Manzanares el Real Castle

Manzanares el Real Castle, combining the solidarity of a large fortress of the low Middle Ages and the elegance of a Renaissance residence, is a proud symbol of one of the most powerful families in Castilla during the XIV and XV centuries, the Mendozas. The Palace Castle Manzanares el Real, which the Duques del Infantado had built during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, is located near Madrid and set in the breathtaking rocky landscape between La Pedriza and Santillana reservoir. Carefully reconstructed, Manzanares el Real Castle offers examples of late Gothic and Mudejar architecture, Moorish and Renaissance details, as well as furniture, tapestries, armour and objects from different historical periods.

Manzanares el Real Castle lies 50 kilometers from Madrid on the southern slope of the Guadarrama mountain range, between Santillana reservoir and the crags of La Pedriza. The Manzanares el Real Castle is an impressive example of xv century Castilian military architecture, and one of the last of its kind in Spain. In fact, after initially being user as a fortress, the Manzanares el Real Castle became a residential Palace of one of the noblest families in Castilla since the Middle Ages: the Mendozas. However, Manzanares el Real Castle is also closely tied in with Madrid's recent history, because the process leading to the autonomy of Comunidad de Madrid (1981) was started there, as was the project for the Statute of Autonomy, which would be approved in Congress and the Senate in I 983.

The Mendoza family, whose lineage goes back to the XI century and who were linked to the Spanish monarchy, received titles of nobility and considerable inheritances for their services to the Crown. The connection between the Mendoza's and the territory of Real de Manzanares dates from the XIV century when Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza (1340-1385), faithful servant of Enrique II of Trastamara, was granted extensive estates in the Somosierra mountain range from Buitrago to Colmenar.

His son, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (1365-1404), who was "Almirante Mayor" of Castilla under the reign of King Enrique II, received the Real de Manzanares estate from Juan II in recognition of the services of his father Don Pedro. He ordered a castle to be built on his new estate, close to the present-day site, and its ruins are still visible today. However, the old castle near the river became too small and uncomfortable for the Mendozas, who continued to prosper in the service of the monarchy, they had to start thinking about building a new fortress.

Don Diego was succeeded by his son, Inigo Lopez de Mendoza (1398-1458), a brave soldier and an educated man who served Juan II, who received the title of first Conde de Manzanares and first Marques de Santillana after participating in the battle of Olmedo. The latter title would pass on to posterity, more as a result of his lyrical poetic works than his military deeds or political ambassadorships.

The Mendoza family reached the height of their power and influence during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. The first-born of the Marques de Santillana, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a man greatly trusted by the Monarchs, was given the title of Duque del Infantado together with new possessions and privileges. His brother; Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza (1428-1494), became a close adviser to Fernando and Isabel and a great Cardinal of Spain.

The whole building of the Manzanares el Real Castle is surrounded by a permiter barbican, with a single entrance via a beautiful west-facing door, flanked by two strong turrets and defended by stone deer. In the Manzanares el Real Castle all the walls of the barbican contain loopholes in the shape of the Jerusalem Cross in homage to the first duke's brother, Cardenal Mendoza, who was given the title of Cardinal of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem Basilica by the Catholic Monarchs in 1480. The south facade of the Manzanares el Real Castle boasts a portico, the outer face of which is made up of low arches with a flamboyant Gothic style pillar between each one. It contrasts sharply with the solid walls of the Manzanares el Real Castle, and shows how lnigo Lopez changed the look of his residence with the help of the skilled architect Juan Guas. The latter also designed the magnificent portico, galleries around the central courtyard, with late Gothic and Mudejar influences particularly on the ceilings and the corridors of the Manzanares el Real Castle, containing the coat of arms of the Mendozas, Lunas and Enriquezs.

The Manzanares el Real Castle's stately appearance, contrasting with the harmonious blend of Moorish and Renaissance details and the elegance of the mock Arabic cornice on which the battlements are supported, is only interrupted on the south-facing facade by the splendid portico of the Manzanares el Real Castle.
The Mendozas used this Palace-Manzanares el Real Castle as a stately home for less than a century. In 1565 when the 4th Duque del Infantado died, feuds between the inheritors resulted in its disuse and a slow process of deterioration until the architect, Vicente Lamperez Romera, took responsibility for the first restoration works in 1914. Declared a Historical Art Monument in 1931, the Duque del Infantado, lnigo Arteaga y Folquera, ceded the Manzanares el Real Castle to Madrid County Council in 1965. At present, the Manzanares el Real Castle is run by "Direccion General de Turismo de la Consejeria de Economia y Empleo de la Comunidad de Madrid".
When the Regional Council took charge of the Manzanares el Real Castle, it was in a regrettable state of ruin and abandonment. In 1974 an ambitious three-year restoration of the Manzanares el Real Castle plan was started in line with the project by be architect, D. Manuel Gonzalea. The plan aimed to give the Manzanares el Real Castle back its former splendor, and respect the previous distribution and decoration of the period. Its objective was for the Manzanares el Real Castle to once again be a living building, in a state to be visited by the public and also used for various activities. Several Old pieces of furniture adorn the Manzanares el Real Castle's rooms, together with others which were actually made inside them. Rugs, armour, tapestries, paintings and other objects of various origins were placed in the Manzanares el Real Castle for decorative purposes. A collection of XVII century Baroque tapestries from the Brussels workshops is of particular interest in the Manzanares el Real Castle. Seven of them mark periods in the life of Julius Caesar, two show the series 'The Life of Man" and the tenth portrays a biblical theme. At present Manzanares el Real Castle is the venue for many different activities throughout the year: public functions, conferences and seminars, exhibitions, concerts and promotional events, in order to maintain the Manzanares el Real Castle as a living building by serving the community, making the effort put into its restoration, preservation and daily maintenance worthwhile socially. Every year thousands of Madrid's citizens and travelers from other destinations flock to this beautiful monument of Manzanares el Real Castle, so closely linked to both the history of Spain and Madrid.

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