Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peñarroya Castle

In the year 1198, Alonso Pérez de Sanabria, Captain of the forces of Alfonso VIII, took (in that wonderfully graphic mediaeval sense of the verb ‘to take’) the Castle of Peñarroya. While debating with himself at precisely which angle a particular prisoner’s head should be parted from his shoulders, this prisoner, known to history as Allen Ilec, revealed that he knew of a secret treasure and suggested they might do a deal. He turned out to be telling the truth, the deal was struck, Ilec kept his head, at least until the next battle, and in the roof of the castle the treasure was found. It included the lost image of Our Lady of Peñarroya, a dark Virgin venerated in the area since before that time.

A shrine was built within the castle for it, and there it has been ever since. It’s taken annually to the nearest village so it can be carried back again to the shrine, accompanied by a large crowd of people. Then everybody fries sausages and gets drunk. That’s how these things usually work around here.

In 1959 Franco decided to build a dam at that exact spot. The castle stands on an eminence commanding a spectacular, and strategic, view of the valley in both directions, and of the surrounding hills. This position, just where the valley narrows for a moment, and with rocks on either side, was perfect for the head of a reservoir. So the Generalissimo thought, and he was probably right.

It’s an ugly dam, and clearly some damage was done to the castle in order to build it, but the land must be irrigated, people need to drink, and if we lost some of the beauty of the castle we gained the beauty of the lake.

This is, of course, mostly an excuse to publish some photos. Considering I cycled over 40 miles with the express purpose of taking them, I’m not very happy with the results, but here they are anyway. I’ll just have to go back one day.


James Higham said...

Strange and dangerous days, they were, not unlike what we're coming into now.

CIngram said...

I might be overly optimistic but I don't think we will reach the bloody heights of the reconquest. On the other hand, it gave us some great stories and some great poetry.

John Ross said...

Hi. We sort of bumped into each other commenting on J. McIntyre's blog the other day, and I wanted to (very slightly) disagree with your idea that the Falange was an organising structure for the Franco regime, but I haven't found a convincing e-mail addie, hence this rambling comment instead. Anyway, never mind that, my wife's family happens to be from C. Real (Torrenueva, Calatrava country, in castle terms) and we enjoy the odd castle crawl ourselves. Nice story - when you say "dark virgin," do you mean as in "Black Madonna?" Like the one at Montserrat?

CIngram said...

@John Ross

Hello there. Firstly, yes, by dark virgin I mean something like a Black Madonna. I don't know whether this one is in dark wood, was painted black, or was burnt, because there are images of Our Lady which are black for all of those reasons.

Secondly, my remark about the Falange was more to do with the way Franco used it to create social movements, especially among women and the young, rather than the structure of government, but I should be interested to hear your thoughts on it. Feel free to use this thread, or to email me if you prefer. My address is supposed to be in the profile, but here it is in case there's a problem. (This is a quiet little blog, so I think I can safely publish it without getting an avalanche of spam:-))

jackgibbard99 at gmail dot com

Finally, I like to send first time commenters a QSL card, for which I'll use the email at your website, unless there's another one you prefer.