A trip through Romanesque Medieval Segovia
The route that we are proposing is for a weekend-long trip, leaving from Madrid . Below you will find a step-by-step outline of the trip:
• Saturday morning: Leave Madrid , heading for Segovia on the N-VI highway. In order to get the most out of your weekend, we advise you begin your trip as early as possible.
• Your first stop should be in the Puerto de Navacerrada ( Navacerrada Mountain Pass ), where you will be able to admire the wonderful views of the Sierra de Madrid (the mountainous region of Madrid ). You will definitely want to take some pictures!
• Your next stop will be in Granja de San Ildefonso (St. Ildefonse Farm). Here you can visit the palace, walk through the royal gardens and contemplate the beauty of its fountains.
• You might want to enjoy a sandwich in the royal gardens, under the shade of any of its many trees or, if you prefer to have lunch in a restaurant, you can do so in Torrecaballeros, a small town nearby that is known for its exquisite cuisine. Don’t forget to take a stroll through the quaint streets as well!
• Saturday afternoon: To end our day’s journey, we head for Pedraza. This city will enchant you as soon as you pass through the cities’ walls. Here you can spend the night where you choose, either in a hotel or in a rental apartment.
• Sunday morning: We recommend you spend some time visiting the shops in town. These stores have quite a variety of products of artistic value as well as antiques. For lunch, visit one of Pedraza’s many restaurants, where you will enjoy any of the town’s specialties. (We recommend the roasted lamb!)
• After lunch, we propose a visit to Sepulveda, a town located just a few kilometers away. Due to its artistic historic complex, Sepulveda is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain .
• Sunday afternoon: Return to Madrid via the N-I highway.
How To Get There?
Leaving Madrid : Via the La Coruña Highway (N-VI)
• Take the N-VI Highway north , out of Madrid . Take a right onto the M-601 at the 40km marker, heading towards the Puerto de Navecerrada ( Navacerrada Mountain Pass ).
• Cross through the mountain pass, and continue on C-601 (the highway changes to C-601 once you leave Madrid ) to the Granja de San Ildefonso (St. Ildefonse Farm).
• Once there, you would take the N-110 (in the direction of Soria) to go to Torrecaballeros.
• Just past Torrecaballeros, we leave the N-110 to take a left on the Carretera de Sepulveda ( Sepulveda Highway )
• After approximately 9 kilometers , in the town of La Velilla , we take a right onto the road that takes us to Pedraza. This same road takes us to Sepulveda.
Returning to Madrid : Via the Burgos Highway (N-I)
• Leave Sepulveda on the N- 110, in the direction of Riaza, until the N-110 crosses the N-I
• Take the N-I south to Madrid
What to see?
La Granja de San Ildefonso – The Farm of St. Ildefonse
The Palace : D. José Ribelles, in a blueprint of the palace drawn in 1830 referred to this palace by stating: “Only the king of Spain could have a palace in the clouds.”
In 1721, Teodoro Ardemans, an architect formed in the Austrian-Madrid school, was chosen to convert a small convent into a royal palace, with an attached sanctuary and flanked by four towers with ornate slate capitals. The most significant part of this building is the exterior façade that faces the Royal Gardens , the work of F. Juvara.
During the reign of Carlos III this Royal Site acquired its defining characteristics. This architect king arranged San Idelfonso, and after his reign very little of any architectural value has been added. During the 18 th and 19 th centuries, San Ildefonso became the summer residence of the Bourbon royal family.
To this day, the Palace is still used for certain governmental and institutional acts.
Upon crossing through the iron gates in the Segovia Door, we enter one of the most elegant European palaces of the 18 th century. A large tree-lined avenue, delimited first by the buildings housing the Royal Stables and the Guards Quarters, widens soon after to form a large gardened plaza. The backdrop of this plaza is formed by the domes and the slate work of the church and palace, and is lined with fabulous cedars and sequoias. Once inside the plaza, we see to the right, the House of Trades and the entrance to the Royal Gardens . To the left are the House of Canons and the primary access to the palace.
The primary façade of the palace faces the gardens, dominating over the Waterfall, The Fountain of Three Graces, and a thick grove of Indian Chestnut trees. Of European palatal style, it harmoniously combines stones of diverse colors and textures: white marble from Granada , gray granite from Guadarrama, blu-toned slate from Bernardos for end caps and framing, and pink limestone from Sepulveda. The façade on the opposite side of the palace is architecturally very different.
To visit the palace, we enter the patio de Coches (the Car Courtyard). The rooms are located between this patio and the patio de la Herradura (Horseshoe Courtyard). In between stands the patio de la Fuente (Fountain Courtyard), a former cloister of the Saint Jerome Friars’ hospice, encircled by a granite arcade that supports straight lintels.
