Literary Locations: Don Quixote's La Mancha


Considered the first novel published in the Western World, the cornerstone of Spain’s Golden Age of Literature and Spanish literature itself, as well as one of the founding works of Western literature, Miguel Cervantes’ most enduring work Don Quixote was not only a comic genius but a massive literary hit that continues to endure more than 400 years after it was initially published.


It was on Jan. 16, 1605 that Spanish-language readers were able to purchase the first edition of the first part of the story. Beyond entertaining Spanish readers, it also helped cement the modern Spanish vernacular, and used plays on words in the Spanish language that still resonate today. The novel was translated into English in 1612, the first of no less than 25 versions in English today. The story has inspired numerous plays, novels, musicals, operas, ballets, songs, films, and works of art. Since the book was published, many have headed to La Mancha themselves, looking for traces of Quixote and a bit of themselves as well.


Toledo

One of the major cities of Spain, Toledo is not only important to the story of Don Quixote but also to the life author Miguel Cervantes. It was in this area that his Cervantes met and married his wife Catalina whose uncle is said to have inspired the character of Don Quixote. Cervantes lived here around 1600 and it is thought that famed Spanish artist El Greco’s Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman is actually of Cervantes when both men were living here. Today, the painting hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, but there are other places in Toledo where signs of Cervantes and his most famous creation can be found.

It isn’t surprising that Cervantes would have been drawn to Toledo knowing the city’s great literary history. Known to the Romans as Toletum, the city of Toledo was established long before the Roman Empire took it over around 193 CE. It grew to be one of the largest cities in the Roman province of Hispania and served as a provincial capital for the Roman Empire.


The town was taken over by the Visigoths after the fall of the Roman Empire and by the 600s was a center of literacy and writing in the Iberian Peninsula. A royal library was opened in the city and the city’s three bishops wrote works that were widely copied and sent throughout Europe, many of which still survive today. The city was conquered in the 700s along with much of Spain by Muslim forces that renamed the city Tolaitola and built one of its famous mosques. The new Muslim leadership took pride in the city being a center of literary works and ecclesiastical matters. Arabian commander and governor As-Surmayl allowing the Catholic Church to continue operating and also permitted Jewish settlers who had been previously kicked out of the city by the Catholic Church to return and establish a temple. Poetry written in the city by Arab poet Girbib ibb-Abdallah also inspired a revolt against the Omeyyad family who had taken over leadership of Toledo.

Now owned by the Catholic Church, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz is the oldest surviving mosque in the city of Toledo. Constructed in 999, the building has changed very little since then and

When the Omeyyad caliphate fell in the early 1000s, Toledo became an independent city-state until it was conquered by Alfonso IV of Castile in the 1070s. The city continued to be a major cultural center and Muslin, Jewish, and Christian residents coexisted in relative harmony. In fact, the city established a tag-team translation center so that books in Arabic could be quickly translated into Hebrew, Castilian, and Latin so that knowledge from the Arab would could be spread quickly through Dark Age Europe. The city served as an imperial capital in the 1500s under the reign of Charles I of Spain. The removal of the capitol to Madrid by his son had the unintended effect of preserving much of the city’s medieval architecture. This is one of the reasons Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage City.


As a result, the Toledo visitors see today is very much the Toledo that Cervantes would have known and that Don Quixote would have visited. One of the most spectacular sites is the Toledo Cathedral, officially the Primate Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo. It is a curate probably from this church who is tasked with trying to convince Don Quixote to return home during the last chapters of the first half of the novel. A church has been on this site since at least 587, though the modern building started construction in 1227. It would be about 250 years later in 1493 that the massive High Gothic Structure would actually be finished.

Numerous rulers of Leon, Spain, and Portugal are buried within the cathedral and the cathedral’s Chapel of the Treasure is home to the Monstrance of Arfe, an object made of fine silver, gold, and gems that is used in the city’s annual Corpus Christi celebrations. The cathedral is also home to decorative ironwork screens known as rejas that were constructed by local ironworkers. In the medieval and Renaissance eras, Toledo was known for its highly skilled artisans and ironworkers.


