MADRID ENOTURISMO CULTURAL ROUTES
Goya, one of our most universal painters, masterfully rendered both the labour and recreation of wine and the history of the wine-making lands.
As well as being an extraordinary painter capable of envisioning new forms of expression, Francisco de Goya was a chronicler of his age and created an extensive oeuvre that could be defined as a living document of the events and ideas of an age. Born in 1746 in Fuendetodos, a town in the province of Saragossa, the son of a Basque gilder, José, and a noblewoman called Gracia Lucientes.
Once the family had moved to the capital city of Aragon, Goya entered the atelier of painter José Luzán, where he spent four years training until he decided to set up his own workshop and, as he would later write, paint according to his own 'invention'.
As the years passed, painting following his own invention would become more important, for without neglecting the well-paid commissions that granted him a comfortable existence, Goya drew and printed a series of unusual images with often ambiguous meanings that revealed a highly personal fantasy and an ideological commitment to the principles of the Enlightenment that were the driving force behind a tireless satire on the customs of the times.
The Spanish War of Independence changed his subject matter from genre scenes to others of a more patriotic and historical nature, in which he rendered a less heroic vision of the battle. After the return of Ferdinand VII the fact that Goya was a liberal and his support of the constitution led him to be accused of being pro-French. Although he painted the monarch, in 1823 he moved to France where he continued painting until his death in 1828.
Vega del Jarama
The River Tajo and two of its tributaries, the Jarama and the Tajuña, bring life and richness to the twenty-three towns that make up what is known as the Las Vegas Region, southeast of the Madrid Community. The fertile lands of this area have determined the markedly agricultural tradition that still exists today. Our route begins precisely in the valley of the Jarama, in the lands that today integrate the Regional Park of the Southeast, created in 1994 with the objective of recovering and protecting the surrounding ecosystem.
The River Jarama, that is born in Peña Cebollera, in the Carpetian Mountains, by Hayedo de Montejo and after covering over one hundred and sixty kilometres it flows into the Tajo, close to Aranjuez. Its tributaries are the Heranes, the Jaramilla and the Tajuña to the east, and the Guadaliz, the Lozoya and the Manzares to the west; the latter and its waters appeared as settings for many of the scenes of Goya’s cartoons. From this valley of the Jarama we set out on our route.
Vega del Jarama—Villaconejos
The landscape we leave behind us is directly associated with the rivers that flow through the region, a specific vegetation peopled by elm trees and willows, poplars and black poplars which forms a part of the biological corridor that runs from north to south through the Madrid Community, and plays a key role in its biological equilibrium. In just over eleven kilometres we shall come to our following destination, Villaconejos.
Before continuing along our route we must make a stop in Villaconejos. The town belonged to the territorial division of Valdemoro until 1834, when it was transferred to the Judicial Party of Chinchón. The name of the town now designates a tasty autochthonous melon, and the local Melon Museum where curious photos and objects related to the voluminous fruit are displayed. There is a popular legend that the melon first arrived in these lands when a soldier who had been to Africa brought back the first seeds wrapped in a cloth sack. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that the melons were first eaten in the area in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
As well as enjoying the renowned fruit we should pay a visit to the parish church of St Nicholas of Bari, the oldest building in the town erected in the sixteenth century, and the relatively recent chapel of San Isidro built in 1968, when two of the town’s residents gave up their land for the construction of a place to hold the image of San Isidro, patron saint of farmers. The shrine would appear in numerous works by Goya, such as The Fair of San Isidro.
We also recommend taking a small detour from our route: leaving Villaconejos along Calle del Calvario and then taking a dirt track, at a distance of three hundred metres we come across the Friar’s Cave—an excavation made on a small ridge that has nineteen round arches, vents in the form of chimneys and plastered walls. The door is framed by two pillars made of stone from Colmenar de Oreja, above which a stone slab presents a coat of arms that consists of three stars in relief with eight points each. Beside the emblem we see what could be considered its ‘birth certificate’, an inscription that reads ‘YEAR 1734’. The Friar’s Cave was used during the Spanish Civil War as a refuge and, according to the locals, it would subsequently be used for storing wine.
Wineries: There is one winery under the Wines of Madrid D.O., although for the time being they do not form a part of the Wines of Madrid Route.
As we leave Villaconejos, the scarce seven kilometres to Chinchón reveal that agriculture is the cornerstone of the economy of this region of Las Vegas. The melon fields are gradually replaced by vineyards and olive groves, and we can guess the distribution system that will enable us to visit any of the country’s markets and find the best quality farm produce.
