Lerma

The village of the Court and the Convents

This village located close to the Arlanza River has its golden years during the kingdom of Philip III, at the beginning on the 17th Century.

Plan your stay in Lerma

The visit to the Collegiate Church, the Parador (former ducal palace) and the tour of the other places mentioned in the section “What to see in Lerma” can take about three hours. In Lerma there are plenty of places to sleep and eat very well. Its famous “asados” (roasts) are worth mentioning, as well as the Wines of Arlanza, with designation of origin. Its wine cellars are worth a visit. If you like sports, do not forget to check out the active tourism options in the province of Burgos.

The trip can continue along the Bu-900 road to nearby Santo Domingo de Silos and its next natural area of La Yecla and the Arlanza Sabinares. If you take the Bu-904 road you can visit the beautiful town of Covarrubias, a good place for lunch. Then you can continue to the ruins of the Arlanza Monastery. If you continue northwards you will come to the N-234. Taking it to the east you will reach the legendary town of Salas de los Infantes, where you can see its small dinosaur museum. On the way back to Madrid, instead of taking the ring road we recommend visiting Aranda de Duero.

Getting to know this place

Many civilizations in Lerma’s origins

The first inhabitants were from the Vacceos tribe. Romans, Swabians, Arabs, Vigodos, passed through this place, which used to be just a temporal refuge, until the year 900 when the Christian advance to the Arlanza river started the repopulation of the town. Between the squares, fortress and castles that were built the most important one was the Lerma castle, which was also given a wall with four gates. The victory of Almanzor in the Peñas de Cervera over the Count Sancho García was its last Muslim punishment.

Fighting for Lerma

Clashes between the Castros and the Lara were frequent. These fights for the Castilian or Aragonese dominion led the kings Ferdinand III and Alfonso X to lay siege to Lerma. The extinction of the Lara lineage made it a royal town until 1414. At that time Fernando de Antequera donated the town and its properties with all its terms to Diego Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas for his support in the Battle of Antequera and the fights against the Count of Urgel.

Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas received the primogeniture of the house as the 4th Duke of Lerma and the 5th Marquis of Denia in 1574. He turned into a duchy the title of Count and set in Lerma the head of his states instead of in Denia. The transference of the Court to Valladolid in 1601 gave him the idea of building his own village to reduce the circle around Philip III, a kind of little ability and interest for politics and government.

Investing in Lerma

The Duke of Lerma, who had it for twenty years, took the opportunity to enlarge his villa. Between 1600 and 1617 he put the best architects to work in it. Among them were Francisco de Mora, Juan Gómez de Mora and Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios. Figures such as Góngora and Lope de Vega attended this recreational court and parties and banquets were held constantly. In Lerma was born the Infanta Margarita, daughter of Philip III. She was baptized in the Convent of the Poor Clares.

The duchy of Lerma had 40 villages, and their taxes were used to make the vaults of the Duke bigger. He used that money to build and preserve the Ducal Palace, The Plaza Mayor de Armas, six monasteries and one Church Colegial. He also built a industry of cloth and dye, a printing house with a royal license and a hospital. After the fall of the duke in 1620, the village started a decline that lasted many centuries.

Retrato del duque de Lerma
Francisco de Sandoval y Rojas, duque de Lerma

During the War of Independence this region was one of the most frequented by the guerrilla of the Merino priest. The French sacked the Ducal Palace and the convents in retaliation. During the Carlist wars, on the other hand, the liberal soldiers lived in peaceful harmony with the religious ones. For the latter, the Disentailment of Mendizábal was a hard blow, leaving three monasteries uninhabited.

Lerma and tourism

Today it is a town oriented towards tourism, which has a Parador Nacional. It is also an example of industrial progress, as its industrial estate shows. Its cold cuts, biscuit and textile companies stand out. In fact, the designer Amaya Arzuaga is based here. Also located in Lerma is the Consejo Regulador del Vino Arlanza, with a denomination of origin. We recommend reading the following section to find out what there is to see in Lerma.

