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Medinaceli

Tourism |  Additional Information |  Heritage |  Where to stay |  Where to eat |  What to do

Medinaceli has been declared a Historic-Artistic Ensemble, and it was won the regional prize for Exceptional Touristic Municipality of the province of Soria on two occasions. Its heritage is varied: from Celtiberian to Roman, then Christian and Muslim. Here you can see evidence of all these different civilisations. Wander through its narrow streets and let the town take you back in time. Though, if you’re more of a planner, here’s an itinerary you can take:

 

The Roman arch

It is the only triple Roman arch that still stands in the Iberian Peninsula, and it dates way back to the 1st century A.D. It is 13.20 metres long, 2.10 metres wide and 8.10 metres tall. From this point there is an excellent panoramic view from which you can see the hill of Villa Vieja, the Cidiano valley of Arbujuelo and Jalón, as well as the salt mines.

 

The castle

The strategic situation of Medinaceli made it that all the many civilisations that passed through here wanted to stay. The primitive Celtiberian settlement went on to become Roman, then Muslim and finally Cristian. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile and Navarre fought for it. The current castle in Medinaceli was built using parts of an Arabic Alcazaba. It was possibly built in the 14th century by the first Counts of Medinaceli and was used to strengthen the walled town. It is a simple ashlar and masonry fort, with a rectangular floor plan, three circular towers on the corners and a fourth quadrangular one to the east which was used as the Keep.

 

The walls

The base of this defensive construction blends with arched foundations, and from here it surrounds the perimeter of the platform on which Medinaceli rests. On some parts, you can see enormous typical flat ashlars that Roman builders would use in their designs.

 

Some parts of the defensive walls are more than a metre wide and can even reach 1.80 metres. The arch and the 2,400 metres of wall that enclosed the town, conformed the unassailable defensive structure against Roman enemies.

 

When under Muslim control, these defensive structures were used and rebuilt under orders of Abd-ar-Rahman III. Later, in the 12th century, when it was under Spanish control, it was rebuilt again to function as a defensive and structural construction.

 

The Arabic Door

Of the four walled entryways that the town had, this is the only one, along with the Roman Arch, that is still standing. The reason for its small aperture is that it was used for defensive purposes. The doors of the walls were the most vulnerable parts, and the smaller the apertures, the easier it was to defend.
The origin of this door, despite the name, is not Arabic. The foundations are Roman, and instead of a pointed arch with a Gothic-Mudejar style like the one we see today, there could have been another horseshoe or rounded arch. This door is also called Puerta del Mercado, due to the fact that it was one of the most frequented entryways for merchants that would come to sell their products.

 

The chapel of Beato Julián de San Agustín

The chapel of Beato Julián presents a simple construction that was erected between 1841 and 1845 under the sponsorship of the Town Hall and the people of Medinaceli. It was built in the same place where Beato Julián grew up and where there was a small chapel. Here, you can find the remains of Beato in a chest, and a silver reliquary, donated by the ducal family in 1826.

 

Lope de Vega was inspired by Beato Julián to write the comedy “El saber por no saber y la vida de San Julián de Alcalá de Henares”, and in this city, there is a square, a street and a road with his name.

 

The Collegiate of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

At the end of the 15th century, this town already had twelve parishes, mostly of a Romanesque style, around which houses began to be built when it was reconquered. The Duke requested the Vatican to unify all the parishes in one: the parochial church of Santa María. This then moved on to become the Collegiate and the rest were demolished. This building has a late Gothic style with two doors that give access to the inside. One of them is to the south, a 19th-century portico with three rounded arches, and the one facing north is rather simple. There is a risen platform on the wall where the north door opens, also called Puerta del Carmen. It is shaped with a rounded arch and has an oculus above it. Carved pilasters frame the ensemble with engraved pyramids and balls. The main façade’s decoration is finished off with a double Heraldic mural arch where you can find the oculus. Behind the bars surrounding the major altar there is a beautiful falla of Santísimo Cristo de Medinaceli from the 16th century in polychromatic wood, donated by the Dukes and worshipped by the locals.