It is also in Toledo that the member of the Santa Hermandad who has been tracking Quixote catches up with him. Meaning “Holy Brotherhood,” the Santa Hermandad were a military peacekeeping group that served somewhat like a modern police force in medieval Spanish cities. One of their main goals was to protect religious pilgrims, especially those on Spain’s pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela against highwaymen and robber knights. The group had a definite presence in Toledo as symbolized by the Posada de la Santa Hermandad in Toledo’s Old Town. Posada de la Santa Hermandad is located on Calle de la Hermandad and is the oldest civil building in the city. The Brotherhood’s guard corps would be located on the main floor while a tribunal and councils were conducted above. In the basement there were three to four dungeons to hold prisoners.

Posada de la Santa Hermandad today serves as a military museum. It is located near the Cathedral down Calle Hermandad,

The chapter in Toledo was known as the Hermandad de Colmeneros de Toledo and originally had jurisdiction over anything between the Tajo and Guadiana rivers. The first members were local property owners who banded together to collectively protect their property. The group operated until 1835 and their former home in Toledo became an inn. Today, it serves as a museum showing of medieval siege equipment.


Another important historic site that also showcases the city’s literary heritage is the Alcázar de Toledo, a stone fortress located at the city’s highest point. It is known a fort has been on this site since the Romans erected a praetorium here during their occupation of the city. The site was a Muslim citadel before Emperor Charles V constructed the medieval castle seen today. He used the fortress as his official royal residence and each facade of the building showcases various architectural styles of the Spanish Renaissance. In addition to serving as a royal palace, the Alcázar was a royal prison, military barracks and hosted a silk workshop and infantry academy. It survived several fires, the Spanish Civil War, and was restored in 1940.

Built on the highest hill in the city, the Alcázar de Toledo still shows evidence of previous Roman and Muslim forts constructed on the site before its present medieval incarnation. The fort presently houses a military museum and the region's branch of the national public library.

The structure today not only holds Toledo’s major military museum but also the modern Library of Castilla-La Mancha. This is the national library of the Castille-La Mancha province and is located on the upper floors of the fortress. Its possessions include the personal library of Cardenal Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana y Butrón, who built an eccessetical library for the city of Toledo in the 1700s and served as the head of the Archdiocese of Mexico where he brought together many documents on Mexican history and preserved them.


Across the street from the Alcázar is the Hotel Sercotel Alfonso VI, named after the monarch who restored Christian control to the city of Toledo. WIth proximity to many of the important sites in the old city like the Cathedral, Palicio de Congresos, and Plaza de Zocodover, the hotel also has its own tribute to Don Quixote. A statue of the man stands outside the hotel and inside, visitors can see the suits of armor and other tributes to the legendary knight. On the opposite size of the Alcázar, visitors can go down the Calle de Santa Fe from the Calle de la Paz to the end of the Calle de Miguel Cervantes. Standing in front of the Arco de La Sangre, one of the medieval gateways to the Plaza de Zocodover is a statue of Cervantes himself. All and all, a walk between the Cathedral, Postada, Alcázar, and Cervantes statue takes about roughly 13 minutes without visiting any of the sites themselves and shows some of the best sites of the old city.

Castle of San Servando, known locally as the Castillo de San Servando

Other sites not necessarily linked with the Don Quixote story but that may be of interest to anyone visiting Toledo include the famed El Greco Museum that showcases the works and life of the artist and Cervantes contemporary; the Palacio de Galiana that served as a summer villa for both the Muslim caliphs of Toledo and King Alfonso X; and the Museo de Santa Cruz that began life as an asylum for poor and orphaned children and is now one of the best museums in the city.


Slightly outside Toledo’s city limits is the Castle of San Servando, which may have inspired a poem written by Cervantes during his time in Toledo. This medieval castle started out as a monastery and eventually became a property of the Knights Templar. Presently a youth hostel, the castle was also featured in El Greco’s “View of Toledo.” Even better, their is possibly a family connection between Cervantes and this castle. One of the English translators of Don Quixote found that the castle was named by Alfonso VI after a Spanish martyr, San Servando. The name was modified to San Servan, which is used in the famous “Poem of El Cid.” It was also often written as San Servantes and may have been the origin of the Cervantes family name. There were people in the area with the surname Cervantes living near this area from the 900s well into the 1700s.


The Windmills of La Mancha

The most famous and well-known scene from Don Quixote is perhaps when the hidalgo decides to take on what he sees to be giants but everyone else can clearly tell are windmills. As a result, many people who visit La Mancha want to go searching for the windmills Don Quixote went after himself. There are multiple places in the province that still have this historic windmills, especially as one heads southeast out of Toledo along the Autovía de los Viñedos or Highway of the Vineyards. There is also a reason why there are so many windmills still in existence in the province today. La Mancha is an arid province but located on a fertile plateau that made it an important agricultural zone, especially for Spanish wineries and grain production. The name La Mancha itself is derived from an Arabic word meaning “The dry land” or “the wilderness” while the term mancha in Spanish literally means “Spot, stain, or patch.”

