Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Palencia
PalenciaThe ancient town of Palencia, once the stronghold of an Iberian tribe, the Vaccaei, under the name of Pallantia, lies between Burgos and Valladolid on the Meseta of Old Castile, on the left bank of the Río Carrión. Around it is the Tierra de Campos, a corn-growing plain made fertile by irrigation with water from the Canal de Castilla. The town owes its industrial development to the textile and automobile industries. Palencia is now a lively modern town with few relics of its long history.HistoryPalencia was destroyed three times in the course of its history - first by the Romans, then by the Visigoths and finally by the Moors. After this last visitation the town was not rebuilt until the 11th century. Its heyday was in the 12th century, when it was the residence of the kings of Castile and the meeting-place of the Castilian Cortes. In the 13th century Alfonso VIII of Castile founded Spain's first university in the town.
Cathedral of San Antolín
In the Plaza de San Antolín, to the west of the Plaza Mayor, stands the imposing Cathedral of San Antolín, built between 1321 and 1516. It incorporates the remains of a seventh Century Visigothic chapel which was rebuilt by King Sancho of Navarre and became a crypt. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its unfinished tower and its fine doorways: on the main front the 15th century Puerta del Obispo (to left), with a statue (by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza) of San Antolín on the apex of the arch, the 16th century Puerta de los Novios (to right) and in the north transept the Plateresque Puerta de los Reyes, with rich sculptural decoration.
Cathedral - Interior
The interior is 130m/427ft long and 28m/92ft high. The Trascoro has fine sculptural decoration by Simón de Colonia and Gil de Siloé and an altarpiece by Juan de Holanda (1505). Behind it is a Plateresque staircase leading down to the crypt, the original church of the seventh and 11th Centuries, which contains the relics of San Antolín, the town's patron saint. The Capilla Mayor (1520), with a beautiful reja (lattice-work screen) by Cristóbal Andino, has a magnificent Plateresque retablo, with sculpture mainly by Felipe Vigarny, a Crucifixion by Juan de Valmaseda and twelve painted panels by Juan de Flandes. In the Capilla Mayor Vieja, behind the present one, are the tombs of Inés de Osorio (15th C.) and Queen Urraca of Navarre (12th C.).
Cathedral - Choir
The choir has a fine reja of 1555 and choir-stalls of 1519.
Cathedral - Chapels
Of the side chapels, which all have very beautiful grilles, the ones of most interest are the Capilla del Sagrario and the Capilla de San Ildefonso; both have fine retablos, that in the Capilla de San Ildefonso being by Juan de Balmaseda. In the south transept is an interesting old clock.
Among the exhibits in the Cathedral Museum, housed in the cloister and chapterhouse, are four 15th century Flemish tapestries, pictures by El Greco, Zurbarán and Cerezo, sculpture and monuments. Attached to the museum is the Treasury, among the most notable items in which are a silver monstrance by Juan de Benavente (16th C.) and a portrait of the Emperor Charles V by Cranach.
Museum of Sacred Art
The Museum of Sacred Art is housed in the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace), to the north of the cathedral.
Southeast of Plaza San Antolín, in the Plaza del Cordón, is the Archeological Museum, with a valuable collection of Iberian and Roman antiquities.
Nuestra Señora de la Calle
Near the Archeological Museum in Palencia, in the little Plaza Isabel la Católica, stands the modest 16th century church of Nuestra Señora de la Calle, with an image of the Virgen de la Calle, patroness of the town, and Baroque altars.
South of the church of the Nuestra Señora de la Calle is the Gothic parish church of San Miguel (13th-14th C.), with a massive battlemented tower. In this church the Cid, Spain's national hero, was married to Doña Jimena.
At the south end of the Calle Mayor, in Calle San Bernardo, is the Capilla de San Bernardo, with an imposing façade (national monument).
Convento de Santa Clara
Northeast of San Bernardo, in Calle de Burgos, is the Convento de Santa Clara (late 14th C.), with a beautiful doorway and an impressive recumbent figure of Christ.
In the north of the town, near the railroad station, the 15th century church of San Pablo has a 17th century facade. In the Capilla Mayor, which has a large Plateresque retablo, are tombs of the Rojas family (16th C.). There is a fine Late Gothic carved altar in the choir.
San Martin, Fromista
32km/20mi north of Palencia on N 611, just beyond the Canal de Castilla, is Frómista, which was an important staging-point for pilgrims on the Way of St James. Its most notable monument is the brick-built church of San Martín (1066), which belonged to an 11th century Benedictine monastery. It is a magnificent example of Spanish Romanesque architecture, with two round towers on the plain west front and an octagonal tower over the crossing. The church of Santa María has a large 15th century retablo.
Banos de Cerrato, Spain
From Palencia N 611 runs south towards Valladolid and in 10km/6mi is joined by N 620, coming from Burgos. Near the junction is Venta de Baños (alt. 731m/2398ft), a small industrial town and railroad junction, and 2.5km/1.5mi east of this is the little spa of Baños de Cerrato, where the Visigothic king Recceswinth was cured of a stone. In gratitude for his cure he built the little church of San Juan Bautista in 661 (rebuilt in the ninth century), one of the oldest churches in the Iberian peninsula. The three aisles are separated by plain columns with leaf capitals supporting horseshoe arches. The date of foundation is inscribed on the large arch in front of the apse, which contains an alabaster figure of St John the Baptist.
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