Monday, October 17, 2011

Of Wells

I mentioned the Plaza del Pilar in Saturday’s post. This Pilar has nothing to do with the popular female name Pilar, which comes from La Virgen del Pilar, and refers to a pillar of stone on the banks of the Ebro on which Our Lady allegedly appeared in the 1st C to encourage St James the Great when he was having a bit of trouble converting the Spanish. That pillar still stands, and was incorporated into the magnificent mediaeval basilica that was built on the site, and which lies at a funny angle because of it.

Anyhow, the Pilar in the town here is not a pillar, it’s a different word meaning ‘spring’. The original village came into being because of that spring, and it grew because it was on the royal road from Toledo to Cordoba. People would rest at the spring, eat, buy things, stay overnight, and it became a sort of 10th C Watford Gap.

In the 12thC, after some unpleasantness with the Arabs caused the fortified settlement nearby to be abandoned, the King founded a walled town on this site, more or less guaranteeing its existence, growth and protection. But old names of the place, and still existing names of streets and neighbourhoods, reveal a lot about the intricate relationship between the town and its springs and wells.

One of the earliest names of the village on this spot was Pozuelo de Don Gil, (Don Gil’s Well). D. Gil Turro was the semi-legendary founder. Later it was known as Pozuelo Seco (Dry Well), which is partly why the major settlement in the area moved to a hilltop by the river about 8 miles away. There is a street Pozo Dulce (Sweet Well), at the bottom of which there was once a well of drinkable water. Here it’s common to distinguish between sweet and bitter wells, which is reasonable enough.

There’s another street called Pozo Concejo (Council Well) where the corporation dug a public well to provide for an increasing population at some point. It’s long gone, as has the original spring and the other wells in the town itself, but the names live on, and we remember a little of our history therby.


James Higham said...

and we remember a little of our history therby

... although in a very dry way.

CIngram said...

Very dry indeed. As I've written before, our response to rain is gratitude. We no longer depend on wells, at least in the city, but water matters here.