Lerma. The Ducal Villa
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From the blog of Guía Burgos , official tourist guides , we discover Lerma , A beautiful Burgos town declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1965.
Lerma is considered one of the Most Beautiful Towns in Spain. An ideal excuse to visit it, along with the Arlanza Valley region where unique places such as Covarrubias , Santo Domingo de Silos and San Pedro de Arlanza are located .
The one known as Villa Ducal for its historical link with the Duke of Lerma, valid of Felipe III , hosted in 2019 a new edition of Las Adades del Hombre . It is one of the most outstanding temporary exhibitions of sacred art in Spain. Under the title of Angeli , the twenty-fourth edition of this exhibition had angels as its common thread. The collegiate church of San Pedro, the issue of La Piedad and the Monastery of the Ascension were the three venues of the exhibition in Lerma.
The Ducal de Lerma town is located in the southern half of the Florida province on a hill on the banks of the Arlanza River. Its characteristic profile can be seen from several kilometers away.
Located in a passage area of high strategic value, with a wide visual control of the Arlanza Valley , it was chosen as a place of settlement for different peoples throughout history such as pre-Romans, Romans, Visigoths and Muslims. At the beginning of the 10th century, the Christian settlers arrived.
In the Middle Ages it was the capital of an alfoz and received privileges from King Alfonso VII . It will also be in these moments when it is walled. Four gates that the medieval wall had. Of these, only one remains, the main one, the Prison Arch .
After being owned by several feudal families, it ended up under the jurisdiction of the Gómez de Sandoval and Rojas .
It will be a member of this family, Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, valid of King Felipe III and first Duke of Lerma, who from 1600 completely transformed the appearance of the town. At this time it will acquire the maximum splendor of its history. For this purpose, he did not skimp on expenses and had the best artists of the moment.
Between 1600 and 1618, the prestigious royal architects Francisco de Mora , Juan Gómez de Mora and Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios worked in Lerma. Following the Herrerian style prevailing at that time, they designed an outstanding urban ensemble for Lerma. The main elements of this project were the Ducal Palace, the Plaza Mayor and the church-collegiate church of San Pedro.
In addition, the Duke of Lerma founded six monasteries in the town, three male and three female of Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelites. The same Herrerian style was followed in them as in the rest of the monumental complex.
Without a doubt, all this makes Lerma one of the many must-see places in Florida. Below we will discover its main monuments.
It was built on the old medieval castle between 1601 and 1617. It was built following the plans of Francisco de Mora in a sober and elegant Herrerian style.
Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas was named valid by King Felipe III in 1598. Since then, he became the most powerful and influential ruler of his time. Faced with the monarch's apathy for the government, the duke had control of a great empire in his hands. The Ducal Palace became the greatest exponent and the most faithful reflection of that power and influence.
The palace has a rectangular plan. At each corner, a tower topped with a slate spire. The long façade is made up of three rows of openings. In the center the entrance door flanked by the owners' coats of arms.
Inside the courtyard is preserved surrounded by Tuscan columns topped in semicircular arches. Above, a body of balconies. The monumental staircase of the Ducal Palace starts from the patio. Still today it maintains the original elements of the seventeenth century.
PLAZA MAYOR AND PASSAGES
In front of the main facade of the palace is the great square. It has around 7000 square meters. Its main function was ceremonial and festive. The square was private. The shows that the duke offered to the king and the court during his frequent stays in the town were held there. The most common were bullfights, cane games, concerts or comedy theater.
From the Palace there were elevated passageways that linked it to the main religious buildings in Lerma. In them the Duke had rooms from which to attend religious ceremonies.
COLEGIAL CHURCH OF SAN PEDRO
Don Francisco will transform the modest parish church of San Pedro into a large church with collegiate status. The reform works will be undertaken in 1613 with plans by the Carmelite architect Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios . The church has a hall plan, with three naves and an ambulatory.
From the inside of the temple stands out, on the one hand, the praying bronze statue of Don Cristóbal de Rojas y Sandoval , archbishop of Seville and uncle of the Duke. It was executed by Juan de Arfe and Lesmes Fernández del Moral , following the designs of Pompeyo Leoni .
Also noteworthy, on the other hand, are the organs executed by Diego de Quijano between 1615 and 1617 and an Italian-style inlaid table. It is from the 17th century and is inlaid with mother-of-pearl and precious stones. It is preserved in the sacristy of the temple.
The collegiate church of San Pedro was the main headquarters of the Ages of Man in 2019.
SAN BLAS CONVENT
The Duke transferred the Dominican community of San Blas to Lerma in 1611 from the Tovar monastery, in Cifuentes (Guadalajara). Since then, it has been inhabited by cloistered nuns of this order.
The construction of the monastery was carried out under the design of Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios . On the facade of the church, the sculpture of San Blas stands out in a niche, flanked by the ducal coats of arms. The duke donated liturgical objects and paintings of high artistic value to the monastery.
Without a doubt, of all the religious buildings made by the Duke, this was the one with which he had the highest degree of connection and special protection. Note the existence of a passageway, not preserved today, that linked this monastery with the ducal residence. From there the duke could attend religious celebrations.