The rooms on the lower level of the palace make up what is known as the Gallery of Statues, which holds a large collection of statues brought from Rome by the Palace’s founders. Currently, the best pieces of this collection can be found in the Prado Museum in Madrid . The fresco painting ceilings represent mythological themes, and the furnishings, except for a few good examples of the rococo style, are from Fernando VII, corresponding to what is known as the imperial style of Louis the 18 th in France . The rooms that most stand out on this floor are the Hall of Marbles, the Dining Room of Princess Isabel, and the Waiting Hall.
On the main floor, we find a series of large rooms that make up the Official Gallery, designed during the reign of Felipe V, and decorated during the reign of Carlos III. The ceilings are both painted and stuccoed and the furnishings, like the ones on the lower level, are of the imperial style. The flooring is made up of brightly colored marble. Some of the most characteristic rooms on this floor are the Hall leading to the stairwell; the dining-room; the Japanese lacquered gallery; the Study (which was the official office of the King, and one of the most beautiful rooms in the palace); the Throne Room, with its imposing size, that overlooks the Gardens; the Bed Chamber, with its baroque-Portuguese bed belonging to Doña Barbara de Braganza; and the Hall of Royal Guard.
In 1945, the first pieces of the Royal Tapestry collection were installed in the series of rooms known as the “House of Ladies”, where the private bedrooms of the King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia were housed. This varied collection of tapestries includes work from the Gothic period (St. Jerónimo) as well as pieces from the Royal Tapestry Factory of Madrid dating from the 18 th century. But the largest, and most valuable collection, is from the works of the tapestry artisans of Brussels dating from the 16 th century. Among these, we must point out the 8 large pieces that make up the series known as “Honors and Virtues”, which are made from woven wool, silk, silver and gold. One must also admire another tapestry next to the 8 we just mentioned, by Rafael Urbino representing the “Miraculous Catch”, also from the Brussels workshops dating from the 16 th century.
The works in the chapel were created under Sabatini, and some were created by the illustrious Mariano Salvador Maella, who painted the vaulted ceilings, and Francisco Bayeu and Francisco Sasso, who painted the works in the Chapel of Relics. It should also be noted that the chapel houses the mausoleum of Felipe V and Isabel de Farnesio, designed in the Luis XV French style. Some of the many treasures housed in the chapel include the gothic processional cross, made by the famous silversmith Oquendo, which once belonged to the church of Santa Columba in Segovia . There is also a valuable gold and silver tabernacle, the walking stick of Santa Isabel of Hungary, which includes a talisman of the Royal Lights, and a selection of tapestries and liturgical clothes.
The Gardens: The gardens were ordered to be built by Felipe V. Work began in 1721, under the direction of Renato Carlier, a sculptor, and Esteban Boutelou, the Royal Gardener. The Gardens are styled after the Gardens at Versailles and Marly.
Among the paths and walkways lined with chestnuts, linden trees, beeches and elms, you can find a series of fountains and sculptures, each one representing mythological gods, nymphs and tritons that accompany us as we enter into the “woods” to enjoy the natural flora. The woods are made up of oaks, wild cherry, black poplars, and pine. These woods surround “The Sea”, a nice pond fed by the rivers Morete and Carneros. The water used by the fountains throughout the grounds is taken from this pond.
Among the fountains, we find such demonstrative names as Fame, Diana’s Baths, The Frogs, The Basket Weaver, The Eight Streets, The Winds, Neptune , The Horse Race, The Jungle and the Great Waterfall.
Scheduled times of operation of the fountains:
Thursday, Saturday and Sundays at 5:30pm
Only four fountains are used per day:
The Horse Race, The Waterfall, The Winds and Fame or
The Basket Weaver, The Frogs, Diana’s Baths, and Fame
On the following days, all of the fountains are turned on at 5:30pm
San Fernando , May 30th.
Santiago , July 25th.
San Luis, August 25th, Patron Saint of the Granja.
(Turned on in the following order: The Horse Race, The Great Waterfall, The Winds, The Eight Streets, The Basket Weaver, The Frogs, Diana’s Baths and Fame)
Royal Glass Factory : Another building that should be seen on a visit to this royal site is the Royal Glass Factory, built in 1746 based on a design by Juan De Villanueva. From within this large workshop came a diverse collection of etched and carved crystal, opal, and glass, pieces that were destined to be used in palaces throughout Spain , especially in ornate chandeliers and decorative mirrors.
The Glass Factory houses a museum, open to the public, housing more than 16,000 m2 of exhibits. The collection includes artistic glass, lamps, molds and a wide variety of tools and machinery used in the early glass industry.