The windmills - or molinos - of Consuegra with the Castillo de Consuegra in the background. Consuegra is the most popular destination for windmill viewing.

This apparent barrenness was one of the reasons Cervantes chose it as the location for his novel. However, the dusty, arid plains of La Mancha are actually ideal for growing grapes, saffron, and cereal grains, the reason why so many windmills are located in the area. Here are four possible locations for where to find Don Quixote’s windmills in La Mancha.


About 65 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Toledo on the Autovía de los Viñedos is the city of Consuegra, one of the most popular destinations for local visitors wanting to take in historic windmills because of its relative proximity to Toledo. Dominated by the textile and wood industries, the city has begun to cultivate itself as a tourist destination because of the frequent visitor to its windmills. Consuegra dates back to Roman times when the emperor Trajan built a fortress on the site. During the Reconquista, the Knights Hospitaller moved in to the area. Also known as the Knights of San Juan, this branch of the Knights Hospitallers are credited with bringing the first windmills to the area.

Windmills at Alcázar de San Juan. While perhaps not as popular as Consuegra, this town has a bit more to offer in the way of Don Quixote.

Wheat was a common crop in the area and individual windmills were often owned by families, ownership passed down from father to son. The windmills helped grind the locally produced grain well until the 1980s. A total of 12 of the original 13 Spanish-style windmills remain, each with its own name and history. Most of the windmills are located on the same ridgeline that is home to the Castillo de Consuegra and overlooks the city proper. The castle itself is considered one of the best preserved defensive structures in the region.


Another 37 kilometers (23 miles) down the Autovía de los Viñedos from Consuegra, visitors will reach Alcázar de San Juan, also known simply as Alcázar or Alcázar de Consuegra. This municipality is also named for a fortress belonging to the Knights of San Juan branch of the Knights Hospitaller and much of the action in Don Quixote takes place in the area around this city. As a result, many feel that it is a more accurate location for his windmills than the more popular tourist destination of Consquera. It also has a few more Don Quixote related sites than its neighboring city. In addition to the traditional windmills located on the Cerro de San Anton around the city, the city plays homage to its most famous literary visitor with a statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in its Plaza de Espana.

The Museo Casa del Hidalgo in Alcázar de San Juan showcases what daily life was like for hidalgos or members of the lower gentry like Don Quixote as well as commoners in La Mancha.

The city’s Museo Casa del Hidalgo is another great stop for those looking for Quixote and Cervantes. Originally known as Casa del Rey, this restored home from the 1500s shows what life would have been like in Spain for both men like Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and Cervantes himself as well as every day workers, the noble classes, and others. The museum provides great insight into the period and ordinary lives of those who lived in the area during the Spanish Renaissance and medieval periods.


About 10 kilometers (6 miles) further down the CM-420 from Alcázar de San Juan is the smaller town of Campo de Criptana, which has been inhabited since prehistoric times though the modern city center dates from around the 1200s. The city began as a military outpost and was a thriving community center by the 1500s. An agricultural center, the city grew grains, olives, grapes, and produced wool though its primary economic drivers were the making of wine and grain, hence the city’s windmills. At one point, the town had as many as 34 windmills though archaeologists believe there is evidence even more existed. The town still operates some of these windmills on Saturdays for tourists and allows visitors to tour some of the ten windmills. From Campo de Criptana, visitors can head another 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) down the highway to the last site that could be the home of Don Quixote’s windmills and the site that is furthest out.

Campo de Criptana windmills.

Mota del Cuervo has long been an important location on the trade routes between Toledo and Madrid and southern Spain. The city was incorporated around 1416 and was one of the more prominent market towns of La Mancha and had a fortress by the end of the 1400s. The city has seven windmills located on a hill at the foot of the town itself, and the surrounding area still remains largely agricultural.


Puerto Lápice

To keep the air of mystery and comedy in his story, Cervantes was very vague about many of the locations that Don Quixote visited in La Mancha. One of the few places specifically named in the story is the town of Puerto Lápice, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Consuegra and 24 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Alcázar de San Juan. Not only does the town have some of its windmills claimed to be the famed ones from the story, this is also where Don Quixote believed he was dubbed a knight.

