Postcard from Valladolid, Spain: Iglesias and a maligned queen

Above, Iglesia de San Pablo

Valladolid was flourishing in the 15th century when Isabella I, Queen of Castile, married King Ferdinand of Aragon in the city – an elopement with private ceremonies, as they were second cousins. With the city a favored spot for the Catholic royal family members to hold court, Pope Clement VIII elevated it to a bishopric, the center of an archdiocese.

Bolstered by this recognition, city fathers launched efforts to build a suitable cathedral, the largest in Europe. Architect Juan de Herrera (1530-1597) was commissioned for the design of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. Despite Herrera’s death, completion appeared possible with the official establishment of Valladolid as the capital of Spain by King Philip III (1578-1621) in 1601.

The rosy future dissipated as a royal advisor standing to personally benefit through his real estate holdings persuaded Philip of the need to move the capital back to Madrid in 1606. The cathedral budget was slashed – about 60 percent.

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Postcard from Valladolid, Spain: Plateresque architecture competes with sculpture within

Above, Isabelline Plateresque details surround the courtyard of Colegio de San Gregorio in the complex serving as Museo Nacional de Escultura.

The National Sculpture Museum is housed in three historic landmarks clustered together in one block in Valladolid.

With the nationalization of convents and monasteries in 1836, the government of Spain seized a wealth of artistic treasures in need of housing. Many of those from the region of Castile first went on display in Valladolid in 1842 in the Colegio de Santa Cruz. In 1933, the collection was designated a national one and was moved to the Colegio de San Gregorio.

The exterior of the 15th-century building is characterized by intricate sculptural reliefs in the Isabelline Plateresque style. The gorgeous fa├žade demonstrates a complete lack of a uniform theme – resulting in a fascinating hodgepodge of biblical and secular components with an abundance of putti and floral and vine-like flourishes intertwined among them.

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Postcard from Burgos, Spain: A few parting impressions

Above, pollarded plane trees framing Paseo del Espolon

The Scarecrow, who was in the lead, walked forward to the tall tree where there was an opening to pass into, but just as he came under the first branches they bent down and twined around him, and the next minute he was seized by the long branches and raised from the ground and flung headlong among his fellow travelers.”

The Wonderful World of Oz, L. Frank Baum, 1900

Remove the brilliant blue sky from the picture, and these trees appear as frighteningly eerie as those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The severe winter haircut, pollard, of these relatives of American sycamores lining Burgos’ beautiful Paseo del Espolon reaps a huge reward for pedestrians. The trimming encourages the trees to produce a dense canopy of green leaves shading all who pass below throughout the summer, and whimsical-shaped topiaries soften the impact during the winter months.

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