Delving deep into the history of Pedraza, a Roman stronghold, is a formidable task. The parish church tower rises up above the houses that huddle inside the surrounding wall. Two fortifications keep it safe from intruders: the town gates and its famous castle.
The General History of Spain, commissioned by King Alphonse X the Wise, reads as follows: “Trajan was a Spaniard, born in a town of Extremadura, named Pedraza”.
During the Muslim occupation it is quoted as being the temporary residence of the Caliph of Cordoba Abdul Rahman (731-788).
Following the re-conquest of the occupied territories by Alphonse VI, Pedraza passed into the hands of the lords of the nearby Sepúlveda, and later Bishopric of Segovia (following a papal bull by Calixtus in 1123). Up until the middle of the 14th century the town belonged to the Crown.
This was the time when King Alphonse XI gave the town to his son, Don Fadrique, although it would soon return to the jurisdiction of the Crown.
Later, when Enrique de Trastamara was seeking lands to reward those that had fought with him against his brother, King Peter (1369), Pedraza was given to Fernando Gómez de Albornoz.
John I, son of Henry , nicknamed the Mercenary, gave the town and its castle to García González de Herrera. The coat-of-arms of the Herrera family can still be seen on the castle walls.
The 15th century saw this family’s hold over the town and castle come to an end. The town was part of the dowry Blanca de Herrera, the only daughter of Don García, took with her on her marriage to Bernardino Fernández de Velasco, II Constable of Castile, III Count of Haro and I Duke of Frías (1472). The house in Frías was sold to residents of Navafría, and it was María González Vicente and her sons Victoriano and Eloy García González who eventually passed it on to Ignacio Zuloaga.
THE TOWN WALLS AND GATE.
The walls surrounding the town probably date back to the early 11th century. A hundred years later, Pedraza had been totally enclosed within the confines of a sturdy wall. A gateway with a large fortified tower was built in the most suitable spot, and can still be seen today, forming, together with the tower, a truly formidable fortification.
This gateway to the town, was permanently guarded to keep a close eye on the people and supplies that entered the town.
In time, the watchmen were allowed to open and close the gates at daybreak and sunset, a tradition that would continue until the first quarter of the 20th century. Life had to take its course, yet this lack of openings through which to stealthily slip through made it the perfect location for a prison. Above the space taken up by the archway, the rooms were distributed on several levels. The prison of Pedraza was claimed to be one of the most dismal in all Castile.
Pedraza is one of those towns that ennobles not just Castile, but indeed the whole of Spain. The main square is one of the most authentic and attractive in the region; nothing is out of place; it has remained unchanged for centuries.
The inn, pharmacy, eateries, church, town hall, the odd noble house. Colonnades resting on slender columns – an anarchical arranged of columns facing south and west provide much welcome shade for those forced to bear the relentless summer sun and the harsh snow storms of winter.
Like the town hall, the church boasts a gallery from which to watch the bullfights, processions or other events that take place in the town.
A stroll along any of the streets leading off the main square and lined with stone houses with walled ashlar façades will stir up the dust that has accumulated over the centuries. And one such street will take us directly to the castle.
Mariano Gómez de Caso