Churches : Among the many churches in the region, we must mention Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), founded by Isabel de Farnesio, and Nuestra Señora del Dolor (Our Lady of Suffering), built during the mid-1700s. Both still house wonderful examples of baroque organs, and notable sculptures by Luis Salvador Carmona.
Houses : As you wander the streets of the Old Section of town, you will see a series of single-level houses that continue to maintain the taste and tradition of an old Castillian town. Many people have fallen in love with this part of town and have settled there; Torrecaballeros has become a popular tourist spot full of hostels and vacation apartments.
The shoeing frame: Located in the middle of a quiet little plaza, it has a decorative role. It is also an account of the blacksmiths’ labor and craft: El Porteo. The shoeing frame is made of four high granite stones and two smaller ones. We can see the yoke and its belts, used to hold the horses while their shoes were being adjusted.
La Iglesia-Ermita (The Hermitage-Church) : A Roman chapel, most likely from the 13 th century with renaissance additions. It’s well worth the time to study its silvered altarpiece and its wonderful spanish-flamencan art. The chapel also houses a wooden pulpit. The chapel has a drastic vaulted ceiling, and smooth high arches. The tower is attached, giving the whole building a wonderful rustic look.
La Casa-Esquileo : The best preserved country estate in the province, this site reminds us again of the richness of the region’s cattle business. On its walls are paintings and brands of what were some of the most important cattle ranches of Spain . Today, we can visit this noble country house with its beautiful patios and a private chapel. It is believed to have been built in the 16 th century, but was restored in the 1700s.
This precious medieval village must be seen in its entirety. Built on the heights of rock out-cropping, and surrounded by a wall, there is only one entrance into the city. The village is full of lovely antique homes, the majority of which still proudly show the family shields of its owners.
The Castle : located on the top of a hill it is one of the oldest castles in Europe . At one time, this castle served as a prison for the French princes Francisco II and Enrique II, who would later become kings.
The fortress itself was built in the 13 th century, was remodeled extensively in the 15 th , and the Dukes of Frías gave a modern touch in the 16 th century by adding the blocks that serve as sentries to the main entrance. Several sculptures, paintings and antique furnishings are housed inside, as well as some of the works of Ignacio Zuluaga. The Castle was purchased by the painter Zuluaga, and to this day remains in his family, who have opened a museum with several of his works.
The Church of San Juan : This church has a roman tower, whose upper level contains pairs of small arched windows that rest on ornate capitals. The chapel was rebuilt in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. Inside you can find sculptures dating back to the 12 th century.
Its interior, with its ornate baroque decorations, hides its Roman origin (late period Roman design, as is the case throughout the region around Segovia ). The church was designed to be divided into three sections, with a wide-open cross section, and a main chapel.
Directly below the tower, we can see a rather unique balcony, which is known as the “green balcony.” Across its lintel, one can read the following inscription: “This site and balcony belongs to Sir Juan Pérez de la Torre , a knight belonging to this order.” The balcony and inscription were put there by the churches’ benefactor in order to have privileged access to any event that would be celebrated in the plaza. While at one time Pedraza had seven churches, this is the only remaining.
La Plaza Mayor : This plaza is a magnificent example of a traditional Castillian closed plaza. It is one of the most beautiful in Spain, perhaps due to its asymmetry, or perhaps due to the fact that it was never formally designed, but either way one can truly feel medieval Spain here: opulent, serious and austere. Under the tower of the church is the “Green Balcony” (see above), where King Carlos IV would watch the bulls during holidays, a tradition dating back to 1550. Even today, one can rest on the large support bench. This bench, over eight meters long, is carved from one complete piece of juniper.
La Ermita de Nuestra Sra. del Carrascal: (The Hermitage of Our Lady of the Holm Oak Forest) was at one time a prime example of late period Roman design, but is currently in a state of disrepair.
The basis for most of the architecture in Sepulveda is Romanesque. Its buildings contain the characteristic outer gallery, and are decorated in great detail. This style is the pre-cursor to what is called the Romanesque-Segovian school of architecture.
La Iglesia del Salvador: (The Church Of the Savior). This is the oldest church in the Province of Segovia , and is the most representative of this architectural style (11 th Century). Located at the highest point of the village, the sanctuary of this church has a wonderful drum-shaped vaulted ceiling. On the south side of the church you will find a beautiful gallery built with eight half-point arches that rest on pillars and columns. One of the most interesting characteristics of this church is the symmetry of its proportions, and its perfect vaulted ceiling. There is only one enclosed gallery in this church, which has an elongated vaulted ceiling. Its large arched entryways are held up by 3-sectioned pillars, and have what are known as blind-arches on the side walls. Each of the capitals (the upper part of the columns) throughout the church are decorated with different themes.
