Halfway between Cuenca and Madrid, on the slope of a hill, stands Uclés, an ancient town of Celtiberian and Roman origins, surrounded by the remains of walls and towers, always protective and vigilant, showing the clearly strategic reason for this enclave. This set of fortifications, with a marked Muslim past, were often disputed and, after the reconquest by the Christians, donated by King Alfonso VIII to the Order of Santiago. A beautiful miniature of the Tumbo Menor de Castilla shows this act of January 9, 1174. After this donation, the Order would transform the old convent into a majestic and extraordinary Monastery that would become Caput Ordinis of the Order of Santiago.
Its construction, begun in 1529 with Charles I and completed in 1735, makes a visit to this monastery a real journey through centuries of art and history. The refectory, in the interior, is the oldest room of the XVI century, with a Renaissance coffered ceiling with 36 busts of enigmatic knights perfectly preserved, which is the jewel of the visit for its uniqueness. From almost the same period is the plateresque sacristy where Andrés de Vandelvira left his mark. Its superb Herrerian church is the work of several architects, among them the Cuenca-born Francisco de Mora, completed in 1598, has earned this monastery the nickname of El Escorial de la Mancha.
The only remaining spire is crowned by the cross, emblem of the order, and under it, the characteristic figure of its weathervane: a rooster that, even today, continues to turn to the rhythm of the winds.
All these rooms are articulated around an eighteenth-century courtyard, whose cloister, with thirty-six arches, surrounds the beautiful baroque water cistern in the center. In a tour of its facades, although the Herrerian style stands out, we can admire the variety of styles: the east facade, Plateresque style, possibly designed by Enrique Egas; the Herrerian facades of the north and west, corresponding to the main church, and finally, the main facade, Churrigueresque completed in 1735 by Pedro de Ribera, when Philip V was already reigning.
On January 13, 1809 took place the sadly famous Battle of Uclés, first looting, which continued throughout the War of Independence, the invasion of Napoleon's troops would cause irreparable damage. The confiscations forced the closure of the building and the Order of Santiago forcibly abandoned it. In 1874 it became the property of the Bishopric of Cuenca, which established a section of the Conciliar Seminary of Cuenca. Between the XIX and XX centuries, the monastery would go through the most diverse uses and vicissitudes: convent of Jesuits expelled from France, college of second education and novitiate of the Augustinians, hospital of blood and finally after the Civil War the deteriorated building was used as a prison by the government.
Being a member of the Order of Santiago was always a highly desired aspiration due to the high distinction that it entailed, but getting to wear his cross on the robes of a knight was not an easy path. Francisco de Quevedo, after presenting and verifying his genealogy, managed to officially enter the Order on December 29, 1617. More well known is the trial to which Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez had to submit himself, where friends of his, such as Francisco de Zurbarán, had to testify to attest that his clean roots were true and that his art was not motivated by manual economic gain, but had an intellectual character.
There are numerous distinguished Knights whose contributions to the culture have been left for History, between the walls of the Monastery, somewhere, rest the remains of Jorge Manrique, author of the well-known Coplas a la Muerte de su Padre, remains, that supposedly would be found next to those of his father who was Grand Master of the Order in 1474.
C/ Castillo s/n 16452 Uclés (Cuenca)
Tel 969 13 50 58
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