You can find it in the historic center of the city, in the Plaza de López Almagro. Casa de los Méndez takes on special importance for the literary route of Saint John of the Cross in Úbeda because this is where his relics were venerated before being taken to the Collegiate Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares.
Former seat of the Town Hall, it is a magnificent example of Renaissance civil architecture. In the gallery on the upper floor there are two niches, one with the image of San Miguel Arcángel, patron of the city, and the other with Saint John of the Cross. Today it houses the “María de Molina” Conservatory of Music.
In this place the restitution of the body of Saint John of the Cross to Úbeda was unsuccessfully managed. His mortal remains were secretly stolen two years after his death, at midnight, before the city noticed the theft and he was taken to Segovia.
Although the stealth operation was observed by a neighbor on the street, the bricklayer Salvador Quesada, fearing the consequences, he did not give notice until the following day.
It is also interesting to know that Cervantes lived for a time in Úbeda, so he must have been aware of the facts, since he immortalized it in chapter XIX of the first part of Don Quixote, where the famous nobleman begins one of his adventures against “a camisade of twenty ”, who carry a coffin to Segovia, and they indicate that they are coming from Úbeda.
In any case, the city of Úbeda did not resign to the looting and filed a lawsuit with Segovia. The petition for the return of the venerated body of the Saint to Pope Clement VIII was approved in February 1596, in the old town council houses, issuing his Brief Apostolic “Expositum nobis fuit” in which the rights of Úbeda and orders the restitution of the corpse to where he was first buried are recognized.
As is known, Segovia did not return the body and Úbeda, after the long and controversial lawsuit, in 1607 managed to recover part of the relics of the Carmelite reformer, a finger and a tibia, which are in the Museum of Saint John of the Cross.
The Church of San Isidoro is a place that Muñoz Molina sometimes recreates in his novels, as he does in The Polish Horseman, where, in addition to capturing the “atmosphere” of Magina, he uses it to locate some of his peculiar characters, such as its bullfighting parish priest.
(…) He recalled that there was no light in that narrow street, which lead to the San Isidoro clearing, with its fountain whose flow he heard at the same time as the splash in the mud of a horse’s hooves, which shaking his head, made the harness of a car rattle] ”(…)
The Church of San Isidoro, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and built on ancient remains of a mosque, is of extraordinary interest as it is one of the few Gothic constructions in a city famous for its Renaissance art. In fact, although the exterior has two Gothic façades in the Flamboyant Gothic style -represented mainly in the pinnacles-, the interior is in the style of Renaissance.
We will continue on the itinerary with a space constantly mentioned by Muñoz Molina in his novel The Polish Horseman, Mercado de Abastos( Food Market). Here his father used to come every morning to sell the products hard-harvested in the family garden.
(…) “It should have dawned by now, his father would be in the market ordering the damp and shiny vegetables on the marble counter, maybe wondering from time to time where he was, where to of those cities he dreamt as a teenager would his stray profession of interpreter might have taken him. ” (…)
Antonio Muñoz Molina. The Polish Horseman.
Although since 1878 there was great concern to provide the city with a food market to avoid street sales, it was not until 1933 that the building was commissioned to the architect from Linares, Mr. Luis Casanova Vila, and the construction concluded in 1935.
The Mercado de Abastos, in a rationalist style, was erected in the place where the Convent of Nuestra Señora de la Coronada had previously stood, from the 16th century.
The scenes of his childhood, the landscape of his native Úbeda and the remoteness of the Guadalquivir valley, are continuously present in Muñoz Molina’s work, as the author himself reveals:
“(…) I like many places, but I look at the landscape of the Guadalquivir valley from the walls of my city and that landscape moves me in a way that no other moves me. (…) “
Interview with Antonio Muñoz Molina. Librújula Magazine. February 25, 2016.
An intimacy revealed in many of his novels and where the viewpoints of Úbeda serve as a watchtower to reveal the aesthetic qualities and feelings that they provoke.
