Town Square and the Town Hall Houses

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The heart of the town

A meeting space, for decision making, a place to gather and celebrate festivities, where village life starts and where everything happens.

Town Square and the Town Hall Houses

As the centre of life for its residents, the Town Square and the Town Hall Houses are the most important places in Manzanares El Real, and constitute a homely space to meet and reunite.

The Square has always been, and still is, the privileged place for celebrations, where patronal feast celebrations and social life take place. But the Town Hall Houses are peculiar because although our municipality was the head of the County of El Real de Manzanares, they did not exist as such: they were the County jail.

With a fascinating story and despite its hazardous evolution, it has always preserved its portico, the balcony and its railings, a construction that may have been commissioned by the Great Cardinal Mendoza in the 16th century.

The most socially and politically important places

We all walk through them with no exception, from neighbours to tourists and scatterbrains.

Together with the parish church, the Town Square is the most important location in any town, because it was here where villagers spent a great amount of time. Since the Middle Ages, the ‘ajuntamientos’ (Town Councils) were governed by means of the Open Council system. Neighbours with the right to vote would meet in public places such as the square, the town hall atrium or the church, to take decisions by raising their hands. To facilitate these meetings in the square, there were granite grandstands or steps on both sides of the Town Hall until the 1950s and 1960s.

Since time immemorial, all the public festivities were held in the square, and still are. During the patron saint festivities, both in honour of the Virgin of the Peña Sacra and the Christ of la Nave, the surrounding area was cleaned up with the collaboration of a man from each house, to whom the Council paid a small sum. A large bonfire was lit to brighten the square and the whole village gathered to dance to the sound of music. It was also the place where plays and praises in honour of the Virgin of Peña Sacra were performed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Square was also the bullring and, from the 16th century until the 1960s, bullfights were held here during the patronal feasts. To make such a thing possible in an open space, the Square was closed off with wooden gates installed in the adjacent streets, and carts were placed to prevent the bulls from escaping from the enclosure. Locals watched the spectacle from the windows and balconies of the houses in the Square, from the carts and from the stone grandstands next to the Town Hall.

Nowadays, the Town Square still remains the centre of social life in our municipality, where people gather in their leisure time, to encounter friends, to watch a show or to express their social and political demands.

Plaza del Pueblo - acordeón 1

Although in its origins and well into the Modern Age, our municipality was the head of the County of Real de Manzanares, it did not have a Town Council as the whole region was administered from Colmenar Viejo.

To this day, the date of construction of the primitive building remains unknown, but the place the town hall occupied was, in reality, the prison of the whole County, with a portico to hold the Public Hearings of the Real. Thus, the prison of Manzanares El Real was mentioned in historical documents for centuries until, at some point in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it shared the space to be home to the town hall.

Its structure has always maintained the monumental portico, the balcony with wooden posts and iron railing on the first floor. The portico is particularly outstanding, as it is designed with five granite columns with unfluted shafts, topped with cushion capitals and lintels. These original capitals are formed by two adjoining modillions, volutes and vegetal ornamentation imitating the wooden cushions. The beams, also made of granite, have mouldings forming rectangles decorated with a four-petal fleuron inscribed in circles or medallions, in a style inspired in classical Roman models.

Recent studies point to the possibility that this portico, due to its stylistic coherence with the civil architecture in the Mendoza family’s environment, could have been commissioned by the Great Cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza and executed by his favourite architect, Lorenzo Vázquez de Segovia. The portico has many similarities with other works by this family, such as the Palace of Cogolludo or the Palace of Antonio de Mendoza in Guadalajara. Vázquez de Segovia would have also worked on the new parish church, as the columns of the choir are the same as those in the Town Hall portico.

During the first decades of the 20th century, as well as the town hall and prison, the building also housed both boys’ and girls’ schools, the courthouse, the telephone office and the Municipal Police Station.

In the 21st century, a major reconstruction of the building was undertaken maintaining the original features of the primitive Town Hall. Although it was raised one storey higher, most of the lintels and cushions were reused in the construction of the portico, and the original battered columns were rebuilt.

Plaza del Pueblo - acordeón 2

In pictures

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