The city of Guadalajara has a long history linked to the passage of the Dukes of the Infantry through the capital of the Alcarria. The magnificent Palace of the Infantry is part of the city's monumental legacy, and is considered to be a true symbol of the city.
Guadalajara's origins date back to Roman times, with the founding of the first primitive settlement in Arriaca. The settlement became known as Wad-al-Hayara ("river of stones") while under Arab rule; a name that would evolve to its present name. Its importance as a major city increased in the twelfth century, when King Alfonso VII granted a charter to the city, which was further extended by the monarchs Ferdinand III and Alfonso X. But the most outstanding historical footprint was undoubtedly left by the Mendoza dynasty, which received the lordship of Guadalajara in the middle of the 15th century.
The rich history of the Alcarrian capital has left its mark on the architecture of the old city centre. The main pedestrian street, in the historical part of the capital, contains buildings of great historical value such as the City Hall, the mansions in the Plaza de los D├ívalos and the old Mendoza palace. But the most important civil building in the Alcarrian capital is the Palace of the Infantry, considered to be the true symbol of the city. The building now houses the Museum, the Provincial Archives and the Municipal Library, was was founded in 1480 by Juan Guas, under the orders Duke Don I├▒igo de Mendoza. It is a magnificent example of Elizabethan style dominated by a magnificent Renaissance facade. Its interior is structured around the courtyard of the Lions, which has 2 galleries.
Guadalajara also has numerous examples of religious architecture, such as the baroque Jesuit church of St. Nicholas el Real, the 14th century church of Santiago, the beautiful Gothic Mudejar chapel with its baroque fa├žade, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Mayor, which was built and renovated in the seventeenth century from an old Moorish-style mosque.
The province of Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a Spanish province located in the northern part of Castilla-La Mancha. It borders the provinces of Cuenca, Madrid, Segovia, Soria, Zaragoza, and Teruel. It is one of the least known Spanish provinces, despite its proximity to Madrid (55 km), which is a shame because it has a rich architectural heritage and a beautiful natural landscape.
Guadalajara is the capital city of La Alcarria; an area that has been immortalized in various literary works. The towns in this region have interesting artistic legacies. Torija has a castle that houses an ethnographic museum dedicated to the Alcarria; Hita, with its beautiful arcaded square is also famous for being the birthplace of John Ruiz, an Archpriest and one of the most important Spanish authors from the Middle Ages. Near this town is Jadraque, which is also home to an imposing castle, and Cogo, with its Ducal Palace.
In the northwest of the province stands Sig├╝enza, a town that has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site. The town is dominated by a twelfth century castle, which has now been turned into an inn for tourists. Another remarkable monument in the town is the 12th century Gothic and Romanesque church. The famous 'Doncel de Sig├╝enza' carving is housed in one of its chapels.
The town of Atienza, at the head of the Mountain range, played a significant role during the Middle Ages. Its urban layout is dominated by the church of Santa Maria del Rey and the castle. The castle dominates the Plaza del Trigo and is one of the most beautiful castles in the entire province.
The Hayedo de Tejera Negra Natural Park is one of the most important protected areas in Castilla-La Mancha. It is located in the extreme northwest of the province of Guadalajara. The small town of Majaelrayo is located at the gates of the park. It is part of the 'Black Architecture' route, which is famous for its typical villages with stone houses and slate roofs.
Castles in Guadalajara
The castles in Guadalajara extend from the banks of the river Henares between Castilla and Al-Andalus. They were originally built by the Muslims and then consolidated by the Christians. Guadalajara is one of the provinces with the largest and most varied collection of castles in the entire community of Castilla-La Mancha. Some of the castles are still beautifully preserved. The main castles include the Sig├╝enza, Molina de Arag├│n, Jadraque and Torija. However, there are many others that deserve a mention, including the legendary castle of Atienza, the Uceda, Riba de Santiuste, Galve de Sorbe, the Santiuste in Corduente and the Pioz. The castles of Cifuentes, Brihuega and Zorita de los Canes are also well worth a visit and of course, the Anguix, which has spectacular views of the Tagus River as it passes through Guadalajara.
