TORDESILLAS, Castile, Spain
Tordesillas is located on the Duero River in the region of Castile, central Spain. It was once an important crossroad during Roman occupation, and a stronghold of defence against Arab invasions. One of the most important monuments in Tordesillas is the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara which was a palace built in the 14th century by King Alfonso XI.
The palace was declared a site of Cultural Interest because of its beautiful features which were designed by Mudejar artists. Although on a much smaller scale than the Alcazar in Seville, it became a popular retreat for the Royal family and many nobles. During the 15th century, this was also where the Cortes would often hold meetings. When King Pedro the Cruel died he left the palace to his daughters, who turned it into a convent but retained its role as a royal palace. However, all that remains of the palace today is the facade, one of the patios, a chapel and the Arab baths.
Sadly the convent had a very tragic association with the Queen of Castile who was married to Philip I. Apart from his infidelity, he tried several times to take control of her legal birth right of sole rule, even going so far as to imprison her. Eventually it took its toll on her and she started committing acts that were considered signs of insanity. Following her husband’s early death, her father then tried to block her right to rule, and confined her to the Convent of Santa Clara, where she was forced to live in a windowless room for the next 50 years.
In the historical part of town is the Plaza Mayor which is the central focal point there are several churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries; the San Juan, San Pedro, Santiago and San Antolin. The most impressive is the massive Church of San Antolin. Inside there is not only a stunning chapel but also the tomb of the Commander of the Order of Santiago, Don Pedro de Alderete. The House of Treaties is where the Spanish monarchs signed the ‘Treaty of Tordesillas’ in 1494 with the Portuguese, establishing the lines for colonization between the Spanish and Portuguese around the globe.
Tordesillas has its own Parador, the Parador Hotel Tordesillas, a typical manor house of this region that has been converted into four star hotel. Located only 1km from the town centre, it is furnished with antiques from all over the area, set in a beautiful pine grove, has two swimming pools, spa facilities, and a restaurant serving local and international cuisine.
If you are trying to decide when it is best to come, there are several festivals throughout the year. La Virgen de La Pena is in honour of their patron saint with people arriving in horse drawn carts. In January, the nearby town of Valladolid hosts an incredible masquerade party, and a winter motorcycle rally. Tordesillas and Vallodolid both hold festivities at Easter, and around October there is a Medieval Market selling handicrafts.
However, Tordesillas is most famous for the Festival of Toro de la Vega which is celebrated in September. It is definitely not for the faint hearted though, as it involves men on horseback herding a bull into a meadow with spears before finishing it off with a lethal blow.
Beyond Tordesillas you can enjoy the white wine routes of Rueda and sample the quality wine of this region. The town of Medina del Campo is also worth a visit with an outstanding 15th century castle called La Mota which dominates the skyline. Inside you can browse around some of the more interesting parts of the castle such as the Keep, the chapel and parade ground. It is just one of many amazing sites that you can visit that are all within each reach of Tordesillas.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.
Or visit her travel website covering countries in Europe and all around the globe.