The tower, which is separated from the rest of the church, completes this magnificent building. The walkway from the tower to the church is original.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Peña : (The Church of Our Lady of the Rock). The first part of this structure was built in the mid 12 th century, as can be seen in the inscription on the large Romanesque tower. From the exterior, you can see the vaulted roof with attached semi-columns, windows and arches, and the large gallery. The entryway is adorned with a series of draped arches dating from the 16 th century, and a balcony is attached to the limestone surface of the exterior. Together they represent all the aspects of dignified Romanesque architecture. The primary statue in the church is that of the Virgen de la Peña (The Virgin of the Rock), and she is the Patron of Sepulveda.
Other notable churches : La Iglesia de San Justo (The Church of St. Justus), a three sectioned Romanesque church that contains the remains of original structure. Also, the staired entryway, the renaissance cross, and the simple vaulted roof of the Iglesia de San Bartolomé (The Church of St. Bartholomew) should be visited.
La Plaza Mayor : The plaza is elongated in shape, and partially enclosed. Along with the vast number of noble estates, combined with several medieval churches, make Sepulveda one of the most monumental and artistically rich villages in the province. Sepulveda is well worth a visit!
Where to sleep?
To spend an unforgettable day in unspoiled nature, in the beautiful village of Pedraza (declared a National Monument, winner of the Spanish Tourism Prize and the Europa Nostra prize from the European Union) you can rent a beautiful weekend apartment in town for approximately 25 Euros per night, or you can spend the night in a local hotel for approximately 75 Euros, per double room.
Where to eat?
Throughout our journey, we can find river trout, lamb, roast suckling pig, and rich veal from the region. Judiones de la Granja (large farm beans served with sausage and thick slices of ham) are the local specialty, and should not be missed.
Eating at La Granja de San Ildefonso
At La Granja , there are several fine eateries where you can enjoy the famous roast suckling pig, roasted lamb, or the specialty: Judiones de La Granja (see above).
Eating in Torrecaballeros
In Torrecaballeros, only 10 kilometers from Segovia , weary travelers can enjoy the hospitality of any number of restaurants with Arab-styled wood-fired ovens. These restaurants offer some of the most succulent delicacies, including fresh meats direct from the farms in the region, or the famous lamb meat. These meats, prepared with water, spices and the fire from the oven, are a true joy for our tastebuds! Most restaurants have a variety of Castillian foods, made from all-natural products of the highest quality. The specialties in Torrecaballeros are, of course, the beef, and any of the roasted meats.
Eating in Pedraza
Pedraza is known for its exquisite culinary offerings, including roasted lamb, chicken roasted in clay dishes, Castillian stews, fresh-baked bread and wonderful wine.
Eating in Sepulveda
The king of dishes in Sepulveda is the roast suckling lamb. As many culinary experts will attest, there are few dishes that compare to the exquisite taste of the roasted lamb, and, gastronomically speaking, the simpler the preparation, the better. The Sepulveda lamb is roasted with a little salt, water and a touch of butter or oil – and nothing else. The lamb is roasted in wood-fired ovens following generations of tradition.
The primary ingredient is local lamb, raised in the dry rocky region of Segovia , on a diet of aromatic wild herbs, like thyme, rosemary, etc. The truth of the matter is, when roasted, the juices these lamb create, make their own delicious sauce.
Shopping in La Granja de San Ildefonso
Wonderful works of cabinetmakers, furnituremakers, and local artisans can be found throughout this mountainous region. Carved wood, glasswork and culinary delights, such as the famous Judiones de La Granja (see above) can be found, as well as several antique shops.
Shopping in Pedraza
In Pedraza, you can find traditional tin objects, and rye-wheat hats. There are also several antique and other small shops filled with local artwork.
• Rent a car for 2 days
• 1 Nights accommodations
Map of Pedraza
The river Cega has open areas, where, if you acquire a fishing license ahead of time, and during the fishing season, you can freely catch trout, chub, and vermilion.
*Swimming and tennis
For a small fee, (no fee for members of the club) in the municipal pool located approximately 30 meters from the club, as well as play paddle tennis at any of the public courts.
There are a few small organizations with their own target ranges available.
We have routes available for off-roading on trails that surround the neighborhood of La Velilla. Also , there are several routes, designed by off-roading magazines, throughout the region near Pedraza.
*Hiking and Mountain Biking
Many of the towns in this region are separated by short distances (usually 2 or 3 kilometers ) and are connected by rural roads, paths, and shepherding trails, which allow you to personalize your own journey. The club has available bikes to rent and can help with preparing a route.
