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Almagro, a historical-artistic site

La Casa del Rector, charming hotel with SPA, is located in the village of Almagro, former headquarters of the Order of Calatrava and today an important Historical-Artistic Site and tourist destination.

Located just around the corner of La Casa del Rector, charming hotel in Almagro, the Corral de Comedias (literally a "theatrical courtyard") is the only entirely preserved example of this type of theaters in the world, maintaining the original structure of the 17th century. There are performances each weekend and in July, the Corral de Comedias is venue of the International Classical Theatre Festival, celebrated annually in Almagro.

 

HISTORY OF ALMAGRO

Almagro's prehistoric origins are still uncertain - we know nothing about the Prehistoric past of the village. Probably there was a settlement during the Bronze Age around the Casas Maestrales, headquarters of the military Order of Calatrava, and in other locations situated outside the city center.

Almagro was settled in Roman times, according to Galiano y Ortega, a famous local historian, as he seemed to have seen an aqueduct in the present location of Paseo de la Estación.

There are no traces of the Visigoth period, except some small columns embellished with rhombuses sculpted in a bezel and scattered throughout the city. Regarding the Muslim period, there is no evidence of archeological remains or documented records.
 
The archaeological data show the existence of an ancient history, starting with the nomad Palaeolithic and transforming into an agricultural and livestock economy, to become - later and due to the proximity of Oretum - an area with human nuclei, integrated into the town which was Episcopal headquarters. This marked the historic doing since Roman times and until the late Middle Ages.

There are traces of romanization in the municipal area, such as roads and remains of the production process, related to and explicable only by the colonizing action of the Roman Empire. There are also unmistakable, however little traces of the Visigothic and Arabis periods.

These inconsistent data are based more on synonyms of names, than on strong archaeological remains (for instance, the University of Almagro used the name Alcóbrica on its label, assuming that this name was that of the Roman town located in what later would be Almagro).

1176 is the verifiable date of the founding of Almagro, when Alfonso VIII granted the Military Order of Calatrava a land located between the basin of the Jabalón river and the Pellejero stream, known by the name of Almagre.

Almagro, obscured by the proximity of Oreto and Calatrava la Vieja, entered thus history by the hand of the Order of Calatrava, whose masters in the 13th century choose the area as place of residence and governmental center of the order's possessions.

In 1213 master D. Gonzalo Yáñez granted Almagro status of "villa" (town), confirmed by the king of Castile, Fernando III, in 1222.

In 1273 king Alfonso X convoked the Castilian Cortes in Almagro and in 1285 the Master of the Order of Calatrava, Ruy Pérez Ponce, worked out an agreement over rights concerning the town’s ovens, market place, and toll roads.

The Order of Calatrava

The first settlements in Almagro of members of the Order of Calatrava must have been realized at the beginning of the 13th century, since in 1213, the 9th master of the Order, granted the village status of town, confirmed by king Fernando III in 1222.

Prior to the morphological configuration of Almagro, the essential fact is the possible existence of a village center, related to previous settlements, which influenced on the urban plan traced by the Order of Calatrava in the eraly 13th century.

In view of all references, it seems most likely that when the Masters decide to leave the Calatrava la Nueva castle to settle in Almagro, the place was not completely depopulated, but should be a small village in the shelter of a small castle or fortress, given its border position between Christian kingdoms and Islamic states.

When king Alfonso VIII conferred the area in 1176 to the Order of Calatrava, there must have been settlements since the description of the land mentions "houses, with garden and water, pasture and entrances".

The advance of the Reconquista towards south made the Christian troops meet in the town on their way to the border and king Pedro I sent to arrest the Order's Master Juan Núñez de Prado in the Casas Maestrales, the Council houses, in 1355.

Due to the granting of two livestock markets by king Enrique II in 1374, Almagro is promoted and trade roots. In addition, the General Chapters of the Order were held in Almagro in the chapel of San Benito in the Order's palaces and in the Church of Santa María de los Llanos, both today disappeared.

