Declared of Heritage Interest (BIP)
San Antón Hill
The windmills of Alcázar de San Juan crown the so-called “Cerro de San Antón”, an elevation of quartzite rock that originated from the high-pressure compaction of sand from the shallow seabed that occupied this area of La Mancha in the Paleozoic Era, more than 450 million years ago. In the geological cuts, caused naturally or by the action of man on the slopes of the hill, you can see the quartzite and sandstone formations that give it its characteristic reddish hue.
At the foot of the hill, taking advantage of the remains of the quarry activity, an open-air auditorium where events and concerts are held under the starry sky of La Mancha. The Cerro de San Antón also has another singular work: the Cueva del Polvorín.Show more content
Located on the NW slope of the Cerro de San Antón, the Cueva del Polvorín is accessed through an open canyon at one end and consists of a labyrinth of galleries excavated under the hill. Its layout is due to the characteristics of the terrain and the hardness of the stone, which allowed the cave itself to grow in different directions in a capricious manner, starting from a main gallery.
The installation must have been excavated at the end of the 19th century, as a military element to house and protect the gunpowder of the regiment of Sappers that was installed in Alcázar de San Juan around the construction of railroads.
The relationship of Alcázar de San Juan with gunpowder is much older since the industry of saltpeter and gunpowder itself was one of the economic pillars from the Modern Age (XVI century) until the middle of the XIX century. A large part of the population was directly or indirectly dedicated to this activity until practically the second half of the 19th century when the railroad and wine took over as the main economic activities of the city.
The geomorphological characteristics of Alcázar’s surroundings -and of the urban center itself- favor this activity, since salt crusts, one of the fundamental elements in the manufacture of gunpowder, are found in the geological materials of the land.
The saltpeter extracted from the subsoil by the numerous saltpeter workers’ guild was transported in carts and subjected to a leaching process in sieves and later precipitation in boilers in the factory facilities to be mixed with sulfur and charcoal in the gunpowder mills.
The “Real Fábrica de Pólvora” was a direct exploitation of the crown and was located between the current Corredera, Manuel Manzaneque, Rondilla de la Cruz Verde and Tomás Tapia streets. A large facility of 13,000 square meters of surface that was completed, until the end of the 18th century, with the gunpowder mills that served the factory and that were located in Alameda de Cervera.
This was one of the best gunpowder factories in the kingdom between the 16th and 19th centuries, together with those of Manresa, Villafeliche or Granada, according to documentary sources of the time.
FIERABRAS MILL: PARTS AND OPERATION
In the Fierabrás mill we can learn about the most innovative technology of the century. XVI based on physical and mechanical principles.
The “manchego” or “tower” windmill, due to its cylindrical shape, is built in masonry and rammed earth, and its machinery is made with local woods chosen according to their characteristics so that they perform their function in the most precise way: holm oak for its resistance, black poplar for its flexibility or pine for its durability. The machinery sets in motion the heavy limestone stones or grindstones extracted from the nearby Piédrola site.
The building, crowned by the conical wooden roof or “Caperuza”, is composed of three floors, each of them with a delimited function: first floor or “cuadra”, where the miller lived during the long milling days and served as warehouse, stable and even kitchen; intermediate floor or “cámara”, where the flour that was produced was collected, sifted and stored; and the last floor, upper floor or moledero, which houses the machinery and where the grain was ground.
Around the mill, on the upper floor, there are twelve windows or “Ventanucos” oriented in the direction of the twelve predominant winds that run in the plains of La Mancha (Solano, Mediodía, Toledano, etc.), windows that served as a guide for the miller to know in which direction he should orient the blades.
The blades, usually four, were traditionally built with a wooden pole framework, and had a rectangular shape of about 7 x 2 meters. In order for the windmill to work and to transmit the wind power to the inner machinery, the blades were “dressed” with wide fabric canopies, the sails, which were attached to the structure by means of ropes. When the mill was not in use, they were removed and stored inside the mill to avoid deterioration.
To turn the roof, the miller used that long pole on the opposite side of the blades, the “Palo de gobierno”. Using a wooden winch known as “Borriquillo”, which was placed on the milestones or stones surrounding the mill and to which the lower end of the steering pole was attached, the entire upper part of the mill (cap, blades, shaft) was moved until it was oriented in the direction of the prevailing wind at the time.
Once the blades are oriented, in the machinery room the energy collected outside is transmitted to the interior through a large wood or “shaft” that crosses the space from one end to the other and in which a large wooden cogwheel, the “Catalina” wheel, is embedded. This large wheel, in turn, engages in another smaller wheel, the “lantern” wheel, which transforms the vertical movement of the exterior into horizontal movement, allowing the movement of one of the two large stones of the mill, the “flying” stone; while the stone called “sill” remains fixed, receiving the movement of the upper one.
Finally, thanks to the centrifugal force, the flour falls to the intermediate floor where it is collected and stored through the “Canaleta”, a wooden conduit located on one side of the bench on which the stones rest.
ROCINANTE MILL: CENTER OF INTERPRETATION OF THE MANCHEGO LANDSCAPE
The mechanical devices that confused Don Quixote and amazed the people of Alcazaba in the 16th century, dominate the landscape of the La Mancha plain from the Cerro de San Antón, a natural viewpoint from which to experience a 360º view of the immensity of the horizon of La Mancha.
At the time when windmills were installed in our land, from the sixteenth century onwards, our fields were large extensions of cereals and pastures, a cereal agrarian economy in balance between cultivated areas and mountain and pasture areas.
Today we can observe a different landscape, which is described, explained and interpreted from the windmill.
Thus, we will be able to identify the unique natural landscape of the so-called “Mancha Húmeda” (Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO), of wetlands such as those that make up the “Mancha Húmeda” (Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO). Alcazar Lagoon ComplexThe area is full of riverbeds, streams and centennial oaks that dot the fields of cereal crops, vines and olive trees, where our fauna and flora live.
We can also see the testimony of those who have inhabited Alcázar de San Juan for centuries and whose vestiges are easily visible at a glance: Gran Prior’s Tower, the bell towers of churches and convents, the quinterias, bridges, and the trace of the Railroad, so important in our history.