Don Quixote stands guard.

In the story, Quixote arrives at an inn in Puerto Lápice he hallucinates to be a castle and the prostitutes with in courtly ladies. He asks the innkeeper, who he mistakes as the castle’s lord, to knight him and then ends up getting in a fight with some local muleteers. On his way, he also “frees” a young boy who has been tied to a tree and beaten by his master only to further draw the master’s ire.


Naturally, every inn in Puerto Lápice has claimed to be the legendary site mentioned in the book, but most people visit the famous Venta del Quijote, which features numerous art works and references to the famed fictional “knight.” A statue of Don Quixote stands guard over his armor in the inn’s patio just as the figure did in the story. It also has its own tourist gift shop devoted to the tourists who come out to find the inn where Quixote’s adventures began. However, this inn was built in the 1700s and so it is unlikely that it was actually the place that Cervantes was writing about.

Plaza de la Constitución

Historical records do indicate that an inn run by a Dorota Jiménez was most likely the inn Cervantes was speaking about. Statues of Quixote can be found around the town, and visitors can almost go on a scavenger hunt trying to find them all. No visit to this town is complete without viewing the beautiful Plaza de la Constitución, which features an iron sculpture of Cervantes at his writing desk and several restaurants and bars that open up to the plaza.


El Toboso

About 16.5 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Campo de Criptana and 10 kilometers (6 miles) east as the crow flies from Mota del Cuervo us the city of El Toboso, another one of the very few place names specifically mentioned in Don Quixote. In the spirit of the many chivalric romances Quixote has read and that have inspired him, he must find a lady love of his own to whom he can dedicate his victories. He designates a neighboring farm girl named Aldonza Lorenzo as the object of his affection, but renames her Dulcinea del Toboso. Some argue the Dulcinea character is a complete fabrication of Quixote’s mind instead of based on a real person and her occupation varies depending on edition of the book. However, today the term Dulcinea has become to mean a person one has hopeless devotion for, particularly in cases of unrequited love, in Spanish culture.

Statue of Don Quixote and Dulcinea in Plaza Juan Carlos I of El Toboso

The woman’s surname and Quixote himself reference the character as being from the town of El Toboso in La Mancha. The town has long been a mainly agricultural community based on wine, cattle, and sheep. However, the lure of Dulcinea has turned the area into another stop for those looking to find traces of Don Quixote in the area. The town has several sites that are connected the story like the Museo Casa de Dulcinea Del Toboso, the Cervantes Museum, the Church of San Antonio Abad, and the Museo de Humor Gráfico.


The most popular destination in El Toboso is definitely the Museo Casa de Dulcinea Del Toboso. This historic house museum dates back to the 1500s and once belonged to Doña Ana Martínez Zarco de Morales, a woman who some believe inspired the character of Dulcinea in the novel. She was the brother of a lawyer who Cervantes knew and Cervantes allegedly had his own unrequited love for her. The museum showcases how the house would have looked during the period that Cervantes may have visited it. Additionally, the museum has numerous artifacts surrounding what life was like in the town itself during this period, including equipment used to make cheese, furniture, an oil press, farming tools, a wine cellar, and a period carriage.

Museo Casa de Dulcinea Del Toboso

The city also has a Cervantes Museum, which contains numerous editions of the novel in various languages ranging from Irish to Chinese to Russian and even Braille. There are also copies of the novel that were owned by various famous people through history ranging from Nelson Mandela to Carlos Fuentes. The various ages, sizes, and illustrations in these books also show how diverse interpretations of the story has become throughout the years and as the story as spread into other languages. There are also numerous artworks associated with the story on display in the museum, which also serves as an important local cultural center.


Outside the Cervantes Museum in the Plaza Juan Carlos I is a statue of Don Quixote kneeling before his lady love. Both the statues and the plaza are in the shadow of another site mentioned in the book. When Don Quixote and Sancho Panza enter the city, one of the first landmarks they see is the massive church tower. The church in question is the Church of San Antonio Abad, known in Spanish as Parroquia San Antonio Abad. A Gothic church that dates to the 1400s, the church is named after an Egyptian Christian monk who established the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of San Antonio, known in Spain as the Hospitalarios. While the tower and much of the main church dates to Cervantes time, there were three sections added afterwards including the main altar, the lateral altar, and several chapels.

Some of the books on display at the town's Cervantes Museum.

