Guide to Palencia – Castilla y Leon, Spain
Palencia is a city in the North West of the Tierra de Campos of central Spain. It is the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castilla y Leon.
In 1208 the first Spanish University was founded in Palencia. Today the city is watched over by the imposing sculpture of Cristo del Otero which protects its rich medieval heritage which arose in many cases around the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela.
Palencia’s flamboyant Gothic Cathedral is referred to as the ‘unknown beauty’. The austerity of its Gothic façade conceals a wealth of art inside including a retablo of twelve panels by Juan de Flandes, court painter to Queen Isabella of Castile. Among its most prized treasures are a valuable plateresque reredos and the crypt of San Antolin. The Cathedral Museum contains works by painters such as El Greco and Zurbaran.
More than fifty historic buildings are preserved here virtually intact. Romanesque buildings which can be visited in this province are the church of San Martin in Fromista, the church of Santa Eufemia in Olmos de Ojeda or the monastery of Santa Maria de Mave.
Palencia is well known for the Museum of Palencia, The house of the Cordon; a large house from the 16th century which proudly displays a collection of Celtiberian objects from excavations of Monte Bernorio, Tariego and Palenzuela. The ‘Tesera de hospitalidad’ is one of the most treasured exhibits in the museum.
Also not to be missed is the Museum Diaz-Caneja of Contemporary Art; the museum’s collection contains a full exhibition of the pictorial works of Juan Manuel Diaz-Caneja.
Northern Palencia contains one of the largest and most notable collections of Romanesque art in the world.
Not to be missed during Holy week in Palencia:
- Saludos de los Estandartes (the greeting of the standards)
- El Prendimiento (the Arrest)
- La Procesion del Rompimiento del velo (the procession of the tearing of the veil) – marking the end of Holy Week and announcing the resurrection of Christ with firecrackers, the tolling of bells and the giving out or bread rolls, almond and lemonade
It is also worth visiting the Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga, located near the Picos de Europa Mountains. Another major attraction of this area is the Natural Park of Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre which are located in the most remote and inaccessible borderlands and contain many lakes of glacial origin. Here there is a large population of brown bears which are protected by The Servicio Territorial de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Castilla y Leon.
Other towns in the province of Palencia
Aguilar de Campoo
Contains some of the most attractive sights in the Palencia province. Noted for its arcaded square, here you will find the church of San Miguel, its museum contains the parish treasure, with precious metalwork, paintings and ivory.
No less important is the monastery of Santa Maria la Real, of pre-Gothic style which is among the oldest in Spain.
And, finally, the hermitage of Santa Cecilia, complete with its charismatic tower.
The town of Fromista is a staging point on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and is the capital of Palencia’s Romanesque legacy.
Fromista’s most outstanding monument is the church of San Martin. This temple stands out because of the simplicity of its lines and the perfect balance that was struck between its architecture and incredible wealth of decoration. A wonderful display of light, colours and lines which represent a significant milestone in the Romanesque style forever linked to the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela.