32-THE PALACE OF THE GRANJA DE MIRABEL

Geoparque Villuercas > CULTURAL SITES > 32-THE PALACE OF THE GRANJA DE MIRABEL

In the foothills of La Villuerca, between two valleys and surrounded by leafy chestnut woodland, stands the Granja de Mirabel, a palace chosen by the Catholic Monarchs in which to rest together with their children. Cervantes, Alfonso XII, and Miguel de Unamuno are some of the famous guests of this bucolic enclave, which was declared a Historical Artistic Monument in 1931. Currently it is only possible to visit its chapel on 3rd May on the occasion of the fair of El Cristo de Mirabel, which is when the treasures hidden within its walls can be enjoyed by visitors.

The Valle del Infierno (Hell’s Valley) and the Valley of Valdegracia surround on two sides this palace in the vicinity of Guadalupe; it is scarcely 10 km away by car or 5.5 km on foot on a leafy route bursting with vegetation.

Its origins must be sought in a small and ancient monastery where the Catholic Monarchs spent the night on one of the queen’s pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Guadalupe. From then on the monastery cum farm was subjected to a series of successive remodelling and extensions to make it into a palace. In the hands of the Hieronymites of the Real Monasterio it became a place of rest for the noblemen who visited the area. In 1504 Juan de Zúñiga, the last Grand Master of the Order of Alcántara, died there. With the sale of Church lands of Mendizábal (1836) it passed into private hands.

The main enclosure of the palace is walled and in the interior of the fortification there are Moorish gardens with the constant presence of water in several fountains. Among these stands out the so-called ‘Fuente del Frío’, a spring which flows into a pool alongside a Vetton verraco (stone animal). Its Mudejar façade and cloister are particularly striking.

The most prominent construction of the ensemble is the 15th-century Chapel of La Magdalena. With a rectangular ground plan and a pointed transverse arch (generally one of the four arches which support a vault or cupola), the chapel contains Flemish frescoes on several of its walls. They reproduce biblical scenes with the Madonna and Child standing out in the centre. This is the most important series of Gothic frescoes in the whole of Extremadura. Another of the interesting elements of this chapel is the chancel where we will find a magnificent polychrome coffered ceiling. The altarpiece of La Magdalena (by Pedro de Roza) and a canvas of the Virgen de Guadalupe are other attractions of this chapel.

Just alongside the previous building stands the Chapel of El Cristo de Mirabel; it also has a rectangular ground plan and a chancel in the form of a Greek cross. In its interior there is a baroque altarpiece with a painting of the Descent from the Cross by a disciple of Rubens. In the same altarpiece can be found a recumbent Christ; this image has been venerated locally since ancient times. A baroque Christ Child and a proto-Gothic image of Santiago are other important works of art of this chapel. The Mudejar style is clear throughout the building combined with the baroque and Flemish influences which have gradually given the site its personality over time. All this has led to its being declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (Bien de Interés Cultural, BIC) and a National Monument.

It can be visited on 3rd May, the only day of the year that the enclosure is open to the public. On this date the fair of La Cruz is celebrated which features a procession on horseback from Guadalupe prior to opening the doors of the palace.

Apart from the artistic treasures it holds in its interior, there is no doubt that one of the main attractions of the enclave is its setting. Long ago the wild nature which surrounds the enclosure must have attracted the attention of the monarchs who chose Mirabel as an oasis of peace. Even today the vicinity of the Granja de Mirabel is an ideal framework in which to enjoy the woodland of the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Global Geopark of the UNESCO. In its embedded valleys you can find relict tree species (vestiges in small areas of types which formerly occupied wider areas) such as the Portuguese laurel Prunus lusitanica.

In his work Through Lands of Portugal and Spain, Miguel de Unamuno describes the abundant vegetation of the area as follows: «We went up to Mirabel, which depends on the monastery, and descended from it through one of the thickest and leafiest forests I have enjoyed in my life. Never did I see such huge and such dense chestnut trees. And walnut trees, poplars, cork oaks, oaks, Portuguese oaks, holm oaks, ashes, almond trees, and alders alongside the stream, all of this embalmed by the scent of perfumed bushes». Several of the access routes to Guadalupe pass by Mirabel, such as the so-called Way of the Chapels or the Way of Isabella the Catholic.