Aristocratic Segovia—this is how I would characterize this Spanish city. To come here from Madrid only for several hours is a sacrilege. Yes, Segovia is a quiet provincial town today, but five centuries ago, passions boiled here. As a reward for a long and stormy life, tiny Segovia received five sites of world class scale, so plan at least a three-day visit.
Cathedral of Segovia or La Dama de las Catedrales
It prevails and rules in the city. It is the crown of Segovia. Even its form resembles a crown. The cathedral was built in the Gothic style, but at the same time, it is unique. Sometimes, this architectural style is called Isabelino. Several stories could be told about La Dama de las Catedrales, but we will reveal the most ancient one, which changed the course of history.
I must say that the city is full of Christian abbeys and monasteries, and for the Castilian upper-class society, Segovia was a favorite place for praying. One young, plain girl who led an aimless life away from the Royal Household also came to the cathedral with her mother. In those days, nobody noticed her.
Meanwhile, a young priest Tomas de Torquemada acquired amazing popularity in Madrid. Being a young man from a great family, he was ready for a brilliant political or military career. His life could have been different, if only the girl he loved had not chosen a “moneybags” from Granada rather than him. And Tomas decided to become a priest.
He turned his sermons against the Muslims and Hebrews. To his way of thinking, they tempted honest Christians with their wealth. In those times, the Muslims and the Hebrews comprised more than a quarter of the population of Spain. Educated and decent, Torquemada was distinguished by a great modesty and absolute probity. He was not hungry for glory or honors. The young man had a political mind, and he intended to patronize the sciences.
Soon, Tomas de Torquemada started to receive offers to take some major posts in Madrid, but he did not accept them. He agreed to take the post of prior of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Segovia, and there was a reason for such a choice. Royal blood was flowing in the veins of that plain girl, who knelt praying with her mother in his monastery. Tomas became her confessor. But as time showed, he became not only her confessor, but her friend, teacher, and confidant for her whole life.
Which of them had more impact on the other is an open question, but when the time came, this confessor did his utmost to make his pupil the Queen of Spain. We are talking about Queen Isabella the Catholic, who managed to consolidate Spain in times when only men ruled the world.
Tomas de Torquemada also contributed to the secret marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand II of Aragon. This priest was a seer. How could he look so far ahead? However, the future came into being, and now it is well known: Isabella of Castile was crowned in 1474 in Segovia; she became the most famous Spanish queen. During her reign, Castile and Aragon were consolidated, Granada was conquered, America was discovered, and the Moors were expelled from Spain. She transformed a third-rate kingdom located on the margins of Europe into a power that dominated Europe for years.
But one good turn deserves another. When the Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabella gained their power, the confessor of the queen, Tomas de Torquemada became the First Grand Inquisitor of Spain. He considered himself a tool of Divine Providence. Granada, Cordoba, Malaga were inflamed, and in the Inquisition fires, thousands of women paid with their lives for his youthful resentment. He avenged himself.
The grandiose Cathedral of Segovia became an implementation of the rigorous religious views of those times and the great power of the consolidated Kingdom of Spain.
Inside, the cathedral is spartan, but not empty. The domes are incredibly high, everything is so monumental, but it is grey and dark here. Maybe, these are icons and pictures that provide such an impression? They are gloomy. Here, you are afraid of God and the saints, but you don’t necessarily respect them. The Сathedral of Segovia no longer functions as a church, therefore your excursion will be a great journey into history.
Alcazar of Segovia
Looks familiar, does it not? If the historic center of Segovia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, then I would definitely call Alcazar or Segovia Castle a cultural site thrice! This is a ship of time, but its keel cuts not the waves, but the endless plains on one side and the piney rocky mountains on the other. This wonderful castle is worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.
But beware, it is like a magnet: it does not let you go. We spent all day there and took numerous photos, but it was a pity to say goodbye to it. The pine forest on the hill on the right of Alcazar is a perfect place to take some remarkable pictures. The Сathedral of Segovia also looks perfect from there.
