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Basílica of San Ildefonso

As stated in the Act of the Virgin´s Descent to Jaén (Archive of the Marian Bibliographic Academy), on June 10, 1430, shortly before midnight, the Virgin descended to the city of Jaén, accompanied by a ghostly procession dressed in white. After a tour of the dark medieval streets, she stopped at the humble parish of San Ildefonso and the miraculous vision vanished. The church became the sanctuary of the Holy Virgin of the Chapel, Patroness of Jaén. That is, the place is chosen by the Virgin herself, which attracts many devotions.

The church, declared a Minor Basilica in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, has its origin in the 13th century and its temple is made up of three façades: the oldest, in the Gothic style, is the one at the back of the church; the lateral portal, in the Renaissance style and the main portal (last to be built), in the neoclassical style.

This story does not escape Juan Eslava Galán´s attention, who implements it in his work The Templars and Solomon´s Table and whose chapter is cleverly titled: The Virgin who walked through Jaén.

(…) the astonished seven witnesses to the miracle saw a ghostly procession descending on Maestra del Arrabal Street of San Ildefonso, in the neighborhood outside the medieval city. (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 9.

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Magdalena Church

The Magdalena Church (originally the mosque of the city, converted into a church after the Christian conquest), is located in the neighborhood of the same name. The church, whose main façade and interior is in the Gothic style, was erected in the 16th century, being one of the oldest churches in the capital of Jaén. In one of the church towers you can still make out the old Arab minaret of the mosque.

The neighborhood, the fountain, the lizard and, of course, the Magdalena Church are constant literary resources in the work of Juan Eslava Galán.

(…) and thus they took him to a house that is near the said Church of Magdalena (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 22

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The Institute of Jaen Studies

The Institute of Jaen Studies (IEG), is an Autonomous Body of the Diputación de Jaén that has its headquarters in the Old Hospital of San Juan de Dios de Jaén, a 15th century building, and whose main function is the promotion and study of culture, science and provincial art.

Juan Eslava Galán has given his legacy to this institute. More than 8,000 documents from his personal archive (books, press clippings, videos, sound files and other varied objects) to serve as a reference for people interested in Jaén and in this specific author.

It is worth introducing the IEG in this itinerary if only to consult this extraordinary collection, but the author also takes advantage of any opportunity in his works to praise its history or enhance its resources, as does his wonderful library in The Templars and the Table of Solomon.

(…) I looked for archaeological information about those places in the marvelous library of the Institute of Jaen Studies, installed in an old hospital and Carmelite convent, with the comfortable reading room open to the silent cloister. (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Episode 2.

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Castle of Santa Catalina

The castle of Santa Catalina, one of the emblems of Jaén, crowns the hill that gives it its name, from where you can see a unique and spectacular landscape of the city and its mountains. It also houses an Interpretation Center which offers a tour of its history.

The origin of the fortress is an old caliphate fortress from the 9th century, the Christian castle that has survived to this day was built in the 13th century. After the conquest of the city by Fernando III, its defenses are fortified and turned intoǨ-ñ. an important bulwark against the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada.

The castle of Santa Catalina is a symbol for the people of Granada and Juan Eslava Galán continuously echoes it and introduces it in his works, as he does in Los Templarios and La Mesa de Salomón.

(…) During my stays in Jaén I had climbed several times to the castle of Santa Catalina. After unveiling the secrets of its builder, Alfonso X, I revisited it with a different spirit (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 18.

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The lizard of La Malena

The Lizard of La Malena (decay for Magdalena, Jaén’s oldest neighborhood and where its mythical lair was located), is the most famous legend of the capital, possibly the most outstanding creation of popular literature.

The influence of this legend is such that the lizard has become a symbol of the city, being present in its urban space (statue of the lizard), concerts (Lagarto Rock), on the coat of arms of the Cabildo of the Cathedral, etc. So much so that the legend of the Lagarto de la Malena is one of the ten Treasures of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Spain.

But who better than Juan Eslava Galán to tell us the story of the lizard:

(…) The hotel concierge told me the story: a monstrous lizard, bigger than a crocodile, lived in the Magdalena spring, in the center of medieval Jaén, and devoured people and herds. The population was so terrified that they began to emigrate. Then, a a convict sentenced to death offered to kill the monster if his life was spared. The authority agreed, released him and made the necessary means available to him, but he refused the weapons offered to him and only asked for a horse and a lamb.

He ate the lamb was eaten on the eve of the feat in the company of the prison chaplain.

(…) The next day, at daybreak, he got on his horse and headed for the spring. When he reached the edge of the stream he gave a few voices and, as soon as he saw the monster come out, he threw the lambskin stuffed with dry tinder, which he had previously lit. The lizard took it for a live lamb, swallowed it whole, the tinder scorched its entrails and burst open. (…) The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 1.

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Arab baths cultural center

The Arab Baths Cultural Center. The Villardompardo Palace is located in the Palace of the First Count of Villardompardo and Viceroy of Peru, Sir Fernando de Torres y Portugal, a Renaissance building from the 16th century.

Built in the 11th century, the Arab Baths of Jaén are located in the basements of the Palace and their extension makes them probably the largest visitable baths in Spain.

At the end of the 16th century the Count of Villardompardo built his Palace on the Baths, pwhile art of them kept hidden between the foundations and basements, remaining in this way during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Juan Eslava Galán makes continuous mention of both spaces in The Templars and the Table of Solomon.