Town walls

As a medieval city, Almagro was protected by walls. Inside the walls, the town had a parish church (San Bartolomé el Real), public buildings such as retail butchers, warehouses, a public granery, a prison, town council houses and a castle absorbed by the "Casas Maestrales", the Order's buildings.

The walls fulfilled multiple functions: definition and limitation of space, consolidation of the urban town, defensive role (as the town was endangered by Muslim assault), and - of course - economic functions.

Its gates served to encash taxes, hence they were controlled by the local government.

The location of the gates was conditioned by the situation of the main roads to and from Villareal, Toledo and Granada, constituting the major streets of the town.

Later on, other gates were built, such as the Valenzuela Gate (1791), the Portillos de San Francisco and Corral de Concejos gates, the gates of Villa Real, Santo Domingo or Calatrava and the Puerta del Salvador.


ALMAGRO, TRADE CENTER

Almagro became the economic center of the Order of Calatrava. Since the 13th century there was commercial and business activity with an important daily market. In 1374, Henry II of Castile allowed the town to organize two fairs that lasted three weeks each, which aided commerce and were held as from the Octave of Easter and from the 15th August.

On the other hand and in addition to this market, the exploitation of the mercury mines of Almadén since the 15th century, attracted merchants engaged in long-distance trade.

The flourishing business of leasing the mercury and the manufacturing of wool, attracted the attention of the most powerful capital in times of king Carlos I of Spain (1500-1558). The banker family Fugger centralized mucho of its economic activity in Almagro. Thus, Almgro became one of the main centers of economic activity in the kingdom of Castile. A revealing fact: The money that circulated in Almagro at this time added up to the fabulous amount of six million maravedis.

The incorporation of the grand master of the Order of Calatrava to the Castilian Crown in 1487, didn't change the situation but just a change of the 'tenant'. It was now the Governor who inhabited the Order's Palaces.

In 1493, Cardinal Cisneros, directed the foundation of the Franciscan Monastery of Santa María de los Llanos that annexed the church of the same name, today disappeared.

Due to financial problems, king Carlos I of Spain granted the Fuggers the revenues from the Order of Calatrava together with the profits from the mercury and silver mines of Almadén, linking the Fuggers to Almagro and with them their administrators Wessel, Xedler...


THE TOWN GROWS

From the 16th century, Almagro experiences a considerable population boom, thanks to the economic recovery, generated by two major sources of wealth: livestock and the exploitation of the mercury mines of Almadén.

With the Fuggers and other powerful banker families, the town also radically changed its appearance: The Moorish architecture and medieval layout are replaced by dazzling Renaissance painting and decoration in and on houses, public buildings and streets.

During the 16th century, the city is embellished and grows: the population gradually find its place outside the walls, forming the suburbs of San Pedro, Santiago, San Ildefonso, San Juan, San Sebastián and San Lázaro. The warden keeper Fernando Fernández de Córdoba founds the monastery and university of Nuestra Señora del Rosario; the gran commander Gutiérrez de Padilla establishs the Hospital of la Misericordia and the Monastery of la Asunción de Calatrava.

Moreover, the parish church of Madre de Dios, the convent of la Encarnación, the offices of the Fugger and numerous private houses are built. The church of San Blas, the Plaza Mayor, the City Council and other buildings are reformed.

The financial crisis from the last years of the 16th century to the first part of the 17th century, doesn't slowdown the construction activity: The Franciscan Order erect the Convent of Santa Catalina, the Augustinian monks, the Jesuits and the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God settle down in Almagro and the ancestors of the Count of Valdeparaíso build their palace.


Almagro, durante el siglo XVIII, vive una etapa de esplendor pasajero, merced al apoyo de la ciudad al candidato Borbón, Fernando VI, y del oficio del Conde de Valdeparaiso, ministro de Hacienda del Rey. Se nombra a la villa capital de la provincia de La Mancha (1750-1761).

Fracasado el intento de reactivación administrativa, el Conde promovió la actividad económica mediante la industria textil. Luego de algún sonado fracaso, corrió mejor suerte la organización de la industria de blondas y encajes, que con el tiempo dotaría a Almagro de una de sus principales señas de identidad.

