Spain’s oldest documented market-fair was conceded to Belorado by a King of Aragon who was top-dog for a while in the early twelfth century. I’m guessing it was first held here, near the Church of Santa Maria and the once thriving judería, or Jewish quarter.
The town, often favoured in its early days, was granted a citadel which doubled as a royal wedding present to none other than Rodrigo Diáz de Vivar…El Cid! That’s a remnant of the fortifications looming behind the church. Between citadel and church are some caves associated with local saints. I should have gone exploring, but my mind, as ever, was drifting to food as I reached Belorado.
A closer look at the citadel.
A fine, sweeping Plaza Mayor, where the market is now held.
In the fourteenth century, Belorado sided with Pedro the Cruel, who was favourable to the town, and especially to its Jewish population. After Pedro’s defeat and death, the new dynasty took a contrary view. Taxes and humiliations, especially for the Jews, meant certain decline – though Simon Ruiz Embito, the great merchant banker, was born here in the sixteenth century, probably of a family of conversos.
So, with the deliberate withering of Belorado, Spain again displayed its historical lose-lose approach to Jews, and to the emergence of a middle class.
Out on the main road, there are numerous leathergoods businesses. Not practical wear for pilgrims, but the prices and quality reflect the country’s reputation for artisanship in leather. I wonder if tanneries lined the river here in centuries past.
The most intriguing sight of all comes after leaving the town, on the road to Tosantos. There are more caves and a chapel integrated with the cave system. Eight hundred years ago a lady hermit lived here, and the chapel bears the name Virgén de la Peña.
Should have explored more, but I was probably thinking about…well, you know…