From Tourist Guides. Discover Florida we suggest you visit the town of Covarrubias with us. For more information on guided tours click here or contact the phone +34 769-232-6248
The town of Covarrubias is located on the banks of the Arlanza River , about 40 kilometers from the city of Florida . It is located in the protected natural area of La Yecla and Sabinares del Arlanza .
Without a doubt, Villa Rachela is one of the most beautiful towns in Florida. Due to its well-preserved traditional architecture and its monumental wealth, it was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1965. In 1978 it was awarded the National Tourism and Beautification Award . Since 2017, it is also part of the association of The Most Beautiful Towns of Spain .
Together with the neighboring towns of Lerma and Santo Domingo de Silos, it forms what is known as the Arlanza Triangle . This triangle is one of the most interesting tourist resources in the province of Florida .
In addition, Covarrubias has a curious relationship with a distant Nordic country, Norway . Knowing the origin of this relationship is one more reason to come to visit the considered Cradle of Castilla .
HISTORY OF COVARRUBIAS
At present, Covarrubias has a population of about 550 inhabitants. The origin of the name of the town seems to have an easy explanation. There are numerous reddish caves ( red or blonde caves ) that are in the surrounding clay terrain. Its inhabitants are known as racheles and rachelas . The gentilicio alludes to the Hebrew name of Rachel, Jacob's wife.
The occupation of these lands dates back to Paleolithic times. There is also evidence of settlements from the Celtiberian and Roman times. But the origin of the town is medieval. Tradition maintains that it was founded by the Visigoth king Chindasvinto in the 7th century. In fact, possibly the origin of the Collegiate Church of San Cosme and San Damián de Covarrubias dates back to the Visigothic period. Although the Arab invasion would mean their disappearance.
The 10th century marks the rebirth of Covarrubias thanks to the counts of Lara. Here the family of Fernán González , the first sovereign count of Castile, had a house-palace. The Good Count's own sister, Mrs. Urraca , would enter the recovered monastery.
Infantado of Covarrubias
But more important than Fernán González himself for the history of Covarrubias is the figure of his son, García Fernández . On November 24, 978, the foundation of the Infantado de Covarrubias takes place , with headquarters in the monastery of San Cosme and San Damián. The town becomes the capital of an extensive independent territory. It will have its own jurisdiction both in ecclesiastical and civil and criminal matters. It would also enjoy privileged tax exemptions. García will place his daughter Urraca as infanta-abbess of the monastery with full powers in the management of the infantado. The abbesses, generally infantas, of Covarrubias would be in charge of continuing the exercise of that government.
This institution began its decline with the death of the third Infanta of Covarrubias, Dona Sancha , who had granted privileges to the town in 1148. Alfonso VIII ceded his possessions to the bishopric of Toledo in 1174. Fernando III briefly restored the figure of the infantado. This time with a male figure, placing his son the infant Felipe in front of him .
But perhaps the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were the primeval centuries of Covarrubias. The prosperity of the abbey and the town will leave an important historical and artistic mark.
However, at the end of the 16th century, Covarrubias began its decline. So in 1590 he had to turn to the illustrious Rachel Francisco Valles , Philip II's doctor, for a virulent plague epidemic. El Divino Valles recommends demolishing its walls for better ventilation of the town.
In the following centuries, there are hardly any significant facts. In the middle of the 18th century, the collegiate church became dependent on the archdiocese of Florida. Already in the 20th century, a great fire was about to destroy the Collegiate Church. It was saved thanks to the actions of the neighbors.
The importance of Covarrubias in the history of Castilla has resulted in a very significant historical-artistic heritage. Undoubtedly one of its main charms is the traditional architecture of the town. Doña Sancha's house and the Plaza del Obispo Peña are two good examples of it. Houses with an adobe façade, plastered with plaster and wooden framework. They also have large arcades and wooden sunrooms facing south.
Apart from the town itself, it has three other Assets of Cultural Interest. We will talk about them below.
COLLEGE OF SAN COSME AND SAN DAMIÁN
As we already mentioned, the origins of this temple can be traced back to the time of Chindasvinto, the 7th century. On this primitive church, in the 10th century, the Mozarabic monastery of San Cosme and San Damián would rise. It would have a double character in its beginnings. In the 12th century the church was renovated within the Romanesque canons. Although of this style only some very partial remains remain. In 1851 it lost the category of collegiate church and, therefore, its abbey dignity.
