Autonomous Community: Castile and Leon
The ancient Celtiberian settlement of Pallantia, eventually conquered by the Romans, was the seat of a bishopric in Visigothic times and reached its period of greatest splendour in the early Middle Ages.
The Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula led to large tracts of territory being depopulated over three centuries. Kind Ordoño II attempted an initial repopulation in the early years of the 10th century but it was not until a century later, when Sancho III, called the Great (King of Pamplona and Aragon and Count of Castile), managed to repopulate the territory (1032) and restore the diocese (1035), to which he granted privileges. Alfonso VIII (1158-1214) expanded the walls of Palencia (which remained unchanged until the 18th century) and laid the ground work for the building of a cathedral, thereby giving form to the medieval quarter. The city was further enlarged thanks to the foundation, by the city’s bishops, of the University of Palencia (1212), the oldest Christian university in Spain and, with its transfer to Salamanca in 1263, the embryo for the future University of Salamanca.
Thus was launched Palencia’s period of greatest splendour, which coincided with the rise of the wool industry, based on the transhumant Merino sheep. The industry was governed by the Honourable Council of the Mesta, whose powers lasted well into the 16th century and beyond. In the 19th century, Palencia experienced a new period of economic growth, linked to the opening of the Canal of Castile and the arrival of the railroad, which enabled Castilian grain and the products of its flour and sugar factories to be exported through the seaport of Santander. This industrial tradition has been preserved to the present day, thanks to Palencia’s strategic location in the Pisuerga corridor along the axis formed by Valladolid and Burgos.
A noteworthy building in the historic quarter of the former Castilian capital is the Cathedral of San Antolín, one of the least known but most fascinating of Spanish cathedrals, as its various construction phases (14th to 16th centuries) depict the evolution of the Castilian Gothic architectural style. Palencia is also home to a number of other religious buildings, such as the church of San Miguel, Romanesque-Gothic with Languedoc influences; the Dominican monastery of San Pablo, founded in the 13th century; the church of the former convent of San Francisco; the Plateresque facade of the church of the old convent of San Bernardo, founded by St. Teresa of Jesus; the church of Nuestra Señora de la Calle (also known as La Compañía), dating from the late 16th century; the 13th century Romanesque church of San Juan Bautista; the monastery of Santa Clara; the churches of San Lazaro, La Soledad and Santa Marina; and the convents of La Piedad and of the Augustinian Canonesses.
Civil buildings include the Casa del Cordón (named for the sculpted Franciscan ‘cord’ that frames the door), the only 15th century Gothic civil building preserved in the city, now home to the Provincial Archaeological Museum; the neo-Classical 18th century former Bishop’s Palace, now home to the Diocesan Museum; several manor houses and Baroque palaces, including the Aguado Pardo Palace; the buildings around the Plaza Mayor and the Town Hall (neo-Classical 19th century); the early 19th century Italianate-style Teatro Principal; several Modernist and neo-Renaissance buildings, such as those housing the Provincial Government, the Caja España bank and the Villandrando Foundation; and, finally, the main street itself with its array of arcades and Baroque, neo-Classical and Modernist houses.Finally, mention must be made of one of the most popular icons of Palencia, the Christ of the Mount, a 30-metre high sculpture by Victorio Macho that overlooks the city from its location on top of a hill located about a mile ouside the town.</p>