SANTA TERESA CONVENT
In this convent there were Carmelite friars until the Confiscation of Mendizábal in 1836. Its inauguration took place in 1617 with King Felipe III himself and a large part of the Court attending the event.
The highlight of the building, probably designed by Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios , is the facade. There is a niche with the image of Santa Teresa de Jesús and, again, the ducal coats of arms.
At present, the church of the convent is the parish of San Juan Bautista, while the rest of the dependencies host the courts and the town hall.
CONVENT OF THE ASCENSION
Founded in 1604 by Mrs. Mariana de Padilla y Manrique , daughter-in-law of the Duke and wife of Don Cristóbal Gómez de Sandoval , for a community of Poor Clare Franciscan nuns.
The construction works were carried out according to the design of the architect Pedro de Pedrosa . It has a sober church with a single nave with a transept and a Latin cross plan.
The main altarpiece is dominated by the relief of the Ascension of Christ, the work of the sculptor Juan de Solís . At the foot of the temple is the communion hall for the nuns and the choir. In the communion hall we can see an important collection of relics donated to the convent by the founders. Some of the reliquaries are the work of the Burgos silversmith Lesmes Fernández del Moral .
However, one of the most outstanding works is the sculpture of Reclining Christ by Gregorio Fernández (around 1600). It could have been a gift from Queen Margarita, wife of Felipe III.
Oil paintings of Bartolomé Carducho , the Prayer in the Garden, the Arrest and the Flagellation hang from the walls of the church .
On June 10, 1610, the Infanta Margarita Francisca , daughter of King Felipe III, was baptized in this convent. Here women of the high nobility of the time professed.
Since 2010 it has been one of the headquarters of the Iesu Communio religious community, founded by the Arandina Verónica Berzosa, Sr. Verónica .
It was another of the headquarters of the Ages of Man.
CONVENT OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
Carmelite female convent located outside the town walls. Once again, the design is due to the Carmelite architect Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios .
Like other convents in the town, it was also damaged during the Napoleonic invasion.
On the facade of the church there is a relief of the Annunciation. Again, on both sides, the ducal shields are located.
SANTO DOMINGO CONVENT
Don Francisco, the Duke of Lerma, had a great connection with the Dominicans. He came to be appointed protector of the Spanish Dominican convents.
The location of the convent was outside the town walls. The traces of it were commissioned to fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios .
On the front of the church the stone sculpture of Santo Domingo and the ducal coats of arms are located.
The French troops turned the monastery into a barracks. In 1835, the Confiscation meant the end of religious life. Then it went on to have other functions, such as teaching center, barn or Civil Guard barracks.
The only preserved remnant of the medieval wall. It was the main entrance to the town and gave access to Calle Mayor. It is so named because it served as a jail since the 19th century.
At present it is the headquarters of the Regulatory Council of the wines of the Denomination of Origin Arlanza .
HERMITAGE OF PIEDAD
It is actually the old church of San Juan . It was the parish of the town until sharing this function with that of San Pedro. In the 19th century the parish finally moved to the church of the disentailed monastery of Santa Teresa.
The interior features a Mudejar coffered ceiling from the late 14th or early 15th century.
Today, this space is dedicated to culture. There, therefore, all kinds of cultural events are held, such as conferences, exhibitions, musical or theatrical performances.
It was the third seat of the Ages.
MEDIEVAL BRIDGE AND HUMILLADERO HERMITAGE
The Lerma bridge has a medieval origin and allowed the passage of the Arlanza river . It has been rebuilt at many times as a result of the damage caused by the avenues of water.
The Ermita del Humilladero is the only one preserved of the seven built by the Duke. Pope Paul V granted in 1609 to the faithful who prayed in each of these hermitages, the same indulgences enjoyed by those who visited the seven Churches of Rome. In this way, the duke's guests to Lerma could atone for their sins.
Although the figure of the Duke of Lerma is key in the history of the town, he is not the only character who has left his mark on it. We highlight two other illustrious "lermeños":
The Cura Merino
Jerónimo Merino y Cob was born in the nearby town of Villovía into a humble family dedicated to farming. He became the parish priest of his town until the arrival of the Napoleonic troops. In January 1808, French soldiers entered Villovía and forced Jerónimo to transport drums and trumpets to Lerma. The priest flees and decides to take revenge on the French, and he did. He came to gather under his command more than 2000 well-organized men. His strategy consisted of punctual blows to the French army, not in direct confrontations.
He died in 1844 in Aleçon (France), his remains currently rest in the Plaza de Santa Clara de Lerma in a commemorative funerary monument.
Born in Valladolid, José Zorrilla spent his youthful years in the town of Lleida. His uncle was a beneficiary of the Collegiate Church of Lerma. Here he had his first youth love, Catalina Reoyo , to whom he dedicated some verses from his work A memory of Arlanza. Meanwhile, his friend Francisco Luis de Vallejo , with whom he shared experiences in the town, dedicated El Tenorio to him . Without a doubt, José Zorrilla always remembered with nostalgia the landscapes and the years lived in Lerma.
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