What to see:
- Cervantes House and Plaza
- Baptismal font in Santa Maria
- Coat of arms of the Inquisition
- Casa del Hidalgo Museum
- Churches and convents
- Sculptures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (town hall square), Cosmogonic Quixote, El Hidalgo and his cat, Miguel de Cervantes, Obelisk Plaza de Cervantes, Tilework in Cervantes Park, Maritormes in Cervantes Park, Tilework in the Fonda de la Estación.
DURATION: 3 hours
ACCESS: ON FOOT AND BY CAR (to the windmills).
In Alcázar de San Juan we find the traces of Miguel de Cervantes and his time (mid-fifteenth century and early seventeenth century), favorite son of the town and one of the most universal writers of our literature.
Our tour begins at the Church of Santa Maria, where we find the Baptismal font inwhich, according to the Baptismal Certificate preserved in its archives, Miguel de Cervantes was baptized in 1558. In remembrance of this illustrious event, the square through which the church is accessed is presided over by a large full-length statue representing him in knight’s clothing and pen in hand, ready to write a new adventure of the illustrious nobleman.
Nearby, in the adjacent Plaza de Palacio, we discovered the first of the many representations of Don Quixote, character and work, dotting the streets and squares of the city. In this case the so-called Cosmogonic Quixote pointing his spear to the sky in an attitude of seeking guidance from the stars.
Crossing the oldest district of the city, a few streets away from the font that saw the birth in Christianity of D. Miguel, you will find the Cervantes SquareThis is a tribute to the illustrious neighbor who, according to tradition, lived in the house located between this square and Santo Domingo Street and on whose façade a plaque marks this event.
On the way to the house where D. Miguel was born, the Santa María SquareWe stop at another element of the urban landscape that evokes D. Miguel, the Coat of Arms of the Inquisition (XVI century), as we all know the complicated relationship that always existed between the writer and this institution, preserved in the house located between Morón Street and Pedro Díaz Morante Street,
In Alcázar de San Juan, between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as Cervantes surely observed, churches and convents were founded and built, such as that of San José, on a street next to the coat of arms of the Inquisition, founded for the Poor Clare nuns in 1607 and which today houses the Museo Forma de la Alfarería Manchega (Calle San Antonio, s/n). Or the Church of the Convent of San Francisco (Plaza del Altozano de la Inmaculada, 12) was ordered to be founded next to the convent in the sixteenth century under the auspices of D. Diego de Toledo, son of the Duke of Alba in whose interior is integrated Renaissance art with some elements of late Gothic and outside its cover rebuilt according to the precepts also Renaissance.
In this neighborhood we also find other streets that evoke the era we are dealing with. This is the case of what is known as Calle Salitre, a mineral that naturally occurs in the subsoil of Alcázar de San Juan and has been the basis of the local economy since the 19th century. XVI and until the XIX century, when a Royal Gunpowder Factory was established in the city because saltpeter was a component.
On the way to the Church of San Francisco, on Cautivo Street is the Museo Casa del Hidalgo (c/ Cautivo, 24), an interactive and educational museum located in an old manor house from the late sixteenth century known by the name of Casa del Rey. In it we will be able to discover who they were and how they lived the La Mancha noblemen who inspired Miguel de Cervantes in the creation of the universal character of Don Quixote of La Mancha; Likewise, in the visit, we will approach how life and society was in the sixteenth and sixteenth centuries in this land. Inside you can see a facsimile copy of the baptismal certificate of Don Miguel de Cervantes that is kept in the Church of Santa Maria.
On our walk towards the park that Cervantes also gives his name to, we come across another of the religious foundations of the time, the Convent of Santa Clara. This building was built in the 16th century next to the Ermita de la Concepción (no longer standing) and housed the Poor Clare nuns until 1868. Of great decorative sobriety, it is of Renaissance style, and in its ovens the recipe for the exquisite sponge cakes known as “Tortas de Alcázar” was forged.
Finally we reached our penultimate destination, a whole neighborhood whose streets have adopted the names of the characters and places of the novel (Dulcinea, Melisendra, Barataria, etc.) and in it, the so-called Cervantes Park also known as the “Parque Viejo” (Old Park). We will focus our gaze on the Talavera-style tiles in the so-called “library” where scenes from Don Quixote de la Mancha are reproduced and on the sculpture that pays homage to another of the novel’s female characters, Maritornes, that Asturian wench who served meals at Juan Palomeque’s inn and who felt compassion for Don Quixote and Sancho.
To conclude our route, and if we talk about the time of Cervantes and Don Quixote, the Windmills of Alcazar de San Juan are an unquestionable stop. Located in the area known as Cerro de San Antón, the Rocinante, Barataria, Fierabrás and Barcelona mills are those mechanical devices that were installed in La Mancha back in the 19th century. XVI that still surprise travelers today as they did in the past to the locals. Of the four windmills that crown this hill, two can be visited free of charge. In one of them we will find the machinery of the mill as it was used at the time of Don Quixote, and in the other, a museum space dedicated to the landscape of La Mancha, the elements that define it, those who inhabit it and its evolution over time.
Sculptures and outdoor art. The iconography and representations of Cervantine themes are present throughout the urban and historical fabric of the city of Alcázar de San Juan. Strolling through its streets, parks and squares we will meet both D. Miguel and the characters of his great novel.
– Don Miguel de Cervantes ( Atrium of Santa María). Large full body statue in lost wax cast bronze, which since 1999 pays tribute to the illustrious neighbor, represents Don Miguel de Cervantes knight with pen in hand, ready to write a new adventure of the illustrious nobleman.
– Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (Plaza del Ayuntamiento). A statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in attitude of wrapping, work of Marino Amaya, is the tribute of Alcázarde San Juan to the pair of knight and squire since 1971.
– The nobleman and his cat (Avenida de Herencia, 2). In a leisurely, relaxed attitude, Don Alonso Quijano is shown enjoying reading one of his books and watched over by his cat, which seeks his master’s complicity.
– The Cosmogonic Quixote (Plaza de Palacio). Bronze bust of Quixote with lance, given to the town by Eulalio Ferrer in 1993. Don Quixote’s gaze is lost in the starry sky of La Mancha.
– Plaque and Monolith in the Plaza de Cervantes (Cervantes Square). In the square with the same name, a plaque testifies to the place where the Cervantes family had their residence in the village and a monolith with the effigy of the writer reminds all passers-by of the importance of the place.
– Tilework of “Don Quixote” in Cervantes Park (Paseo Cervantes, s/n). Of talaverano style, L are located in the so called “library” of the known popularly like the Old Park. The open-air library consists of benches decorated with tiles reproducing passages from Don Quixote,
– Statue of Maritormes in Cervantes Park (Paseo Cernvantes s/n). The forms of this sculpture of a single block of stone draw the Manchegan woman masterfully represented in Cervantes’ work and evoke this Asturian wench whom Cervantes made the co-protagonist of a chapter of the novel.
– Tilework of the Fonda de la Estación (ADIF Station. At this moment it is not open for visits). This place links two of the signs of identity of the city, Cervantes and the Railroad. In the rooms of the old canteen and waiting room of the station, the tiles that cover the walls narrate various scenes from Don Quixote, as if they wanted to liven up with their reading the long hours of waiting for travelers who have passed through this station for decades.