HISTORY AND HERITAGE
Almagro prehistoric origins are unknown; however, there was probably a settlement of the Bronze Age around the Casas Maestrales, headquarters of the military Order of Calatrava, and in other locations situated outside the city center. According to Galiano y Ortega, a famous local historian, Almagro was settled even in Roman times as he seemed to see an aqueduct in the present location of Paseo de la Estación.
Furthermore, there are no traces of its Visigoth times except some columns embellished with diamond-pattern sculpted in a bezel and scattered throughout the city. Regarding the Muslim period, there is no evidence of archeological remains or documented records.
While obscured by its proximity to the archeological site of Oreto and Calatrava la Vieja, the original nucleus of the Order of Calatrava, Almagro went down in history with the Order of Calatrava as in the 13th century their masters converted it into their place of residence and administrative centre of their possessions.
In 1213, the master Gonzalo Yánez gave the town privileges which were ratified by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1222. It was a fact that Alfonso X the Wise summoned the Cortes in Almagro in 1273. Later, in 1285 the master Ruy Pérez Ponce and the local population formalized a deed that granted their rights over the ovens, the souk or traditional market, and the toll gates.
As a medieval city, Almagro was protected by walls and inside those walls there were other important buildings such as San Bartolomé el Real, the parish church, and public buildings like retail butchers, the old public granary, the prison, the Council houses and a castle absorbed by these houses.
The advance of the Christian Reconquest towards the south made the troops meet on this city and the king Peter the Cruel arrested the master Juan Núñez de Prado in the Council houses in 1355. Almagro's splendour promoted, at request of the master Pedro Muñiz de Godoy, the granting of two livestock markets by Henry II or Henry of Trastámara in 1374. Furthermore, the general chapters of the Order of Calatrava were held in Almagro on the chapel of San Benito in the Palacios Maestrales, and on the church of Santa María de los Llanos, both disappeared.
In 1487, the Catholic Monarchs assumed the administration of the Order, although this circumstance merely involved a change of tenant, as from that day onwards the Casas Maestrales remained inhabited by a Governor.
In 1493, the Franciscan Monastery of Santa María de los Llanos was built under the patronage of the Spanish cardinal and statesman, Cisneros. Later, this monastery was annexed to the church of the same name, both disappeared.
Considering the financial problems of the Emperor Charles V, the German banking dynasty, the Fugger were granted the revenues from the mercury and silver mines of Almadén which linked them to the city. With the Fugger other families of administrators came to Almagro such as the Wessels or the Xedlers.
16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES
The city is embellished and grew: the population gradually found its place outside the walls, forming the suburbs of San Pedro, Santiago, San Ildefonso, San Juan, San Sebastián and San Lázaro. In this respect, the warden keeper Fernando Fernández de Córdoba founded the monastery and university of Nuestra Señora del Rosario; the gran commander Gutiérrez de Padilla established the Hospital of la Misericordia and the Monastery of la Asunción de Calatrava; moreover, the parish church of Madre de Dios, the convent of la Encarnación, the offices of the Fugger and lots of private houses were built as well as other important buildings like the church of San Blas, the Plaza Mayor, the City Council, and so forth.
Despite the serious financial crisis from the last years of the 16th century to the first part of the 17th century, there were built a great amount of buildings in Almagro: the Franciscan Order erected the Convent of Santa Catalina, the Augustinian monks, the Jesuits, the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God were settle down here, while the ancestors of the Count of Valparaíso built their palace.
Thanks to the good offices of the Count of Valdeparaíso, Minister of the Exchequer, Almagro became the capital of the region of La Mancha between 1750 and 1761; he also promoted the building of cavalry barracks. After losing the honour of being the capital of the region, Almagro awarded the title of city, a city that benefited the economically well-off due to its Blonde industry, and that was seriously damaged by the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755.
The Knights of Calatrava left Calatrava and moved the Holy Convent to Almagro, but their comfort quickly disappeared due to the French invasion, the Carlist Wars and the nineteenth-century seizure and sale of Church property. This circumstance left the city without energy, university or economic resources. Despite of those facts previously mentioned, Almagro was erected as a modern city with a Bullring (1845), telegraph service (1858), train station (1860), provincial cavalry barracks (1863), casino, municipal theatre (1864) and electricity. However, the progress supposed the demolition of the walls and gates of the city in 1886.
In the 1950s, the Corral de Comedias, the City Council and the Plaza Mayor were restored. Later, in 1972, Almagro was declared a Historic- Artistic Site. Consequently, churches, palaces, modest houses or hermitages were restored and rehabilitated. The Museo Nacional del Teatro (National Theatre Museum) was established in the city and in 2004 was relocated in the rehabilitated building of the former Palacios Maestrales.
Today, Almagro has become a major national, regional and even an international reference for Culture and Theatre.
Data collection and report writing:
Department of Culture
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