Jorge Manrique’s homeland and bullfighting tradition
Villamanrique arises as a small village dependent on Torre de Juan Abad, at the foot of Saint Cristobal mountain chain, where there was a hermitage disappeared at the end of the 18th Century.
It is a strategic site, occupied by the Muslims who built a large fortress called Eznavejor conquered back by the Christians in 1213. A year later, the castle was given to the Military Order of Santiago to repopulate it. Nevertheless, it was progressively abandoned and filled with earth in the 13th century, faded by a new castle called Montizón, so the defensive system was complete by means of a network of complementary fortified towers and watch towers.
The little village of Belmontejo de la Sierra, former name of Villamanrique, was quickly repopulated under the dominance of Torre de Juan Abad. On the 18th of December, it became an independent village, by the authority of Maestre Don Rodrigo Manrique. To honour him, the village was renamed as Villamanrique. Some authors think that this privilege was given by the Catholic Kings to the village, to thank its loyalty during the war against Doña Juana “La Beltraneja”. On the other hand, La Torre de Juan Abad, suffered from a dramatic decrease on population, for it became the aim of the attacks of the Manrique family, during the last years of the 15th century.
The village was member of the Encomienda de Santiago de Montiel and was dominated by the powerful Manrique family, during the last years of the 14th Century and the first years of the 15th Century. Its population throve quickly, but it suffered the same crisis process as the remaining villages of the territory in the following century.
In Villamanrique we find the Castle of Montizón, the medieval fortress best preserved throughout Campo de Montiel.
Castle of Montizon
The castle of Montizon is located Southeast of Villamanrique, 6 kms away, beside Guadalén river. It was built by the Military Religious Order of Santiago, in the middle of the 13th century. It was named Santiago de Montizón o Saint Yague.
It was declared National Historical-Artistic Monument in 1983. It is the fortress that is better preserved in Campo de Montiel. It is a superb castle, with strong and wide walls. It was the headquarters of the Military commanders of Montizón. The main rooms and spaces are the “albacara” (livestock enclosure) the Keep and the arms courtyard. Jorge Manrique was knight commander and stayed at this castle for several years.
Castle of Eznavejor – Torres de Xoray (Towers of Xoray)
This old fortress is located by the road from Torre de Juan Abad to Villamanrique, dominating a narrow canyon known as “Estrecho de las Torres”.
This fortress has a regular plant and occupies the summit of a small hill. It is streched rectangular shaped. There are some remains of the wall, of the towers and also of the inner chambers. It had a 250 m2 meters long perimeter and its surface was more than 3000 m2.
During the first half of the 13th century, this fortress must have been one o the most important in the area. On the 4th of September, 1239, there was a land sharing out between the Orders of Calatrava and Santiago, Southwards Ciudad Real, and the castles of Salvatierra and Eznavexore were the premises of this operation, which proves the importance of these two fortresses. Beside the castle, the villages of Villamanrique and Torre de Juan Abad were founded. On the 7th of May, 1214 Alfonso VIII gave away the Torres de Joray to the Knights of the Order of Santiago.
Torre de la Higuera (Tower of the Figtree)
It is an isolated turret located Northeast of Villamanrique, near Torre de Juan Abad. It operated as a watchtower. It is set on a hill upon La Cañada creek. Good views of Montizón Castle and Eznavejor Castle can be seen from this tower
The tower had a ground floor, a main floor with a window on each segment and above it, a defensive terrace, battlement less nowadays. The division between the flats was made with floors and ceiling wood finish, and they were linked by a wooden staircase.
Church of Saing Andres
Church of Saint Andres, end of 15th to 17th century. It was appointed National Monument. This magnificent temple shows the transition from Gothic to Renaissance style. It has a splendid Renaissance gateway. It has a nave with side chapels.
It was built by the Military Order of Santiago. It has a tower on the Southwestern angle that can be reached by an interesting and uncommon winding stone staircase with 107 equal steps. The tower has a square ground plan and an octagonal upper storey. A strong buttress is attached to its Southeast side. The choir can be reached by the winding staircase.
Inside there are three star vaults, outlined by fine rising nerves that expand like a fan from some Corinthian columns attached to the walls. In the Main Chapel there is a semicircular dome supported by pendentives decorated with the four Evangelists and other religious motifs. There are several side chapels, two of them are older and the other two were built after 1578. Some of its best masterpieces are a fresco dated at the end of the 15th Century that represents JesusChrist and the wood handcrafts of the choir balustrade and the inner doors.