The club has reserved a large part of its common area as a permanent exposition for local artists and sculptors from the Communities of Villa y Tierra. Every year a story writing competition is held around the theme of rural life and the environment. Official announcement of the contest is made each year in September, to coincide with the pilgrimage of La Virgin de Las Vegas (Our Lady of the Valleys) patron of the Lands of Pedraza. The club has available a large catalog of classic and modern stories, which is available free of charge.
The club maintains a parcel of irrigated land known as the “Lavadero” (The Laundry), with fruit trees, located approximately 300 meters from the club, where all types of vegetables can be grown. Use of this land is linked to use of the rental properties during the growing season. If you require, an expert is available to watch over and take care of your plantings, until you can harvest your fruit (including apples, pears and plums).
La Granja de San Ildefonso
August 25 th : “San Luis” (St. Luis) with a «judiada» in front of the Hospital, and water games in the local fountains.
Good Friday : There is a procession of crosses.
May 30 th : “San Fernando” .- All fountains are turned on.
July 25 th : “Día de Santiago” (St. James Day) .- All fountains are turned on.
Between the 20 th of July and the 15 th of September, you can choose between relaxing in the cool shade on the shores of the Cega and Vadillo rivers (enjoying the tranquility broken only by the whispering of the passing water) or the hustle and bustle of the fiestas of the Comunidad of Villa y Tierra de Pedraza (Community of the village and lands surrounding Pedraza), which are celebrated during these months.
Each fiesta lasts, at a minimum, three or four days in each town, with the evenings coming alive with musical groups and singing that last well into the next day. Each year, these towns compete to “outdo” their neighbors by contracting the best orchestras or the most popular musical acts. Each town also organizes competitions in various sports, including paddle tennis, bicycle races, mountain biking, soccer. Cultural competitions and expositions abound as well including the fine arts, storytelling as well as classical and traditional music. There are also activities for young and old to enjoy including card competitions and traditional games such as Chito and Gymcana. These activities are open to neighbors, summer visitors, and, pretty much anyone who would like to participate.
All of these fiestas, without exception, are based on a religious celebration, with a procession, offerings, mass and joyful pilgrimages where pilgrims are joined by regional dance troupes dressed in traditional garb. Below you will find a list of the approximate dates of each of these celebrations, their location, and some of the peculiar characteristics that make each of one of these town-wide fiestas special.
During the last 10 days of July, Santiago Apóstol (St. James the Apostle) is celebrated in the towns of Pedraza and Matabuena. Of special note, due to its popularity, is the fiesta of Santa Ana (St. Anne) en the neighborhood of La Rades (in Pedraza) with a running of young bulls, a “calderata”, and a wide variety of musical acts.
Soon after, around the 10 th of September, during one whole week, the town of Pedraza celebrates the fiesta of their “queen” La Virgen del Carrascal (The Virgin of the Holm Oak Forest). This fiesta includes bull-fighting and a running of the bulls (Sept. 9 th ), which general lasts at least a few hours, and can be viewed from the walls at La Villa. The bulls are led across the fields outside of town in a show of the ability of their handlers, who are on horseback. Even though their handlers are quite skilled, this is an exciting, and sometimes dangerous, tradition. Throughout the town during this week, the best orchestras and musical groups perform, and many important cultural events take place.
25 th of July , Santiago (St. James) .- Craft fair
23 rd of August: “San Bartolomé” (St. Bartholomew). On the eve of San Bartolomé, the town celebrates the fiesta of the “Diablillo” or “The Little Devil”. According to tradition, on that night, St. Bartholomew releases the Little Devil from the chains that bind him. During this fiesta, a large bonfire is lit next to the church, and, at sundown, all the lights in town are turned off. Young people from around town, dressed as Diablillos, in red costumes with lights on their horns, run through the town “swatting” anyone they find with their brooms. Once the “Diablillos” are caught and chained again, lemonade is shared, and the dancing begins.
September 29 th :” San Miguel” (St. Michael).- The fiesta for the patron of Sepulveda, La Virgen de la Peña , (The Virgin of the Rock) is celebrated. Unlike many devotional processions in Spain, in this procession, the statue of the Virgin does not leave the church. The statue is only removed from the church during a time of drought, or if the town faces a certain danger. During the day of the fiesta, many of the followers of the Virgin will come to church to give offerings or presents to her.
September 30 th : “Remates” (The Closings) – during this celebration, the presents given to the church or Virgin the day before are auctioned off. Wine is offered freely during the auction to increase the “generosity” of the participants.
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