A third museum in the city that has become a destination for fans of the book is the Museo de Humor Gráfico or Museum of Graphic Humor. Dedicated to Dulcinea herself, this museum holds a series of drawings by some of the most important comedians and comic artists in Spanish history, many of which have used the comic novel of Don Quixote as inspiration for their own work. The works depict various scenes from the novel in a wide range of artistic styles that inspire humor and delight in visitors. The museum itself was established by José Luis Martín Mena, an illustrator known simply as Mena who was famed for his political cartoons published both in Spanish newspapers as well as works printed in Paris Match and The New York Times.


The town of El Toboso also highlights its Don Quixote connections in other ways. The Town Hall offers maps of important cultural sites in the city as well as how visitors can stop by all of these important cultural sites while taking the same route through town Don Quixote and Sancho Panza do in the book. Additionally, the town has several bars, restaurants, and hotels named after famous figures in the story. Beyond the Quixote related sites, visitors might want to check out the local pottery and art museums as well as the two convent museums located within the city. As a result of its presence in the story and its connections to Don Quixote, many in El Toboso also insist their town is the fictional hometown of the knight that is never directly mentioned in the story.


Argamasilla de Alba and Tomelloso

Located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of El Toboso and nearly 43 kilometers (27 miles) southeast from Puerto Lapice is the town of Argamasilla de Alba. Like El Toboso, this is another one of the few specifically mentioned places in Don Quixote, and like El Toboso, Cervantes does not make the community come off well in the story. However, the enduring legacy of the story has left an indelible mark on the area.


The name of the town means “New Place” with the term “argamasilla” also meaning mortar. The name comes from the fact that the current incarnation of the town was established in 1531 after a series of malaria outbreaks along the nearby river led to depopulation of the area. Cervantes made fun of the name and the town in Don Quixote, though locals say there is a good reason the writer probably didn't look favorably on their community. Cervantes spent a few stints in prison largely due to outstanding debts he owed. It is while he doing one of these terms in prison that he allegedly began writing the story of Don Quixote.

The Cave of Medrano where Cervantes is said to have begun writing "Don Quixote" while being held prisoner. Today, this cave and the house above it are stops on the Don Quixote trail through La Mancha.

Many scholars believe it was a prison in Seville where his writing began, but for centuries the village of Argamasilla de Alba has claimed it was a cave in their community used as a prison where this story began. As early as 1614, residents of the town were also proposing they were the alleged hometown of Don Quixote himself. A member of the local church also said that there was a man who lived in the town at the time that Cervantes was here who suffered from delusions and could have been a basis for Don Quixote.


The site of Cervantes’ alleged imprisonment is the Casa-Cueva de Medrano, the House and Cave of Medrano. The Cave of Medrano was where Cervantes and other local prisoners were often held in the early days of the community. The cave today is decorated as it would have been during the time period. The Order of San Juan built a house over the cave at one point, turning the cave into a sort of basement or root cellar. In 1863, Infante Don Sebastian Gabriel de Borbon, a prince of Spain and great-grandson of King Carlos III, acquired the house and encouraged it to be used as a cultural center. One of the first things done here was the printing of a new Spanish edition of Don Quixote.

A fountain in the city center of Tomelloso is a reminder of the major role water played in the city's development.

While Argamasilla de Alba claims to be the hometown of Don Quixote, scholars trying to track down the elusive lation based on Cervantes’ descriptions actually believe that the true hometown of the fictional characters is in fact the city of Tomelloso, of which Argamasilla de Alba is somewhat of a suburb. Tomelloso is an agricultural center known for its vineyards as well as cereal grains and olive groves, but is largely set in one of the more barren areas of La Mancha.


The town may have grown up out of a Roman villa but really began to grow around 1530 because it had one of the few sources of water for area shepherds and cattle herders. Presently, the town has shifted somewhat from its agricultural roots to focus on the metal and textile industries though the agricultural and food industry remains an important economic driver. Like many other communities in La Mancha with roots in agriculture, the town of Tomelloso also has some historic windmills like those mentioned in Don Quixote. Nicknamed the Athens of La Mancha, Tomelloso is better known for its wealth of illustrious Spanish painters and writers who called the area home including Antonio López Torres, Antonio López García, Francisco García Pavón, Eladio Cabañero, and Félix Grande.

One of the iconic bombos, or farmhouses, located around Tomelloso.

