Benavente, Zamora, Spain
Benavente is a prominent town in the province of Zamora, northern Spain. It has been a popular resting place for many travellers over the centuries, as this was the crossing point of two routes; one from France to Pontevedra and Tui, and the other being the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from Madrid.
There are many special churches and other religious establishments to visit in Benavente. For instance, the 12th century Church of San Juan del Mercado is one of the town’s most precious monuments. Built in the Romanesque style, it has three decorated portals; the Adoration of the Magi, the Virgin and Child and scenes of the birth of Jesus. The Santa Maria del Azogue Church was built in the 12th century and also Romanesque. It is decorated with images of various Evangelists and has an impressive display of gothic sculptures including the group of Anunciacion. The hospital of La Piedad is also worth visiting as it was once a hostel for those making the pilgrimage to Santiago.
Another impressive site is Valencia de Don Juan Castle (also known as Coyanza Castle). It is a magnificent 15th century fortress built on the site of a hill fort dating back to the Iron Age. Its slender cylindrical towers are close together giving it a vertical presence that is quite awe-inspiring. Beyond Benavente in the town of Tabara is the 12th century Santa Maria Church built on the site of a former Monastery. The original tower and some of the walls still stand today, and inside is a well preserved example of an ancient codex (handwritten book) called Del Beato Tavariense. If you travel to Moreruel you can visit the Santa Maria Convent which was founded in the 12th century. It was the first Cistercian monastery on the Peninsula, and very influential during that era.
On the eve of the Corpus Christi religious holiday, the town begins celebrating its main local festival called the Toro Enmaromado which means ‘tied-up bull’. The festivities last a week and include several cultural events, lots of music and bullfighting. The main event is held mid week, when the streets are lined with spectators while a large bull is guided through the town by a rope tied to his horns. The sheer size of the animal means this is not an easy task and, being aggressive and unpredictable, it can be extremely dangerous. However, that does not seem to deter the young men in the crowd who like to test their courage by getting as close as they can.
Finally, the Parador Benavente (Hotel Rey Fernando II de Leon) is also one of Benavente’s main attractions. Built on the site of the 12th century castle and constructed by King Fernando II of Leon, the original castle was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars in 1808. However, theTorre del Caracol, which is one of the original towers, remains intact and has a stunning Mudejar coffered ceiling.
If you enjoy cultural tours and taking part in local festivities, there is no better way to compliment your stay by booking into this luxury Parador. Its beautiful gardens, seasonal swimming pool, and excellent regional cuisine ensure you will have a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.