Coming from the north, the village looks like a boat. The Colegiata de San Pedro would correspond to the bow, while the Ducal Palace, the current Parador de Turismo, would be the stern. These are some of the places to see in Lerma, but not the only ones.

Only the gate, called Arco de la Cárcel, survives from the medieval wall. Through this, flanked by two powerful cubes, you can access the monumental enclosure. The Calle del Reventón leads to the Colegiata de San Pedro. In the Calle Mayor, or del General Mola, crossroads lead to noble buildings with beautiful facades.

Main squares

Along Calle del Barco you go up to the Plaza Mayor. It is presided over by the Ducal Palace, today a Parador Hotel. The Palace, built at the beginning of the 17th century in the Herrerian style, has symmetrical forms. Its façade shows the coats of arms of the house of Sandoval y Rojas. The door is flanked by columns and above it there are windows and balconies of monotonous symmetry. Inside there are sober Renaissance patios. Nearby is the Convent of San Blas of Dominican nuns, a building that maintains the architectural unity of the complex of which it is an extension.

The next Plaza del Mercado Viejo, also called “de San Antonio”, is organized around a music pavilion and gives access to the most typical streets. It is necessary to go through the passageway-viewpoint that links the Palace and the collegiate church at a good height above the Arlanza plain. In the Plaza de Santa Clara is the funeral monument in honour of the Merino priest, hero of the independence struggles and standard-bearer after the absolutism.

Two convents close this square: the Convent of the Ascension of the Poor Clares and the old Carmelite Convent of Santa Teresa. Some rooms in the latter have been refurbished to house the Town Hall, municipal offices, the Centre for Tourist Initiatives and the Villa de Lerma Interpretation Centre. The cloister of the monastery hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Lerma
Ducal Palace in Lerma

Monumental temples

Going down you will reach the Collegiate Church of San Pedro. This is a monumental temple from the beginning of the 17th century, in late Gothic style with Herrerian influences. The exterior is sober and the tower is simple, quadrangular and finished in a pinnacle. The interior is composed of three naves of equal height on Ionic columns. All of this is covered with starred vaults of Gothic tracery. It is remarkable the praying stature, in gilded bronze, of an uncle of the Duke of Lerma: Archbishop Cristobal de Rojas.

Outside the urban area there are other convents and a medieval bridge to be seen in Lerma. About 23 kms to the northwest is the Church of Santa María del Campo (13th-16th centuries). This temple is Gothic and has doorways on both sides of the transept and a beautiful Renaissance tower by Diego de Siloé and Juan de Salas. In this church, Juana la Loca kept vigil for a month over the body of her husband during the long pilgrimage she made with his body.

Exterior de la Colegiata de San Pedro, uno de los lugares que hay que ver en Lerma
Collegiate Church of San Pedro

Must see

Lerma
Puerta de Lerma
Dónde dormir en Lerma
Convent of La Ascensión de Nuestro Señor

Practical data

Coordinates

42º 01’ 35’’ N, 3º 45’ 20’’W

Distances

Burgos 42 km, Palencia 81 km, Madrid 199 km

Parking

It shouldn’t be a problem to park in the Plaza Mayor, except for Wednedays, when the market takes place.

Altitude

849 m

Inhabitants

2848 (2013)

The celebrations in the honor of the Bith of the Virgin (from September the 7th to the 10th, with cultural activities, bull fights and open-air dances), the Romería de Maciles (the next Sunday after September the 8th, with a folkloric exhibition of Castillian jotas).

Borroque Celebrations (August, music, fireworks, street plays, giants dances and popular games that remind people of the times of the duke of Lerma and Felipe the Third. It is mandatory to wear a costume from these old times). Celebration of Maquinaria Agrícula – Agriculture Machinery (may), Concerts of the Colegiata de San Pedro de Lerma (August), National Contest of Chamber Music Sounds of the Arlanza (August).

Market (on Wednesdays at the Plaza Mayor)


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