Ciudad Real, meaning Royal City, has a name which already sounds very historical as if it was warning that there is plenty to tell about its past.
And there is, of course, there is, although the oldest reports of the city are not as remote as you might expect. Do not be fooled by the spectacular Puerta de Toledo with its Arab appearance, because it was built, around the thirteenth century, the Prophet’s armies were already far away from the area, and by that time there was a stable settlement in the city.
And where did that settlement come from? You’ll ask yourself. Well, it comes from a custom of the Reconquest: the one to repopulate the deserted territories as the Muslim enemy retreated to the South. In this case, it seems that the repopulation was a thing of a man called Don Gil, so the first created village borrowed his name and it was known as Pozo Seco de Don Gil, or Pozuelo in a more friendly way.
Sometime later, Alfonso X “the Wise” set his eyes in that village. But it turns out that the area was then dominated by the powerful Order of Calatrava a half religious, half military Order, of which the monarch did not like their perspective of its intromissions and powers. So he granted privileges to the town, ordered to build walls around it, renamed it Villa Real and made clear who was the King and master of the place.
All that happened in the year 1255 and the city was getting ready to grow, to progress and build temples. The Church of Santiago, the oldest of which are still preserved, is not exactly Romanesque nor Gothic, but a mixture of both styles with some Islamic splashes. A temple that you cannot miss in your visit.
You cannot miss either the Church of San Pedro, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Alarcos or, of course, the cathedral, which it even has on of those classics legends with the appearance of the Virgin and everything. And if you have seen enough churches, go to see the birth house of Hernán Pérez del Pulgar, a reckless Renaissance warrior whose military tactics earned him the right to be buried next to the Catholic Monarchs in the Cathedral of Granada. A rare privilege for a character who had to be really special to achieve it.
And if you want to confuse your friends with a selfie, take one in front of the city hall, built in1976. In a matter of seconds someone will ask you; Are you in Flanders or in Ciudad Real?