It is typical of Baroque style with classicist trending. It has a nave and side chapels with semicircular domes and cup on drum that substitutes the disappeared transept dome. Its façade is finished by a triangular pediment and the lintel gateway is flanked by pillasters.
Convent of the Madres Dominicas
It was founded in 1595 by Bachiller Juan Diaz Sabina and his sister Francisco, applying to them incomes and properties. Currently it is inhabited by Dominique nuns, devoted to praying and to make handicrafts, embroideries and some delicious tiny cakes called “suspiros” (sighs), from an old recepe. They bake these “suspiros” in special days or by order. Inside the temple, also recently restores, a beautiful altarpiece can be seen and interesting vaults with detailed ornamentation in the side of the choir.
Hermitage of del Humilladero
The Hermitage of Humilladero, of great symbolic meaning for the neighbours of La Solana. It hosts the Brotherhood of Virgin de Peñarroya, patron saint of La Solana that is shared by the nearby village of Argamasilla de Alba. It might have been built in the mid 18th century, although other studies date it earlier. It honours San Juan and was used as a “humilladero” (little chapel at the entrance of a village). The Virgin visits this hermitage twice a year, at her arrival on the second Saturday of September and at her departure on the following Sunday after San Anton.
Palace Don Diego
Located in the plaza Don Diego, it was declared Monument of Artistic Interest in 1981. To highlight its noble façade with a main gateway stone framed. Above the gateway there is a central balcony crowned with a coat of arms. The balconies alternate with four ornamental medallions. A hood separates the upper floor from the lower one. The façade finishes its decoration with a continuous frieze. After getting in along the hallway, we arrive at a central courtyard with Doric columns with balconies on the upper floor. It is finished by a glass window. In 1990 to 1993, the Town Council bought it and it was restored thanks to the first Workshop School in La Solana, turning to be a cultural centre with exhibition rooms, a concert hall, a training centre and a Tourist Office.
Home of la Encomienda
It hosted the Encomienda in La Solana. The Encomiendas were a set of goods and real estate, not always territorial nor grouped, but that constituted boundaries. To highlight the original tower of Santiago. After getting in along the hallway, we arrive at a courtyard with columns with an upper floor of balconies. In the inner courtyard we can see two bodies with wooden balustrades that remind those of a Corral de Comedias (comedy theatre from the Golden Age). A well parapet and a drinking drought for the mules are kept in this courtyard. This was the farmers home, next to the palace.
Origins of Santa Catalina
Some archaeological research is being carried out inside the Church, in the former choir of the parish, that show some parts of the former building. The visitor will see, as he steps on the glass floor, the remains of the former temple. At the South end of the temple it is the tower, linked to the church, with a winding stairway and access made in sandstone.
This tower was occupied by the knight commander of Alhambra, Mosen Diego de Villegas, when he moved to the village of La Solana. Beside this tower, there is an access down to the beautiful baptistery chapel. It is on the original ground of the former church and it has a nice groined vaulting and access with a round arch, marked in red ground sandstone.
On the tour upon the digging, the visitors will see the remains of burials in niches. They are distributed in various stages and probably they are located along the nave. An ossuary was also found but it was covered at the foot of the Christ.
Museo de la Rosa del Azafrán (Saffron crocus museum)
In November 1928, Federico Romero, Guillermo Fernandez-Shaw and Jacinto Guerrero (zarzuela and drama producers), travelled to La Solana with the purpose of taking notes and catching the atmosphere for the production of the popular zarzuela “La Rosa del Azafrán”. Many characters that appear in this light opera are inspired in neighbours of La Solana.
The Museum is located in the Palacio de Don Diego, next to the Plaza Mayor in La Solana. It counts on several rooms that show information on the village and its relationship with the Campo de Montiel district. Some other rooms reproduce the streets of La Solana with different façades and typical buildings, sparkled with some scenes from the popular zarzuela (light opera) La Rosa del Azafrán, such as “the stairway”. The museum also shows the ethnographic aspects of La Solana, recreating different scenes of past trades and professions, such as agriculture, ironsmith, winery, tailoring, etc…
Fiestas and traditions
On the 17th January. It is celebrated with a pilgrimage to the Hermitage of the 15th Century, devoted to the saint, two kilometres away of the village. A bonfire is lighted and the animals are blessed, with the traditional turns to the hermitage.
On the 20th January. In the evening before, a bonfire gathers the neighbours and on the 20th, the saint is taken around the quarter in a parade.
Strongly rooted in the population. Competitions for the “murgas” (sets of people dressed up), floats, costumes and food contests. To highlight the burial of the sardine with a large bonfire in the Plaza Mayor.
Easter in La Solana has recently become a big boom. It stands out the religious parade of Jesus Rescatado taken in Good Friday morning, gathering more than 2.500 brothers. Also outstanding is the image of Virgen de las Angustias, carried by “costaleros” (bearers) or Santo Sepulcro, guided by “anderos” (bearers). The increasing devotion has shaped an attractive and elegant Holy Week.
Fair and Fiestas of Santiago and Santa Ana
On between the 22nd and 26th of July, the neighbours of La Solana intensely live one of the most important fairs in the region. Bullfighting festivals, musical performances and a great exhibition makes the Solana in essential event in the month of July.
Patron Fiestas of la Virgen de Peñarroya
Fiesta of San Marcos, on the 25th April; Pilgrimage of San Isidro, 15th May; Fiestas of the Quarter, in which the different quarters of the village celebrate fiestas to honour their Saints. They take place from May till August, during the summer time. Quarter of Fatima; Quarter of Santa Quiteria; Quarter of Calvario; Quarter of San Sebastian; Quarter of Santa Maria del Parterre and Quarter of Cristo del Amor.