Perhaps because of its connection to so many illustrious figures, Tomelloso might be the one town in La Mancha not looking for a connection to Don Quixote or Cervantes. While Tomelloso doesn’t exactly promote its claim as Don Quixote’s hometown as well as some of the other communities across La Mancha, Tomelloso is one of the few cities consistently named by historians, literary scholars, and others as the most likely candidate for the knight errant’s hometown.


The descriptions of the town in the book lines up with how Tomelloso would have appeared during the time period Cervantes would have known it. Like the town in the book, Tomelloso is surrounded by some abandoned villages and communities due to the fact that residents began moving from these areas to be closer to Tomelloso’s water source. Tomelloso is also located in the geographical center of the natural region of La Mancha and is one of the flattest areas of the region.


Ossa de Montiel and the Cave of the Montesinos

About 32 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Tomelloso is the town of Ossa de Montiel. While Ossa de Montiel would have been part of the nearby municipality of Campo de Montiel during Cervantes time, these two communities separated in 1833. Campo de Montiel faded back into the local area and now is a region of La Mancha also known as the Mancha Baja, known for his red scrubland. The region is also mentioned several times in Cervantes Don Quixote. Because of its connection to the novel, the area has also been known as Campo de Montiel Cervantino.


Ossa de Montiel is one of the few towns remaining in the region today and is an area known best for its location close to the lagoons of Ruidera and surrounding national park. The area also has numerous caves, several of which have petroglyphs, rock carvings, and other prehistoric writings. One of the most popular destinations for those wishing to explore the local cave areas is the Cave of Montesinos. The Cave of Montesinos is featured prominently in the second part of Don Quixote in which Don Quixote goes on a series of adventures in this cave on his own. Many believe the “descent into the cave” is actually a dream Quixote has and is therefore a symbolic scene in which Don Quixote comes face-to-face with many of his own delusions. As a result, many fans of the novel come to see the cave where Don Quixote has a major allegorical experience and personal realization about his adventures.

A metal statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza outside the Cave of Montesinos.

Like many of the karst caves in the region, the Cave of Montesinos collects rainwater to form a lagoon or laguna in its bottom. The cave is 80 meters deep and has been carved due to the contact between the rainwater eroding the surrounding karst. Ceramic is also present in some level in the cave as well as bronze that was used during prehistoric periods in Spain. There is also evidence that Roman families settled around the cave at some point to use it as a water source. Because of the danger of the cave, those who would like to descend into it like Don Quixote are recommended to go with a local guide who knows the area.


The Natural Park of Las Lagunas de Ruidera of which the cave is a part isn’t exactly part of the Don Quixote story, but for those already in the area it is still worth a visit. The largest wetland area in the Castilla-La Mancha province, the park contains some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the region as well as historic sites like the Castle of Peñarroya and the ruins of the castle of Rochafrida. Travertine cliffs, waterfalls, and public beaches make the national park one of the region’s major attractions.


Villanueva de los Infantes

Statues of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and other figures in the town center of Villaneuva de los Infantes, the starting off point in the novel.

Considered the capital of the Campo de Montiel and one of its commercial centers and is the starting point for Don Quixote’s adventures in the novel. The area around the town was probably briefly settled during the Roman period but was largely abandoned until the medieval period. The town is believed to have taken root in the mid-1300s when three towns combined into one: health spa town of La Moraleja, the settlement that grew up around Peñaflor Castle, and the town of Jamila that grew up around around the Sanctuary of the Virgen de La Antigua. According to legend, it was Don Enrique, a prince of Aragon, who gave the town its name and by 1573 the town was a regional capital.


Villanueva de los Infantes

Considered the capital of the Campo de Montiel and one of its commercial centers and is the starting point for Don Quixote’s adventures in the novel. The area around the town was probably briefly settled during the Roman period but was largely abandoned until the medieval period. The town is believed to have taken root in the mid-1300s when three towns combined into one: health spa town of La Moraleja, the settlement that grew up around Peñaflor Castle, and the town of Jamila that grew up around around the Sanctuary of the Virgen de La Antigua. According to legend, it was Don Enrique, a prince of Aragon, who gave the town its name and by 1573 the town was a regional capital.

The inner courtyard of the Casa del Caballero del Verde Gabán in Villaneuva de los Infantes

One of the sites most popular for visitors and fans of Don Quixote is the House of the Knight of the Green Gabán, who Don Quixote and Sancho Panza stay with during the journey. In the story, the home was owned by Don Diego de Miranda, Caballero del Verde Caban, whose son Don Lorenzo, a poet, Quixote invites to join them on their journey. The town was briefly owned by a religious order known as the Compañía de Jesus. Visitors can see the crosses marked over the gates.