The beautiful façade draws our attention. It is one of the most interesting Renaissance doorways in the area. It is embedded in a very deep arch. The doorway is decorated in a style related to Andres Vandelvira. The way-in is a round arch on jambs richly decorated with grotesques.
La Casa Grande (Large House) or de los Manrique’s
It was appointed Cultural Object with cathegory of Monument. It is a Renaissance civil building, with a beautiful column courtyard and wooden balustrade galleries. It is a good sample of ancestral home.
Inside, the hallway gives way to a quadrangular courtyard. The floor is clay tiled and there is a gallery supported by Tuscan columns with footings. In a corner there is a simple stairway to the upper floor. In this case, the traditional balustrade has been replaced by a brick body and a wooden banister. At both galleries there are rectangular windows and doors.
There is a third floor of lower height, like an attic. Its openings are blind nowadays. The gable roof is Arabic tile finish. The house is located on the corner of Cervantes and Maestre Rodrigo streets.
Villamanrique, Villanueva de los Infantes and La Solana, are the three villages in Campo de Montiel with more coats of arms on their façades, all over Ciudad Real. Walking along the streets of Villamanrique we can enjoy some blazons, some of them show very good conditions, among them to highlight:
The Blazon of the Santiago Knight Sebastian Suarez de Mendoza. It is a coat of arms carved on stone that shows good conditions. It is dated on the first half of the 17th Century and we can see it on the main façade of the Casa de la Encomienda, in Cervantes, 11, street.
Personal coat of arms of the Knight Pedro Andres de Guzman, also from the Order of Santiago. It is more deteriorated than the above mentioned, it is dated on the second half of the 17th Century. It is located inside of one of the buildings in Antonia Manzano street.
Blazon referred to the marriage between Ana Velasco Ayala and Pedro Andres de Guzman. It is carved on stone and is dated on the second half of the 17th Century, it is located on the Casa de la Encomienda.
Blazon of the Santiago Knight Nicolas Fernandez de Cordoba, who was the Administrator of the Encomienda between 1681 and 1682. At that time the Encomienda holder was the Marquise of Algaba, Ana Velasco y Ayala. Coat of arms carved on stone from the second half of the 17th Century. It is located on the façade of 42 and 46 Jeronimo Frias street. It has details from the Inquisition.
Personal blazon of the Santiago knight Vespasiano Gonzaga y Capua, also carved on stone, quite damaged, from the second half of the 17th Century, and located on the façade of 60, Jeronimo Frias street. The reason why this Duke is documented here might be due to his marriage to the Countess of Paredes de Nava, Maria Manrique de Lara, señora de Villapalacios.
Fiestas and traditions
Fiestas of Saint Miguel
They are held in September, from the 28th on. The most important events during the fiestas are the “encierros” (bull running). The “encierros” (bull running) take place every evening during the Fair and attract a large number of visitors. Without doubt this fiesta is one of the most popular fiestas in Campo de Montiel, as it attracts a lot of people.
One of the most interesting features of these “encierros” is that the bulls are not sacrified but they are taken back to the bull raisers.
In Villamanrique there are other fiestas such as: Saint Anton, on the 17th January.. Virgin of Mairena, first Sunday in May; Saint Isidro, on the 15th May; Saint Cristobal, on the 10 of July Saint Marcos, on the 25 of April.
Jorge Manrique and the Jornadas Manriqueñas (Conferences on Manrique)
Jorge Manrique was Lord of Belmontejo de la Sierra (today’s Villamanrique), knight commander of the Castle of Montizon, Trece of Santiago, Ducke of Montalvo and Captain of soldiers in Castille. He was more of a military thant a writer, in spite of that, he was a notorious poet. He has been considered to be the first of the preRenaissance.
His poetic work is not very large, about 40 compositions. They are usually broken down in three groups: love, mocking and doctrine. They are usually satirical and love works, within the cannon of the poetry of songs, still under the Provence’s influence, with a tone of erotic gallantry, faded away by means of fine allegories.
To be pointed out for linking tradition and originality are the Coplas por la muerte de su padre. In these verses Jorge Manrique praises for the funeral of his father, Don Rodrigo Manrique, showing him as a model of heroism, of virtues and serenity before the death. The poem is a classical one in the Spanish literature of all times and its popularity expanded to be a cannon of Universal literature.
During May some conferences on Jorque Manrique are hold. These conferences gather other cultural events, medieval games, open air markets. One of the settings where this Conferences are held is the castle of Montizon. All through a whole week-end Villamanrique takes back to the medieval age in which Jorge Manrique lived for several years in this village.