Evidence of the presence of prehistoric people in the province can be seen in the Los Casares Cave (Riba de Saelices) and the La Hoz caves (Santa Mar├şa del Espino). There are almost two hundred Paleolithic engravings in the Casares cave alone, dating back a minimum of 15,000 years and a maximum of 25,000 years.
Roman civilization and culture has also left its mark on the province. There are the remains of some old Roman roads, villages, bridges and mosaics, etc.
The rule of the Visigoths in the province is not widely recorded but is highly significant. One of the most important places concerning the Visigoths is the Rec├│polis archaeological site, the great city that Leovigildo erected in honour of his son Recaredo beside the Tagus River, in what is now the town of Zorita de los Canes.
Not much evidence of arab art and architecture remains in the province, apart from some fortress ruins, like Molina de Aragon, the Moorish doors of some Christian churches (such as that of the Co-Cathedral Church of Santa Maria in Guadalajara) and some small traces in towns such as Pastrana and Hita, etc. However, Guadalajara has the honour of having been the birthplace or home of poets such as Ahmed-ben-Schalaf, historians such as Abdallah-ben-Ibrahim and geographers like Abu-Zacharia.
There are over 100 Romanesque churches scattered throughout the province of Guadalajara, especially in the north, which were built in the so-called 'Rural Romanesque' style. The best examples of these can be found at Atienza, Sig├╝enza, Campis├íbalos, Albendiego, Pinilla de Jadraque, Sa├║ca, Carabias, etc. There are also four important Romanesque monasteries in the province: Bonaval Cistercian monastery (Retiendas) Monsalud (C├│rcoles) of Sistal Buenafuente (Villar de Cobeta) and Santa Maria de Ovila (Trillo).
The best examples of Renaissance architecture include the Palacio de los Duques de Medinaceli (Cogolludo) and the Palacio de Don Antonio de Mendoza (Guadalajara). The Mendoza family, who are important patrons of art and culture, ordered Ju├ín Guas to construct the Palace of the Infantry in Guadalajara.
Nature and active tourism
The Hayedo de Tejera Negra Natural Park is located in the northwest of the province of Guadalajara, in the municipality of Cantalojas. It is bordered by the Lillas and Zarzas rivers. It is particularly known for its beech forests, but it contains other protected species such as yew, holly, birch, oak, hazel and pine. It is also home to a wide variety of birdlife and wildlife including golden eagles, red kites, goshawks, deer, foxes, bobcats, martens, badgers, weasels, wild boars and a number of different species of owls.
Other natural areas in the province include┬Ęthe La Hoz ravine, the Dulce river and the Alto Tajo Natural Park, the latter containing deep gorges and ravines.
The Guadalajara countryside also offers visitors the perfect setting in which to enjoy 'sports tourism' or active tourism: hiking, biking, equestrian sports, canoeing, rock climbing, bungee jumping, paragliding ... not to mention hunting and fishing.
Gastronomy and Festivals
Two of the most famous culinary specialities in the province are roast lamb and roast kid. Other delicacies include trout, crayfish, pork and the 'morteruelo serrano' (paste spread on bread). Honey from Alcarria also has its own Denomination of Origin.
A wide variety of festivals and folkloric events are celebrated each year in the province of Guadalajara, including masked carnavals and botargas. Some of the most important of these include the Holy Week processions at Easter, and La Caballada de Atienza festival, which is celebrated on Pentecost Sunday. In the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Hoz (Ventosa), near Molina de Arag├│n, a representation of the Loa and its accompanying dances are celebrated at the same time. This has been celebrated here since the late eighteenth century. Other festivals include the Hita Medieval Festivals and the Majaelrayo dances which are held throughout the summer in honour of Saint Ni├▒o.