(…) “I recall the vertigo of looking down the viewpoints of the wall and seeing in front of my eyes the entire depth of the precipices and the unlimited extension of the world, the terraces of the orchards, the hills of the olive groves, the broken and distant brilliance of the river, the dark blue of the foothills of the Sierra, the demolished statue -like profile of Mount Aznaitín […] “
Antonio Muñoz Molina. The Polish Horseman.
“(…) Solana too had looked at that space of unlimited light as a child and returned to it to die, those open streets of Magina that seemed to end before the sea and embankments like balconies, cliffs or high maritime viewpoints from where he looked out into all the clarity of the world not violated but by the greed of his pupils and the fables of his imagination (…) ”.
Antonio Muñoz Molina. Beatus Ille.
Ambrosio de Villarreal, a licensed surgeon, belonged to a family in Ubeda, the cradle of great and famous doctors.
He is very important in the Saint John itinerary because he was the one who attended Saint John of the Cross when he fell ill and arrived at the Carmelite convent of Ubeda, certifying his death.
The surgeon’s house was located on Las Parras street, which mixes the houses with white facades with the splendid 16th century palatial architecture, so the street is full of historical landmarks that are of great interest to the visitor, so we recommend a leisurely visit.
Among its palatial architecture, the House of the Inquisition (still existing), the Episcopal or Corona Jail and the Hospital de Santa Marina stand out, as well as the largest architectural sample on the street, the Palacio de los Porceles, a Mannerist work from the 16th century.
Colegiata de Santa María de los Reales Alcázares (Collegiate Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares)
The Collegiate Church of Santa María de los Reales Alcázares, a National Monument and part of the World Heritage Site and recently declared a Minor Basilica, is the main church in Úbeda.
Its connection with Saint John of the Cross is given because it is in the Collegiate Church where the relics of Saint John of the Cross were guarded and venerated, from the exclaustration of the Discalced Carmelites in 1836 until their return in 1905.
This temple has undergone numerous transformations throughout its history so it does not have a single defined architectural unit, but perhaps that makes it more attractive.
The church has a Gothic base and is built over a mosque. At the same time, it encompasses very varied architectural styles: Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance, Neo-Gothic Baroque …
Without a doubt, you will have to visit it and discover all the treasures it holds.
La Colegiata de Santa María de los Reales Alcázares es Monumento Nacional y parte del conjunto Patrimonio de la Humanidad y recientemente declarada Basílica Menor, es la principal iglesia de Úbeda.
Su vinculación con San Juan de la Cruz viene dada porque en la Colegiata se custodiaron y veneraron las reliquias de San Juan de la Cruz desde la exclaustración de los Carmelitas Descalzos en 1836 hasta su regreso en 1905.
Este templo ha experimentado numerosas transformaciones a lo largo de su historia por lo que no tiene una única unidad arquitectónica definida, pero quizás eso la hace más atractiva.
La iglesia es de base gótica y está construida sobre una mezquita. A su vez, engloba estilos arquitectónicos muy variados: mudéjar, gótico, renacentista, barroco neogótico…
Sin duda, tendrás que visitarla y descubrir todos los tesoros que encierra.
This Carmelite convent was founded in March 1595, with its first Prioress being the Reverend Mother Ana de la Encarnación, companion of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
The lack of ornamentation prevails in the convent, in accordance with the austerity that reflects the spirit of the Order, but in the interior rooms there is a valuable permanent exhibition called “The Treasures of the Closing”, which has an important pictorial collection, with the primitive portrait of Saint John of the Cross, painted by Fray Juan de las Miserias, stands out.
It also holds other important and interesting collections of sculptures, reliquaries, ornaments, etc.
Today the Discalced Carmelite Sisters continue to inhabit the convent, and are famous for their pastry work, especially for the exquisite anise rolls sold all around the convent.