Las desamortizaciones emprendidas por los gobiernos de Carlos III provocaron el desmantelamiento de los edificios religiosos más importantes, lo cual perjudicó considerablemente la conservación del patrimonio arquitectónico de la villa.


ALMAGRO, CAPITAL OF THE REGION OF LA MANCHA

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Almagro surpassed demographically Ciudad Real. The town had important buildings and a Minister of Finance, the Count of Valdeparaíso, reputed land owner in the region.

In 1750 he managed to move to Almagro the Administration and Superintendent of Revenue of the Province of La Mancha, an organization associated with the capital. However his power was short-lived. In 1761, king Carlos III, after meeting the requests of various Prosecutors and Directors of Revenue, decrees the return of this important body to Ciudad Real. Still, it's odd that the Municipal Archives have no document concerning this decade during which Almagro was capital.

Almagro would ask again being capital in 1837, but after some discussion in the Chamber of Deputies, the proposal was rejected.

Meanwhile the Knights of Calatrava left the rough countryside and moved the Sacred Convent to Almagro, but their comfort quickly disappeared due to the French invasion, the Carlist Wars and the 19th century seizure and sale of Church property. This circumstance left the city without energy, university or economic resources.

Despite of those facts, the inhabitants of Almagro were confidente in the future and installed a Bullring (1845), telegraph service (1858), train station (1860), provincial cavalry barracks (1863), a casino and municipal theatre (1864) and electricity (1897).

However, the progress supposed the demolition of the walls and gates of the city in 1886.

In the 1950s of the 20th century, the Corral de Comedias, the City Council and the Plaza Mayor were restored. Later, in 1972, Almagro was declared a Historic- Artistic Site. Consequently, churches, palaces, modest houses or hermitages were restored and rehabilitated. The Museo Nacional del Teatro (National Theatre Museum) was established in the city and relocated in the rehabilitated building of the former Palacios Maestrales.

Today, with the International Festival of Classical Theatre, Almagro has become a major national, regional and even an international reference for Culture and Theatre.


 
THE CORRAL DE COMEDIAS

During the Spanish Golden Age, in the 16th century, theater was the mass spectacle par excellence in Spain. Rich and poor huddled together, united by the approval or discord during a performance.

At the end of the 16th century and due to religious orders, the theater left the atriums of churches and the streets, retreating to public but still closed spaces. That's how the Corrales de Comedias were born.

The architectural design of these new theaters was inspired by the closed-structure of the patios of house-taverns: People realized that they would work well as theaters. Thus, these spaces were renovated and adapted to hold theatrical performances and advent celebrations. Benches or chairs were arranged on the balconies and under the arcades, while the inner square in the open served standing viewers to see the performance.

The Corral de Comedias in Almagro was built in 1628 by Leonard de Oviedo. The original design consisted of little more than a raised platform which acted as a stage, a cobbled hall, an entryway, and a rusticated ceiling. The building on a whole was typical of vernacular Almagro architecture at the time. It is not known when it ceased to be theater to become neighborhood playground. Despite the change of use, its structure remained intact, which allowed to recover it as theater. In 1955, the Corral de Comedias was declared historical artistic national monument. Currently, the ancient theater of Almagro has regained its splendor, thanks to the International Festival of Classical Theatre.


THE ORDER OF CALATRAVA

The first settlements in Almagro of members of the Order of Calatrava must have been realized at the beginning of the 13th century, since in 1213, the 9th master of the Order, granted the village status of town, confirmed by king Fernando III in 1222.

Prior to the morphological configuration of Almagro, the essential fact is the possible existence of a village center, related to previous settlements, which influenced on the urban plan traced by the Order of Calatrava in the eraly 13th century.

In view of all references, it seems most likely that when the Masters decide to leave the Calatrava la Nueva castle to settle in Almagro, the place was not completely depopulated, but should be a small village in the shelter of a small castle or fortress, given its border position between Christian kongdoms and Islamic states.

When king Alfonso VIII conferred the area in 1176 to the Order of Calatrava, there must have been settlements since the description of the land mentions "houses, with garden and water, pasture and entrances".

 

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