Old Castle

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  • Suitable for children
  • Historical heritage

The first defence of Manzanares El Real

The castle that controlled our region, the first bastion that defended the Real de Manzanares, the fortress that still hides its secrets, where the famous Marquis of Santillana wrote his Serranillas.

On the right bank of the Manzanares River, the Old Castle of Manzanares El Real stands on a hill overlooking The Pedriza, the Cañada Real Segoviana (Segovian Royal Glen) and the river itself. The fortress, of which we conserve its shape and outer wall, was the first castle inhabited by the Mendoza family, and it served as a defence against Moors and Christians.

Despite knowing its most recent vicissitudes, such as it was used by the villagers to sow rye, its origins are still elusive: was it King Alfonso XI who ordered its construction? Or was it Diego Hurtado de Mendoza?

Archaeological and documentary research carried out will reveal its origin, and who knows what else.

Excavation notebook

First Campaign of Archaeological Excavations in the Old Castle of Manzanares El Real

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Excavation notebook

The first castle in Manzanares El Real

Its ruins still defend our village as a reminder of what it was in the past

On a hillock overlooking La Pedriza, the Manzanares River and the Cañada Real Segoviana (Segovian Royal Glen) are the remains of a fortress known as the Old Castle, of which its four walls have survived and are integrated into a landscaped enclosure.

The Old Castle follows the feudal tradition in its layout, and its bonding follows the Mudejar tradition, with granite masonry and edged bricks. It has a rectangular ground plan (45x37m) with three cylindrical towers of 5 metres in diameter at the corners, except for the southeast one, where the Tower of Homage is located, with a square ground plan and of side 14m. The tower has a large splayed arrow slit on its eastern façade and its 4-metre-thick walls are twice as thick as the rest of the castle. The entrance gate to the enclosure was located in the centre of the eastern façade, although it is lost today. It has the peculiarity that even in ancient times, the interior area was filled with earth to use it as farmland until well into the 20th century. In addition, the village's old cemetery, now in disuse, has been attached to its southern wall since the 19th century, using ashlars from the castle for its walls.

According to its characteristics, some castles in the Community of Madrid, such as the castles of Buitrago (14th-15th century), Santorcaz (14th century) and Villafranca (mid-15th century), have parallels with this construction.

The surrounding garden area is also important for the traditions of Manzanares El Real, since it houses a large rectangular granite block which is used as a resting place for the image of the Virgin of Peña Sacra, patron saint of the town, during her festivity at Pentecost.

Castillo viejo - acordeón 1

Beyond the technical and architectural aspects that we know regarding the Old Castle, part of its history remains a mystery. Since the foundation of the village by Segovian shepherds, during the repopulation following the capture of Madrid and Toledo, the name of Manzanares appears for the first time in 1248 in documents from the reign of Fernando III El Santo, where it is recognised as "pueblo de Manzanares" (village of Manzanares). As the he territory was in constant dispute between the peoples of Segovia and Madrid during the 12th and 13th centuries, the King Alfonso X took the area of Sexmo de Manzanares for himself in 1268 and turned the town into the head of the Real de Manzanares, an area made up of 46 places. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the territory remained in the hands of families close to the Crown until in 1337, when its new owner, Juan de la Cerda, exchanged the town of Huelva for the territory of Manzanares with Doña Leonor de Guzmán, mistress to King Alfonso XI and mother of the Trastámara Dynasty.

At that time there was a palatial building in Manzanares, which is mentioned when the king sent some carpenters to the place of Manzanares in 1346 "to prepare the palaces there which we possess". Perhaps this was the origin of the Old Castle as some researchers believe, although we are not certain that it is of the same construction.

The link between the territory of the Real de Manzanares and the Mendoza family begins on the 14th of October of 1383, when King Juan I granted half of the Lordship to Pedro González de Mendoza, his "Ayo" (Tutor), "Mayordomo Mayor" (Lord Steward) and later Captain General of his armies, for having saved his life by giving him his horse in the battle of Aljubarrota (Portugal), as well as for the services rendered to his father, King Enrique II, in the war against his brother, Pedro I.

A year later, the Lordship primogeniture was created, a title confirmed to his son, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, Admiral of the Castilian fleet. When a lordship was granted, it was common practice at the time to build a castle as a sign of power. That explains why, unlike the defenders of Alfonso XI as the builder of the Old Castle, some authors attribute the construction of this fortress to Diego. It would also be the safe place to keep the bridge toll taxes collected from cattle, travellers and merchants who crossed the bridge on their way across the Cañada Real Segoviana (Segovian Royal Glen) in the Real de Manzanares.

Castillo viejo - acordeón 2

In 1445, the King Juan II created the County of the Real de Manzanares and the Marquisate of the Asturias de Santillana, titles that he granted to Don Íñigo López de Mendoza. It is in this castle where this First Marquis of Santillana must have stayed, who, in addition to an eventful life as a military man and important knight of the Court, was the author of the famous Serranillas, in some of which he refers to Manzanares and its "fermosas moças" (beautiful girls). His son, the First Duke of the Infantado, ordered the construction of the New Castle, at which time the old castle was dismantled to reuse the stone and to avoid keeping another castle in use so close to the new one, something expensive and dangerous.

The Old Castle currently belongs to the Town Council of Manzanares El Real and is the object of study and archaeological excavation works, thanks to the support and interest of the Administration of Cultural Heritage of the Community of Madrid, the universities of Madrid, local associations and inhabitants and the Town Council itself.

Castillo viejo - acordeón 3

In pictures

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