There are a number of other noble houses in the town that might have also given some inspiration to the majestic house that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza visited while in town. The entire community is noted for is architecture, much of which dates from the Spanish Golden Age when Cervantes was writing. The House of the Duke of San Fernando, the Palace of the Marquis of Melgarejo, the Palace of the Marquis of Camacho, the House of the Pirra, and the Palace of the Ballesteros’ family are just some of the structures within the town that not only cement its reputation as an artistic and cultural center but also show off what the town looked like during the 1600s whe Cervantes was writing.

The statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the Plaza Mayor.

A more direct site related to Don Quixote is the city’s Plaza Mayor where statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have been built. Overlooking the plaza is one of the city’s most prominent churches, the Iglesia de San Andrés or Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle. The gothic church also dates from the time period in which Cervantes lived and was one of the burial places of another famed writer, Quevedo, for about 150 years. As the church grew over the years, there was a definite attempt made to make sure that any more modern architectural styles added to the church synced up with the traditional gothic style. Of course, most of the construction the church was conducted between 1612 and 1683.


Outside of Cervantes, the town also has several other artistic connections. Sculptor and architect Francisco Cano was born here. The poet known in Spain simply as Quevedo, a contemporary of Cervantes, died her in a convent of Dominican friars in 1645 after retiring to the nearby town of Torre de Juan Abad. Another contemporary of Cervantes and famed Spanish writer Lope de Vega set one of his plays in the area. Spanish rhetorician, grammarian, and writer Bartolomé Jiménez Patón also lived here and died here in 1640.


Manzanares

An important crossroads since the Roman period, the town of Manzanares has become a major cultural center not just because of its location at a crossroads to may communities but also because of its great agricultural and industrial importance. It is also home to the largest church in the Diocese of Ciudad Real and some of the region’s most stunning religious architecture. This variety of religious architecture and sites is one of the many reasons tourists come to the area. Another is the Castle of Pilas Bonas also known as the Castillo de Manzanares, which was probably built beginning in 1239 and served as a garrison for the soldiers who protected those coming in to visit the city along its many trade routes.

The town center of Manzanares

Those who have read Don Quixote, however, will know this is the site where the knight errant and Sancho Panza meet a couple of goatherders. Together, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza get drunk on the wine and eat the food the goatherders have and proceed to have a raucous evening together. The next morning, a humble goatherder named Peter narrated to Quixote the tale of Marcella, a beautiful but evil shepherdess. One of Peter’s friends, another goatherder named Chrysostom, fell in love with Marcela and died as a result of the unreturned affection. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza then agree to accompany the goatherders to their friend’s funeral.


There are numerous homages to the area as the agricultural center Don Quixote would have experienced, including a famed traditional windmill located on the outskirts of the city. There are also numerous restaurants and wineries in the area, including one named QuiXote. However the most unique food-related experience - possibly even experience total - one can have in the town of Manzanares is the city’s Manchego Cheese and Art Museum. Yes, cheese and art together in one spot. Not far from the town hall and down the road from the Tourist Information Center, this museum offers a slice of one of La Mancha's most iconic foodstuffs.

Traditional devices used to make and shape Manchego cheese

Manchego cheese is a unique cheese only produced in Spain’s La Mancha region and is made from sheep’s milk. It is one of the most popular cheeses in Spain and is still often produced using traditional grass molds that leave a unique zigzag pattern on the cheese. The cheese is aged anywhere from three months to a year, so the texture and taste of the cheese can depend on how old the cheese is. While the region is also known for its wine, connoisseurs say that Manchego is best paired with sherry. And considering the history of the cheese in the area, this is probably one of the items Don Quixote nibbled on when he met up with the goatherders and took their food.


The cheese museum has several rooms devoted to the history of the cheese including a typical period farmyard and an explanation of how the city’s location brought shepherds, goatherderes, and cattlemen from around the region to the area. It also shows how the production of Manchego cheese went from a household-based cottage industry to a major food production industry in the region. A wine cellar also allows visitors to find the pairing of cheese and wine they like the best. The art museum portion is dedicated to both local artists as well as depictions of cheese in art. A copy of Don Quixote is also on display in this section.