(…) In the center of the Magdalena neighborhood, surrounded by the initiation places of the old matriarchal sanctuary, in front of the palace of the Counts of Villardompardo, scions of the Torres family, in whose basements you can visit the Arab baths where the Moorish king died(…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 27.

In the same building that makes up the Villardompardo palace there are also the International Naïf Art Museum “Manuel Moral”, the first and only one in Spain specialized in this art, and the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs of Jaén.

In the square in front of the palace, there is also an element that Juan Eslava Galán considers of great interest in his research on the Templars: the duck fountain.

(…) in the Plaza de Santa Luisa de Marillac (…). In the center, emerging from the still water, an octagonal pillar (so frequent in Templar and Calatrava construction) supports a hemisphere (the stone of the Mother Goddess) on which a goose stands with its webbed legs extended over the stone. (…). Let us not forget that the goose is one of the main symbols of the matriarchal cults of the sanctuary (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 26.

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Arrabalejo Tavern

Juan Eslava Galán pays homage in his work to the Arrabalejo tavern, one of the most rooted establishments in the city. The tavern has two floors. On the ground floor there is a restaurant and the upper floor houses an authentic photographic museum of old images.

(…) In which two days there was nothing remarkable to say, except that two crossbowmen drunkenly rioted the tavern that they call Arrabalejo, the place where the city’s scoundrel gathers, and one of them received a cut of twelve stitches. (…)

In search of the unicorn. Chapter IV.

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Arch of San Lorenzo

The arch of San Lorenzo is the only remaining vestige of the old church that gives it its name. It dates from the 13th century. Listed as a National Monument since 1877.

Located at the confluence of Almendros Aguilar and Madre de Dios streets, A defensive bastion was used for its construction, which was used as a sacristy, whose apse is what remains today as the San Lorenzo arch.

The interior is divided into two floors. On the ground floor is the old church chapel, a true treasure of Jaen´s Mudejar art that evokes the Alhambra in Granada. On the second floor there is the old sacristy.

The arch of San Lorenzo also stands out for the enormous historical legacy it treasures, as this is where the the monarch Fernando IV, king of Castile, who died in Jaén, was veiled, as Eslava Galán himself testifies in The Templars and the Table of Solomon.

(…) The same tradition ensures that they veiled the corpse of the monarch, or even buried it, in the Arch of San Lorenzo de Jaén. (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 21.

Furthermore, here lies Juan de Olid, Secretary of Constable Iranzo. Historical and also literary landmark, because Juan de Olid is the hero that Juan Eslava Galán uses to go “In search of the unicorn”. The author also makes mention of this fact in The Templars and the Table of Solomon

(…) Juan de Olid and his wife were buried in the parish of San Lorenzo, belonging to the hospital founded by Don Luis (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 22.

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Palace of Condestable Iranzo

Once they arrive in Jaén, the entourage that has to look for and find the unicorn stays at the Palace of the Constable of Castilla, the very illustrious Mr. Miguel Lucas de Iranzo, Mr. Juan de Olid, our peculiar hero.

The old Palace, today the seat of the Municipal Board of Culture and Tourism of the city of Jaén, was built in the 15th century, and the Mudejar room is still preserved, the interior of which is covered with a magnificent Mudejar paneling, a unique example of this art throughout city ​​and arcades gallery in the late Gothic courtyard.


And thus we arrived at the palace and inn of the Constable and we retired to it and the music stopped to rest the instruments and also the ears, which were already somewhat thundered and full of the strong patching and accompaniment, and the maitre of the Constable took everyone to their rooms, with very discreet concert (…)

In search of the unicorn. Chapter IV.

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San Francisco Square

One of the most emblematic squares of the capital is that of San Francisco, which owes its name to the old monastery built in the middle of the 14th century under the dedication of San Francisco de Asís.

The Convent was demolished at the end of the 19th century and on the land it occupied now the Plaza de San Francisco and the Palace of the Provincial Council, project of the architect Jorge Porrúa, stands. A sculpture of the Magdalena fringed with cryptic inscriptions currently presides over the courtyard of the Diputación, in the exact place where the Templar chapel of the old Convent of San Francisco stood. But as Juan Eslava Galán indicates in Los Templarios y la Mesa de Salomón, before the monastery it was the palace of Fernando III in Jaén.

(…) In the following days I gathered information about the palace of Fernando III in Jaén (…) In 1354 King Pedro I el Cruel handed it over to the Franciscans. Converted into a monastery, it lasted until 1867, when it was demolished to build the current building of the Provincial Council (…)

The Templars and the Table of Solomon. Chapter 17.

Also Eslava Galán makes mention of the square and the monastery in his novel In Search of the Unicorn:

(…) And at the end of the mass, which we all listened to with great devotion, we went outside, going out through the aforementioned door of Santa María, to the square of the monastery of San Francisco, where the avenue had been adorned, to hold a magnificent tournament (…)

In Search of the Unicorn. Chapter IV.

In this environment, there were also the old Butchers, which were demolished in 1930 and their space was added to the Plaza de San Francisco.

(…) If a suckling child did not cry here and the powerful braying of the rude father weren’t heard from behind the walls of the orchard of the friars, one could perceive the flight of one of the many flies that went around obstructing the peace and recreation of the people, who came from the nearby butcher shops, where many, lush and very choppy are raised. (…)

In Search of the Unicorn. Chapter IV.