Walk through more than 600 years of history of Ciudad Real, the ‘grand villa e bona’ for which Alfonso X El Sabio bet on
The exhibition ‘Ciudad Real VI Centenario. A city in history ‘will be open until the month of November and we will visit it with Francisco Ruiz Gómez, professor of Medieval History at the UCLM. “It invites us to reflect on the difficulties that modernity presents”
The Mexican city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the State of Chiapas was founded by an expedition of city-residents. “They tried to reproduce Ciudad real in Mexico,” says Francisco Ruiz Gómez, professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.
It is one of the curiosities of the exhibition ‘Ciudad Real VI Centenario. A city in history ‘that can be seen at the López-Villaseñor Museum until November 2.
The exhibition proposes a journey through the different stages of what was the ‘Royal Villa’ of Alfonso X El Sabio in 1255, until its current moment with the ‘excuse’ of the 600 years that have just passed since King John II of Castilla was granted the title of the city back in 1420.
The commemoration has been delayed a year due to the pandemic and allows one to dive into the past and present of the city, in an educational tour in which the visitor can travel between the Iberian stage and the city that today projects a new renovation with a horizon of 2025.
Above all, (although it is much more than that) the exhibition commemorates the VI Centenary of the ‘privilege’ of being a city. “It was thought that this commemoration should be a review of the history of the city with a projection towards the present and the future,” explains Ruiz Gómez, professor of Medieval History and one of the curators of the exhibition.
Curiously, and despite the fact that there is evidence among the chroniclers of the 15th century, “what most draws the attention of historians is that, if there was one, the document granting it the privilege of the city has not been preserved. There is no evidence of its existence in any archive, nor in the Royal Chancery or in the Ciudad Real Municipal Archive, ”says Ruiz Gómez.
What is known is that at least until 1418 it received the name of ‘Villa Real’, according to a document of the time and already in 1423 it was named as ‘Ciudad Real’.
That is why in the exhibition, organized in three rooms, the only thing that has been shown is the ‘Carta Puebla’ that Alfonso X El Sabio granted to the then town in 1255.
It is an exhibition that dates back to the 15th century but has wanted to project the evolution of the city up to the present time, but also delving into the antecedents before receiving the title of city.
That is why in the first of its rooms you can find references to the Iberian town of Alarcos, but also to the Islamic past of Ciudad Real in the form of photographs, objects such as ceramic funeral urns or swords and spearheads found in the area.
“We have almost 40 years of excavations, 25 of them directed by the University of Castilla-La Mancha”, explains the professor. The works have revealed two different archaeological levels.
On the one hand, the Iberian city includes a temple or a necropolis whose remains have made it possible to rebuild life in the place.
Later, the Islamic city that settled in the place until 1195 to disappear after the Battle of Alarcos and the Christian conquest.
The audiovisual recreation completes the journey through the origins of Ciudad Real until Alfonso X ‘El Sabio’ decided to found ‘Villa Real’, in its current location on Pozuelo de Don Gil.
A second room in the exhibition is dedicated to the ‘darkest’ past of Ciudad Real despite what was then a real privilege: being one of the headquarters of the Court of the Inquisition, by decision of the Catholic Monarchs.
Ciudad Real also came to host one of the two headquarters of the Royal Chancery (the other was in Valladolid), although for a short time. “It did not work, after ten years she was transferred to Granada. It is true that the officials found that Ciudad Real did not have palaces or noble buildings and that perhaps influenced the decision to transfer ”.
The professor explains how the exhibition raises the question of how such a small city – in the 15th century it barely had 7,000 inhabitants and three neighborhoods – managed to house two of the most important institutions of the time.
The reason is documented in the sample and has a lot to do with the influence that a city from Realeño exerted on Isabel La Católica and who today is buried in her own chapel in the city, by the way, “a true jewel of the Elizabethan Gothic”, says the professor.
Ciudad Real was small and was outside the great circuits of the time, but great characters from the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Spanish literature such as Cervantes and Lope de Vega passed through it.
“His works speak of Ciudad Real. They expressly refer to it and comment on some details that make us think they were really here. It is difficult for them to speak with that precision without being in the city. It seems like a personal experience that they want to reflect directly ”.