Almagro and Bolaños de Calatrava

About 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) southeast of Manzanares is the city of Bolaños de Calatrava, often known locally as just Bolaños. The town rose out of a Roman fort and village that was occupied during the Muslim domination of the region. During this period, Islamic architecture and buildings were built throughout the community. The most well known as Dona Berenguela’s Castle, an Arab fortress built sometime in the 10th or 11th century and one of the purported sites of the birth of Ferdinand III, whose mother is the castle’s namesake. The town gained its current name after the Knights of the Order of Calatrava were permitted to settle there by King Sancho III. The town has also been an important crossroads for trade routes between Toledo and Cordoba.

Dona Berenguela Castle in Bolaños de Calatrava

From Bolaños, it is only about 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the nearby town of Almagro, which has existed since prehistoric times. Officially incorporated in 1213 by Ferdinand III of Castile, the town was an agricultural center because of the crops of cereal grains, vineyards, and cotto in the area as well as the sheep and goat herding in the area. It also soon became an important mining industry and was known for its lace industry, woodworking artisans, and construction.


Of course, theatre is what has made the city the major tourist destination it is today. The town is home to both the National Theatre Museum and the Corral de Comedias Theatre, a which is sometimes hailed as Spain’s Globe Theatre. It is dated to the period both Cervantes and Shakespeare were writing and saw the staging of many of Spain’s Golden Age plays. Like the Globe, the original version of this theatre was turn down and was then rebuilt in the modern era to the historical specifications of the original. The present structure of the theatre is dated to how the original structure would have looked around 1584 and by 1616, it was the last open-air theatre still operating in Spain. The town also has a second theatre, the Municipal Theatre, a neoclassical structure that also participates in the local theatre festival.

Corral de Comedias Theatre in Almagro

The towns of Bolaños and Almagro are inextricably linked not just because of their proximity but also because they are tied together by a chapter in Don Quixote. It is between these two towns that Sancho Panza brings a priest and a barber to Don Quixote who he hopes will convince the old man to return to his home. To coax him back home, they get a woman named Dorotea who is also nursing a grudge against the old knight and convince he to pretend to be a princess needing Don Quixote’s help, offering her hand in marriage if he does so. In the guise of leading him to the source of her troubles, she and the two other me begin to lead him home.


Today, the theatres often hold both plays contemporary to Cervantes as well as theatrical works featuring Don Quixote. Other sites of note visitors to the area might enjoy in include the Museo Etnografico Campo de Calatrava, or Ethnographic Museum, and Almacen de los Fucares, also known as the Fucares Warehouse. The museum is located within a restored house from the 1700s and showcases historic artifacts related to trades and crafts from that period and before with the aim of preserving traditional artisan tools later replaced by modern technology. The warehouse museum is known mainly because of its unique architecture, combining the various styles and symbols of the three major religions that once called the area home. over the years, it has been used for a wide variety of commercial activities native to the region including lace making, an apartment, a grain storage warehouse, and a school.


Ciudad Real

The city for which the Ciudad Real section of La Mancha is named, this city was founded by King Alfonso X in 1255 and built up around a massive wall of 130 towers designed to protect the town’s population, which consisted of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim residents. It became a capital of La Mancha in 1691, though much of its early architecture was destroyed in a 1755 earthquake. As a result, only two parts of the city’s original wall are still standing, including the city’s Toledo Gate. For fans of Don Quixote and Cervantes, there are also places to stop.


Ciudad Real is home to the Don Quixote Museum and Cervantes Reading Room, which features painting and other works inspired by the book and its author. The museum also features numerous illustrations from Jose Jimenez Aranda, one of the most famous illustrators of the novel. The museum also houses a printing press similar to the one that the original text of Don Quixote would have been printed on as well as materials showcasing how words would have gone from the writing desk of those like Cervantes to the printing press for publication. The museum also hosts massive library on topics relating to both the book itself as well as Cervantes and his life. Included in the library’s collection of some 4,000 books are some 400 editions of Don Quixote in various languages and printed in various years.

A second site that may also be of interest to Ciudad Real visitors looking to learn more about life during the times of Cervantes is the Museo Manuel Lopez Villasenor. The residence is best known as the home of a local painter active in the modern period, but the home itself dates back to the 1400s and is typical of the structures built in La Mancha during the time. In fact, it is believed to be the oldest extant building in the city ad was originally the home of Hernan Perez del Pulgar, a captain general and historian for the kings of Castile. He would be an important military captain during the Reconquista and the Granada War.




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