The living History
The history of the village of Montiel is one of the most rich, ancient and complex of Castilla-La Mancha. Its origins are linked with its strategic position, favoured by the abundance of water, due to the springs of the rivers Jabalón and Segurilla.
Montiel was conquered by Alfonso VIII, and later fell under the dominance of the Arabs. It was definitively conquered by Fernando III. This monarch gave the village to the knights of the Order of Santiago for safekeeping it. It was the capital village of the Campo de Montiel district until 1573.
In Montiel occurred the death of don Pedro I of Castile, considered “the Cruel” for someone but, “The upholder” for others. He died in Montiel in 1369 betrayed by his stepbrother don Enrique de Trastámara, who killed him by stabbing him repeatedly and cut his head off afterwards. He counted on the assistance of the Breton Knight who said this quote: “ Ni quito ni pongo rey, pero ayudo a mi Señor” (I do not proclaim nor remove any king, but I do assist my Lord).
The urban center of the village has lost, in general lines, the rustic look of the traditional housing, because of the abundance of new buildings. Its layout is uneven around the church and, especially, at the foot of the hill where the Castle is. Here it was where the new village aroused after the Reconquest and pacification of the territory.
Las Jornadas Medievales de Montiel (Medieval Days) have turned out to be one of the main tourist attractions in Campo de Montiel.
El Castillo de la Estrella (the castle of the Star)
When we see Montiel from any of the roads that take us to the village, the remains of its castle arouse our attention, reaffirming the historical wealth of the village. It is of Arabic origin, built in the IX century and renovated in the XVIII century. It was occupied alternately by Arabs and Christians for a long time. The setting is the typical Almohade, on a hill surrounded by water streams. Don Pedro took refuge in this castle during the battle of Montiel. Very little can be seen of the chambers, the doors, the windows, roofs and other architectonical elements of the castle. To highlight two windows on a large tower-room with jambs made of blocks of red sandstone; a well preserved “saetera” with the segment that faces the Northeast, towards the large plain; several remains of the gateways to two of the turrets.
The North part of the castle is the best preserved, so that it is possible to identify the different elements. There are the remains of six segments of the wall, linked by towers of diverse types. There are the remains of three square towers that were habitable and had three floors. Still some parts of their domes are in ruins. The semicircular towers served as a reinforcement to the wall, but not so likely for defensive purposes, although some authors see this as an attempt to decorate the walls. In this same front there is a square tower that has lost its twin in the southern front. Both served to defend the main entrance of the castle from the patio of arms.
The best access to the castle is by the road to Villanueva de la Fuente.
Church of Saint Sebastian
It is located in the old centre of the village, on a natural elevation of the ground. It is part of the elements in Plaza Mayor, the Castle of the Star and the Church. This part of the village was expanded with streets that have a medieval tradition: narrow streets with bends, which usually end up in blind alleys
It was built by the Infant don Enrique de Aragón in 1440 and finished in 1474. The building has a nave of Renaissance and Baroque styles. The portico is Renaissance style with Toscan influence and is dated in 1643. Inside, a nave with six lateral chapels. The area of the choir and the baptismal font is the oldest in the temple, very little restored, thus the area in which we can see more signs of the former church. Thy Renaissance altarpiece, was one of the few that survived the Civil War although it is said that two more figures were destroyed too.
In the chapel attached to the wall to the right, it is the Virgin de la Nieves, woodwork dated in 13th Century that has recently been restored. In the attached chapels it can be seen round arches of classical type.
Hermitage of the Cristo de la Expiración
Dated in the 15th Century. It is late Gothic style with some Renaissance elements. Formerly the hermitage was devoted to Santiago Apostle; in 1468 it collapsed and in 1498 the current one was built. It has one nave and two aisles. There used to be the image of Christ which is highly venerated.
It is located on the North hillside of the Castle de la Estrella. Currently, it is the symbol of the village of Montiel. Thus its veneration is the strongest among the neighbours. It has been restores recently and it is surrounded by beautiful gardens and playgrounds.
Hermitage of the Virgen de los Martires
The Virgen de los Mártires, patron saint of the village, has its hermitage three kilometer far from Montiel, South-East direction, by the road to Albaladejo. Bordering the river Segurilla on its left margin, we reach the slope of a hill, the place where the neighbours built the hermitage in the 15th century to keep their patron Virgin, giving worship to her until our days.
The hermitage has a rectangular plant with just one nave, saddle roof and whitewashed walls. Its door is under a porch to the West; above it there is a small belfry. The whole is adorned down to the river by a wide and leafy wood where there are tables and seats provided to enjoy a picnic day.
Casa de la Condesa (the home of the Countess)
It was property of don Andres Gutierrez de la Vega, Member of the Cortes and general director of prisons in the early 20. It shows a mixture of styles: its façade is Baroque and in the inside, traditional style from la Mancha, as it keeps the structure of an ancestral home. Currently is a private house and only the façade can be visited.
Casa de la Familia Petrer (Home of the family Petrer)
It is a typical Ancestral Home, with a family coat of arms, square plant, whitewashed, with trabeated gateway with stone jambs, with classical ornaments and above the higher lintel, the coat of arms and above it, a balcony with a window also framed by stone jambs.
Poblado de Torres (Settlement of Torres)
It is said that Torres was a place for knights retirement, who after having a life of fighting, ended up their last days, longing for peace and calmness.
In the “Relaciones” (Land Descriptions) by Felipe II, in 1575, in the chapter deboted to Montiel, there are also references to the settlement of Torres but already as a hamlet dependent from Montiel. According to this document, Torres is a “good league” from Montiel, and it has a “Dehesa” (pasture land) and two Ordinary Mayors, two Mayors of Brotherhood, and a bailiff as officers of the Council of Torres. The settlement also counts on an own priest, church (probably Saint Bartolome), a small mortar fortress and an hermitage deboted to Saint Blas. Torres counted at that time on thirty neighbours “pecheros” (who paid taxes), so that the real population could be aroung 120 inhabitants. The settlement of Torres had its own Encomienda that was shared with another hamlet of Montiel, Cañamares. The fortress of Torres belonged to the first defensive line of Montiel together with the castles of Santa Cruz of the Cáñamos and Peñaflor (currently Cerro del Castillón near Infantes). The latest references that we have found about Torres indicate that in 1611 had its own judges for its “Dehesa” (pasture land) and in 1914 and in 1914 its population had been reduced to 5 houses and 13 inhabitants. Currently it does not exist as a village nor a hamlet anymore.
Fiestas and traditions
Montiel y its “Jornadas Medievales” (Medieval days)
In March and through a whole weekend, the citizens of Montiel conmemorate the death of the king Pedro I de Castilla. The neighbours of Montiel dress up with period costumes and move back the their most glorious past in 1369, when the Encomienda of Montiel was the most powerful of the Order of Santiago. For these days, it is provided a medieval site that includes a Medieval open market that offer local products, at which there are local delicatessen prepared by local Associations and a free lunch provided by the Town Council.
Among other events, there is a representation of the Battle of Montiel and the death of the king Pedro I by Enrique de Trastámara. Traditional games and medieval dances, sword fights, are among the activities that will take us back to Medieval Montiel.
With no doubt it is the most important fiesta in Montiel and one of the more relevant in the District. The neighbours of Montiel have been able to recover and empower a historical fiesta that has a high and increasing tourist attraction.
The fiestas to honour the patron saint of Montiel “Nuestra Señora de los Mártires”, take place on the 8th of May. The pilgrimage, on the 15th of August, on this day, the Virgin is taken to the Sanctuary. Fiestas to honour “Santo Cristo de la Expiración” on the 14th of September.