Belmonte, a castle and a story !!!

I am coming back at you with Castilla La Mancha, just a lovely region of my dear Spain.  This is an update of an older post with new text and same older pictures. I finally came with the family and nice memories of my dear late wife Martine, the rest is history. All my family love it and we return couple times more. Let me tell you about Belmonte, a castle and a story !!! Hope you enjoy it as I.

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The castle of Belmonte is link to the history of Spain and France and I was very much wanted to show it to my wife. The first time we tried with all the kids wanting to go to Madrid (for shopping!) we arrive late at lunch time and needed to wait too long we continue our journey and me very upset. I told them next time we come in this is a priority, and so we did come in August 2017.  Oh yes it is in the Province of Cuenca as well ! Belmonte ,the city, is located at km 342 of the road N 420 that takes you from Cuenca to Alcazar de San Juan, and the same road can even take you south to Córdoba ,and over east to Tarragona. You need to come by car from Madrid on the A3 direction Valencia , at Tarancon, take the road direction Salices to junction with La Almarcha to take the N420 direction Belmonte.

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Of course, a must is the Castle of  Belmonte. Built in the gothic mudéjar style of the 15C where the construction was started in 1456  by ordered of don Juan Pacheco. The exterior was similar to the castles of  Manzanares el Real in Madrid , and Mombeltrán in  Ávila as done by same architect Juan Guas. There is really no certainty of when was finished many dates but the most often said is that of  1474 due to the imminent civil war of 1475-1480.  The castle house the Marquis lord Diego López Pacheco.

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By marriage, the castle passes to the family of the House of Montijo and in the 19C is passed on to the Countess of  Teba.  However, was the heiress to the House of Villena,  Eugenia de Guzmán, better known as Imperatrice of the French under Eugénie de Montijo married to Emperor Napoleón III of France. She ordered the castle restored on the exterior and interior such as during her time done with the Patio de Armas, the principal stairs and the chalk chimneys  as well as some of the roof. These works lasted from 1857 to 1870 ,and were ended due to the defeat of the French Second Empire. From 1881 to 1885 the castle is occupied by French dominican brothers that used it as a monastery; after their departure the nephew-grandson of the Imperatrice Eugénie ,the Duke of  Peñaranda, Hernando Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, continue with the restorations and even came to live in it.  Currently it is the property of the Ducal House of Peñaranda descendants of the Duchess of Alba, María Francisca de Sales Portocarrero, sister of Eugenia de Guzmán, aka Eugenia de Montijo.

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After a visit to the Castle there is a presentation showing life in it from medieval times to the war of succession of Castile in the second half of the 15C between Princess Juana “La Beltraneja” protected by the Marquis of Villena and her aunt Isabel known later as the Catholic Queen or Isabel I and the role the owner of the castle in this war.  The result was the unification of Castile and Aragon  as Spain in 1492  after the fall of the kingdom of Granada where the owner of the castle Diego López Pacheco  participated and was name by the Catholic kings ,captain general of the frontier in the war.

Then, you can go and see these other monuments. Colegiata gótica de San Bartoloméor collegiale Church gothic from the 15C  built on a previous visigoth Church. You see the wonderful choir leather furniture from the 15C engraved with biblical stories that were taken from the Cathedral of Cuenca in the 18C; the first choir chairs engraved with images of the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an organ from the 18C that still in use for concerts and events of religious music . Some of the retables or altars are from the 16C and 17C very nice. Antiguo alcázar or Palacio del Infante D. Juan Manuel, (old fortress or palace of the heir to throne) for many years in ruins , the last fall out was in Christmas 2005. Now totally restored and part of the lodgings of the Ruta de Don Quijote (route of Don Quixote), opened in 2014. Hospital de San Andrés (St Andrews hospital) founded in 1415 in ruins since 1970. It was a lodging for passerbys and pilgrimages, now the altars retables of it are kept in the Collegiale Church of San Bartolomé. Plaza del Pilar or square Pilar there is only some supporting pillars save from those that surrounded the biggest square in Belmonte. There si a fountain restored in the 1990’s and two pillars sweet and sour and from the center you see the College of Trinitarians now a health center. Plaza de correos y telégrafosor postal and telegraph square, there is the former college of the Company of Jesus and later was municipal prison.

A bit of history I like

In the papal bull of Innocent III the bishop of Cuenca call it  Bellomonte (beautiful forest), due to the forest that surrounded the town. In 1294 , it appeared in the accounts book of king Sancho IV between the towns on which he collected money to pay his knights that were to accompany  Don Juan Manuel, the future Prince of Villena,to the lands of  Murcia. In 1323  the town gained some notoriety on the Chronicon domini Joannis Enmanuelis,saying that in this year 1323 Don Juan Manuel (also nephew of king  Alfonso X started to built a wall ramparts called Belmont and on the same time built the fortress old  Alcázar. The first member of the family of Pacheco  that was lord of the town was  Juan Fernández Pacheco, that was given by the king  Enrique III the privilidge signed at Tordesillas in 1398, given him the reason for being a person of great importance for the war.  The lordship was inherited by his daughter  María, that married Alfonso Téllez Girón y Vázquez de Acuña. From this marriage came two sons  Juan Pacheco  and Pedro Girón (born at Belmonte). The lordship eventually was inherited by Pedro Girón. The youngest was  Juan Pacheco, first Marquis of  Villena, that ordered built the castle of  Belmonte in 1456  as well as the collegiale Church of San Bartolomé on the same date as the castle.  King Pedro I  of Castile been at Sevilla in 1361  gave the city of Belmonte the royalty and priviledge of a city.  Later, king Enrique II of Castile,  to gained the trust of the courts of Burgos in 1367 gives the privilidge of city and exempt the town of the jurisdiction of  Alarcón (see post) with the same rights as those of nearby castle or Castillo de Garcimuñoz (see post).

The Castilla La Mancha region tourist office on Belmonte : http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/castillo-de-belmonte-20864/descripcion/

The city of Belmonte on its heritagehttps://www.belmonte.es/turismo/

The official Castle of Belmonte: http://castillodebelmonte.com/en/

There you go, another jewel in down soulful Castilla La Mancha, hey you read Don Quijote by Miguel Cervantes y Saavedra, then you need to come by these lands. Hope you enjoy reading Belmonte a castle and a story as I.

And remember, happy travels, good health and many cheers to all !!!

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