 

The Town Square (Plaza Mayor)

This ample closed and porticoed Castilian square, almost pentagonal in shape, is surrounded by beautiful buildings. In this space of architectonical balance, there are two buildings that stand out: the Council House – Alhóndiga, and the Ducal Palace.

 

Every year, on the closest Saturday to the 13th of November, one of the most ancient rituals in Spain takes place: el Toro Jubilo. It is an atavistic ritual that joins the symbols of bulls and fire.

The Council House, Alhóndiga and the Ducal Palace
The Council House is one of the most unique buildings in the town. The Council would meet on the upper floor, and on the bottom floor, there was what is known as the Alhóndiga: a storage room and exchange centre for grains and other food products. It was built in the 16th century with two arched floors on the outside, both of them having four arches: on the bottom floor the arches are rounded and placed on top of tall podium quadrangular pillars, and the ones on the upper floor are basket-handle arches on top of smooth columns.

 

On the main façade, you can see two doors with rounded archways flanking double enclosed archways with many windows. Along this wall, there is a narrow hallway that leads to the back end of the building where the prison was located.

 

The Ducal Palace (Palacio de los Duques de Medinaceli), declared Heritage of Cultural Interest since 1979, is located on the north side of the square. It is a Renaissance style building that was erected between the 16th and 17th century following the standards of symmetry, simplicity and elegance.

The façade forms around the main entrance which is placed between pilasters, and the upper balcony above which you can see the coat of arms of the Cerda family. On the bottom floor there are lintel openings and on the upper one, they are crowned with semi-circular gables. There are two towers that are erected at the angles of the façade according to the original design by Juan Gómez de Mora.

 

Beguinage of San Román- Synagogue

Some historians suggest that the Mosque of Medina Salim was located in this building. Others believe that it was the synagogue due to its location in the Jewish borough and that it later was the residence of wealthy nuns with flexible community rules. Finally, the Hieronymite nuns were the ones who lived here until the second half of the 20th century.

 

It still has the original stonework on the outside, three sloped buttresses that seem to be ready to resist attacks, and a round arched doorway with lintelled windows that seem to be scattered anarchically across the façade. There is a Renaissance style belfry that breaks with the robust feel of the building. It consists of two parts, with the bottom one having double rounded openings for various bells. To access the upper part with only one opening, one has to pass through a small cornice decorated with pyramids and balls. The decorative elements seem to grow in number as they get closer to the forged cross.

 

Medieval snowfield (Nevero medieval)

Located in the northern part of the town, and possibly from the Muslim period, is the snowfield that was used as a snow storage centre to use it in the summer.

 

Convent of Santa Isabel

In 1528, the Diocese of Sigüenza gave a license to the church of Santa Isabel to become a convent and joined it with the church of San Martín.

 

The Ducal House of Medinaceli had great interest in founding it due to the fact that the Duchess was a devout Catholic to Saint Francis, and offered buildings to the order to establish a monastery. Architectonically, the building is quite simple on the outside, with the main entrance located in the centre of the façade over which there is an Isabelian style moulded window. The door has a segmental arch framed by a cordon moulding as an alfiz in which there is a Franciscan lace. There are many random openings to the side, all of them lintelled except two that are located to the left of the door which are decorated with ogee arches.

Tourist Map

View Tourist Map
View Tourist Map
Tourist Map
Roman arch in Medinaceli
Roman arch in Medinaceli
Stately home in Medinaceli
Stately home in Medinaceli
Convent of Santa Isabel in Medinaceli
Convent of Santa Isabel in Medinaceli
Beaterio de San Román
Beaterio de San Román
Arab snowfield in Medinaceli
Arab snowfield in Medinaceli
Arcaded square in Medinaceli
Arcaded square in Medinaceli
Ducal Palace in Medinaceli
Ducal Palace in Medinaceli
Alhóndiga in Medinaceli
Alhóndiga in Medinaceli
Arabic arch in Medinaceli
Arabic arch in Medinaceli
Collegiate in Medinaceli
Collegiate in Medinaceli
Town Square
Town Square
Inside the Ducal Palace
Inside the Ducal Palace
Detail of a mosaic
Detail of a mosaic
Panoramic view of Medinaceli
Panoramic view of Medinaceli

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