What awaits you in Guadalupe is not just a pretty village. Here you are going to find something else. You’ll see …
It all starts around the 1300s, with a shepherd who finds an image of the Virgin beside the Guadalupe River. They build a small hermitage for her, and it seems that this is how things are going to stay, but a few decades later, King Alfonso XI of Castile wins the battle of Salado. Convinced that his victory is due to the help of that Virgin, he becomes a protector of the sanctuary and orders the construction of a church.
The devotion for the image spreads, and around the temple, a village is formed, with hospitals for the pilgrims that begin to arrive. And is no wonder, because according to legend, the figure had been sculpted by Saint Luke himself, many centuries before, and had landed in Extremadura after a thousand adventures.
And just like that, Puebla de Santa María de Guadalupe became the splendid historical-artistic set that you can see today, with the Colegio de Infantes and the old Jewish quarter. But the jewel of the place is, of course, the monastery, which has been designated a World Heritage Site for a good reason. It is a work of overwhelming character and a certain aspect of a fortress, which fuses Mudejar art with Gothic, and Renaissance elements with Baroque.
In addition to the cloisters, the church, the peculiar façade and other architectural wonders, the monastery has works by Goya, El Greco and Zurbarán. Everything is part of the impressive, religious and aesthetic complex which was governed by Jerome monks for five centuries without giving an account to anyone. In 1835, after their expulsion, things changed, and over the following decades, the place deteriorated. The ruin was avoided by the Franciscans, who from 1908 took charge of everything.
The Virgin of Guadalupe has a meaning close to that of Saint James: if he is the Patron of Spain, she is the Queen of the Hispanic world, and their respective sanctuaries are the main pilgrimage centres in the Peninsula. To give some examples, the Catholic Kings came to rest here after the Reconquest and Columbus also came to this village to thank the Virgin for the success of his crazy adventure. And we keep going, because also, up to the nearby Hermitage of Santa Cruz, Miguel de Cervantes went to bring, as an offering, the chains with which he was captive in Algiers.
Years later, in 1956, the old and beautiful streets of Guadalupe served as at the stage for a classic of Spanish cinema: El pequeño ruiseñor, The little Nightingale, child singer Joselito’s first film.