And what were they talking about? The author of ‘El Quijote’ cites the wines and wineries of Ciudad Real. Lope de Vega went down in more detail to refer to her in his tragicomedy ‘El Valiente Céspedes’ (today this is still one of the best-known surnames in the city).
The provincial capital, the beginning of modernization
Why is this commemoration important? The professor highlights that in the 15th century Ciudad Real was not the most important town (not even in population) in a territory in which the current provinces did not yet exist.
Almagro was the benchmark in the area and in fact, came to claim the provincial capital as early as the 19th century. It was precisely the support of the Crown granted to Ciudad Real four centuries ago that allowed it to gain the ‘status’ of the capital of the province.
A Royal Decree of Carlos III in 1760 approved the designation of Ciudad Real as the capital of La Mancha, “as a reward for his services to the Crown at all times”, a fact that became official in May 1761, a matter that, with little lurching, it showed already from 1833 when the 49 new provincial administrative divisions appear.
“It is one of the smallest in Spain and yet since its foundation, it has played a fundamental role in the surrounding territory,” says the professor.
That Ciudad Real became the capital of the province allowed its modernization. “One of its convents is transformed into a High School Institute, a palace is built for the Provincial Council at the end of the 19th century … Little by little, it is transformed, the railway arrives and contacts are made with Madrid, with Andalusia … Society changes ”.
Then a local bourgeoisie arose and characters such as General Espartero (Granátula de Calatrava, Ciudad Real. 1793) stood out. “He was from La Mancha and on some occasion, he favored the city,” says Ruiz Gómez.
The exhibition also talks about the period of Primo de Rivera and the civil war, with a city in the republican rear.
In 1929 the uprising of the Artillery Barracks against the dictatorship took place. “This building, built in the 18th century by Cardinal Lorenzana, was a hospital, later a military headquarters and today it is the Rectorate of the University of Castilla-La Mancha”
During the Civil War, the city stayed away from the front, but it attended revolutionary processes and collectivist experiences, as manifested in the name of the Free City. Francisco Alía Miranda, professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and one of the curators of this exhibition has written about this stage to reflect the military and geostrategic role played by Ciudad Real. There the military coup of the Francoists failed.
“In the exhibition you can see both photographs of the militiamen and the subsequent repression of them and their families.”
The most current Ciudad Real is presented around three axes in this historical journey. On the one hand, through the analysis of the general urban planning plans that includes proposals for the future.
“If there is one element that has contributed to modernizing the city, it is the presence of the university. Along with that, the arrival of the AVE has allowed it to be an open city. Then I would highlight the services, with a modern university hospital that works very well ”.
What not to miss on the visit
600 years (and some more than this sample collects) go a long way and the professor indicates some of the pieces in the exhibition where perhaps it is necessary to pause more calmly.
For example, the Puebla Letter with which in 1255 the wise king conferred the identity of ‘villa de realengo,’. Alfonso X thus expressed his desire for it to be a “grand villa e bona”. In these months there will be the opportunity to see her until she travels to Toledo at the end of the year to commemorate the VIII Centenary of the death of this monarch.
In the second room you have to stop before the audiovisual that gathers the historical context in which it is explained how the then town got the privilege of becoming a city.
In the last room you can already enjoy a large model of the Ciudad Real from 1850. “Today’s inhabitants can know what the street they lived on was like then and that always arouses curiosity.”
In addition to Francisco Ruiz Gómez, professor of Medieval History, the exhibition has been curated by Alfonso Caballero Klink, president of the Institute of Manchego Studies, Porfirio Sanz Camañes, professor of Modern History, Francisco Alía Miranda, professor of Contemporary History and Félix Pillet Capdepón, Professor of Human Geography, all of them from the UCLM.
“It is a scientific approach to the history of the city and also to that of the Spanish. It invites us to reflect on the difficulties that modernity presents and how through the past we can try to better understand the present ”.
In fact, in the final part, the exhibition opens to citizen proposals about the most immediate future of Ciudad Real. “Visitors are invited to submit their proposals in the form of videos. We want to reflect on ourselves, but also on the community. “
The exhibition can be visited from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 10 pm without interruption. Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. and on Sundays in the morning from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.