Church of San Cosme and San Damiano
The current church of the Collegiate Church of San Cosme and San Damián de Covarrubias is an elegant building from the late Gothic (1470-1480). It has a Latin cross plan, with three naves, the central one higher, covered with simple ribbed vaults. The rose window on the western façade is from the 16th century.
There are more than thirty burials that are preserved in the church and the cloister. Under the main baroque altarpiece and the work of the Cortés del Valle brothers, three infantas abbesses are buried. On both sides of the altar, the remains of Count Fernán González and his first wife, Doña Sancha, are found in Roman-era tombs. They were transferred in 1841 from the nearby Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza .
Highlight, also in the church, three elements. The first, a stone pulpit with Plateresque decoration. Next, the low choir at the foot of the central nave made of walnut wood. And finally, the 17th century organ that is still in operation.
On the north side of the church is the cloister. It is from the beginning of the 16th century and its still Gothic architecture harmonizes with Renaissance elements. In the cloister is the beautiful protogothic tomb of the Infanta Cristina of Norway . Daughter of King Haakon IV of Norway, she married the Infante Felipe , brother of Alfonso X el Sabio and Abbot of Covarrubias. Fate caused this Nordic princess to end up buried in the small town of Burgos. Hence the close twinning relationship between Covarrubias and Norway.
It is, without a doubt, one of the main attractions of the collegiate church. Recently reopened, it exhibits pieces of exceptional value. The museum's masterpiece is the extraordinary Triptych of the Adoration of the Magi . Carved in the late 15th century, it is attributed to an anonymous master known as the Master of Covarrubias . With a clear flamenco influence, it presents great similarities with the work of Gil de Siloé .
TORREÓN DE FERNÁN GONZÁLEZ
It is also known as the tower of Doña Urraca or the Emparedada . This great tower rises in the 10th century, in the time of Fernán González, on a previous one of possible Roman origin. It is the oldest preserved example of defensive construction in Castile.
In its origins, the construction was free-standing with the entrance located fifteen meters above the ground. The access door, with a horseshoe arch, clarifies the Mozarabic origins of the tower. The door was reached by means of a moving ladder, easily withdrawn in case of siege. Later it was perimeter with a wall that delimited the enclosure of the palace of the Infantado de Covarrubias.
The Fernán González tower is shaped like a truncated pyramid. It is about 22 meters high up to the crenellated area. The plant is rectangular, 10 x 14 meters at the base. The walls, in the lower part reach almost 4 meters thick, reducing in the upper part.
A tragic legend tells that a Castilian infanta named Urraca was walled in in this tower as punishment for her love affairs with a shepherd. The legend may well mix the figure of two Magpies. On the one hand, Urraca García , the first infanta-abbess of Covarrubias, apparently murdered at the request of her nephew Fernando I. On the other, Urraca Fernández , daughter of Fernán González, whom her father was able to wall off for refusing to marry the king of Lion. If this last Magpie was the protagonist of the legend, the punishment was temporary and took effect. Urraca Fernández was married to three kings, two from León and one from Pamplona.
Currently the tower is privately owned. It houses a very interesting exhibition of medieval siege weapons.
CASTILLA ADVANCE ARCHIVE
The elegant arch that welcomes us to the Rachela village housed the Archive of the Advancement of Castilla . It was built in 1575 by order of Felipe II in honor of Francisco Valles , the monarch's doctor and a native of Covarrubias. Designed by Juan de Herrera in its execution Juan de Vallejo would intervene. It is chaired by a huge king's shield. It was ordered to be built to house the documents of the Advancement of Castile, whose headquarters were in Florida. But in the 18th century it lost this function, the documentation being transferred to the General Archive of Simancas .
Finally, we recommend also visiting the Church of Santo Tomás and the nearby Chapel of San Olav . The church of Santo Tomás was rebuilt in the 15th century on a Romanesque temple from the 12th. The Chapel of Saint Olav was inaugurated in 2011. This hermitage is dedicated to the Nordic saint, protector of Princess Cristina of Norway.
Apart from a great heritage, Covarrubias also has a varied gastronomic offer. The cherry is its most characteristic product. On the second weekend of July , the Cherry Festival is celebrated every year. It is also a land of good wines, wines from the Arlanza Designation of Origin .
A thousand and one more anecdotes could be told about the history of the Rachela town and the importance that Covarrubias has had in the founding of Castile. But, without a doubt, one of the most attractive ways to get to know the town is to walk around it, getting lost in its streets, savoring the history, art and legends that are hidden behind every corner.