Be careful in the dark after sunset. The moss gets slippery. There are some holes in the rocks. Irina was unlucky to step into such a hole, and her foot did not reach the bottom. Just imagine, what would happen if you fell into a bigger hole? That would be a memorable night. Thank God, she suffered only an unplanned washing of clothes and a couple of scratches on the camera.
Don’t be afraid to meet something like this in the labyrinth of the dark empty streets of Spanish Segovia on the way back to the hotel after the night photo session. No, this is not what we first thought. This is the sacred vestment for the Easter procession in Segovia from 1907 which is called Semana Santa Segovia or the Procession of Steps. But it looks kind of creepy, especially at night. Now, I am ready to watch the procession at Easter.
Iglesia Vera Cruz
It looks like a modest church located in the rural area, although the famous Alcazar Castle soars not more than a kilometer. But still, why is so much attention paid to this church? You might have already seen the pictures of Iglesia Vera Cruz on the Internet, but paid no attention to them. However, those who are interested in the Templars’ history certainly come here while visiting Spanish Segovia.
Iglesia Vera Cruz is one of those rare churches which were built by some unknown knights in the times of the first knight orders. Who owned it still remains a puzzle, but some historians think that the church was built by the Templars in 1208 and was dedicated to the invaluable relic—a fragment of the True Cross. Nowadays, the church belongs to the Order of Malta (you can read my post about the beautiful island of Malta and its knights). There are only a few churches as old as Iglesia Vera Cruz preserved in the world.
Some of them are located in neighbouring Portugal. Look at the unusual octal dome of Iglesia Vera Cruz. This form was brought by the knights after the first Crusade to remind them of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, we and several like-minded people found ourselves in front of closed doors. The church was not open that day.
Aqueduct of Segovia
The aqueduct is another UNESCO site in Spanish Segovia. When you see such things, you can only stand in awe, feeling the greatness of human genius. Fourteen kilometers of huge, hand-carved stones, or 20,400 granite blocks accurately stacked to maintain a 1.5-degree slope. People say that if necessary, the Segovia Aqueduct would be able to provide the city with water even today.
This construction, as usual in Europe, was built by the Romans in the late first century AD. It has no binder solution. We knew it before the trip, and it was interesting to compare the Aqueduct of Segovia with the famous French Le Pont du Gard.
Such a giant has stood for two thousand years without any cement; just stones stacked on each other! It impresses and inspires respect. The Aqueduct of Segovia is the longest Roman aqueduct in northern Europe. Why not in the whole world? Europe was too small for Romans, and they built their longest aqueduct in Turkey, in Istanbul.
However, the Spaniards have their own version: the aqueduct appeared in Segovia thanks not to the Romans, but to human laziness.
There was a girl who supplied water to the citizens of Segovia, but one day, she was fed up with carrying those heavy pitchers. She appealed to the devil and offered him her soul if he forced the water to come to the city before the cock crowed. But the girl realized her mistake immediately and appealed to God, praying to upset the devil’s plan. Meanwhile, the devil already started to build the aqueduct by the sweat of his brow.
A scary thunderstorm erupted, hindering the devil from carrying huge stones. When the cock crowed, the devil shouted in fury: he failed to lay the last stone to finish his work in time.
The girl repented of her error to the citizens. Of course, they forgave her, since an honest confession has always been highly appreciated. All together, the citizens laid the last stone in place, and the grandiose construction started to work.
The highest, 28.5-meter, part of the aqueduct is located in the center Plaza del Azoguejo. However, don’t be too lazy to walk along the aqueduct and see how it gets lower and lower and finally turns into a small groove right in front of your eyes. This very groove brought the water to the glorious city of Segovia for ages.
It is almost 150 years since Segovia was enriched with another one significant attraction—the famous Segovia’s Cochinillo Asado or Roast Suckling Pig. At first, Segovia appeared in our Spanish travel plan exactly because we wanted to degust the most typical dish of the cuisine of Costilla, and the table at Duque restaurant was booked three months prior to the trip, but this is another story.
If you want to know more about interesting places of Segovia, my friend blogger, Jan Meeuwesen, wrote a decent post 15 Best Things to Do in Segovia (Spain).