As well as the sight of the main square, Plaza Mayor, with its two hundred and thirty-four wooden balconies called ‘clearings’, and the taverns located in their colonnades, wandering through the streets of this town will give us pleasant surprises that will reveal its history.
By the early eighteenth century Chinchón had become one of the most important settings in Spain. During the War of the Spanish Succession the people remained loyal to Philip V; the king received numerous weapons and refused to provide wheat for the troops of Archduke Charles. On 25 February 1706 the monarch spent the night in the house that is known today as the House of the Chain (the installation of a chain and its preservation was a sign that revealed a king’s overnight stay in a house). On 3 August of that same year Philip V was acclaimed as king in the Plaza Mayor.
However, barely eight days later Chinchón would be sacked by enemy troops led by Archduke Charles, who was staying at the Monastery of St Augustine (today a national tourist hotel). Philip V never forgot the loyalty shown by the town during the war: at that time the Earldom of Chinchón belonged to his son, Prince Philip of Bourbon and Farnesio, and in 1739 the king decided to grant him the title of ‘The very noble and very loyal’ that appears as an inscription on the coat of arms of the city.
In 1761 the prince sold the earldom to his brother, Don Luis Antonio Jaime of Bourbon, who, giving up the priesthood and the archbishopric of Toledo, in 1778 married Doña María Teresa de Vallábriga. On account of this marriage he was forbidden to use the surname Bourbon and Charles IV decided to take the education of his son Luis María of Bourbon and daughters into his own hands.
Don Luis became a priest in 1799, and subsequently became Archbishop of Seville and Toledo; he gave up the earldom in favour of his sister María Teresa of Bourbon and Villábriga, the famous Countess of Chinchón, who recovered all her titles and the Bourbon surname following her marriage with Godoy in 1797. Well known and appreciated by Goya since her childhood, she would be portrayed by the painter on several occasions.
The fact is that Don Luis María of Bourbon was a great protector of Goya, thanks to whom Camilo, Goya’s brother, was able to become priest of the church of Our Lady of Assumption, formerly Our Lady of Piety. For this reason, following the fire that burnt the church during the Spanish War of Independence, Goya painted the picture Our Lady of Assumption at the request of his brother Camilo to alleviate the damage suffered inside the sacred building. Today the painting can be contemplated in the reredos of the high altar.
During the same war of Independence, on 27 December 1808 four French soldiers were killed in Chinchón by residents of Chinchón. Two days later the French troops attacked the town and during the three days of the siege caused the death of eighty-six residents; those who survived were sent to Aranjuez. Goya, who spent long periods in the town, was a direct witness of the massacre, which he depicted on the back of drawing number 37 in his series The Disasters of War, where he wrote ‘The one in Chinchón’.
However, Chinchón is not only famous for these historical and cultural reasons, but also for its flavours: walking through the town means being willing to enter the traditional shops selling garlic and anisette, the only liqueur to have its own Geographical Denomination in Spain and to have deserved a number of international decorations such as the Gold Medal won at the World Fair held in Chicago in 1893 for its extraordinary quality.
We leave Chinchón and head towards Valdelaguna, a short journey on which we are able to appreciate once again the fertility of the Las Vegas region: groves of millenary olive trees dominate the landscape, complemented by the production of Chinchón’s fine white garlic that is usually sown in December, collected in summer and then subjected to drying, cleaning and selection.
We soon come across our next destination, the end of the route, a town centre that extends over two hillsides that meet in the main street.
As we learn from its blazon, Valdelaguna belonged to the territorial division of Tajuña, which in 1480 was segregated by the Catholic Kings and handed over to the Marquisate of Montoya (Marquis Don Andrés Cabrera Cabrera and Marchioness Doña Beatriz de Boadilla), before being transferred to the Earldom of Chinchón. Due to its characteristic situation, it became a key setting for the main battles that have taken place over recent centuries, in particular the War of the Spanish Succession and the Spanish Civil War, as well as being the centre of operations during the French invasion.
Many are the places of interest that can be visited, among them special mention should be made of the parish church of Our Lady of Assumption. Built on a graveyard, the apse of its main nave has an altar decorated with mural paintings that date back to the fifteenth century and were discovered during the last renovation of the temple.
The well known Municipal Washing Places will delight visitors desirous to evoke ways of living of yesteryear. The site was formerly a gathering place for the women who went there to do their washing, as revealed by an inscription dated 1956 that we discover in one of the main areas, ‘WORK DIGNIFIES WOMEN’. Goya paid his own tribute to these women in the cartoon for his tapestry entitled The Washerwomen (1779-1780).
Last but not least, having visited the Priest’s House, the Large House, the Wine Press (used to extract the must from the grapes that was subsequently fermented in clay vessels, reminding us that Valdelaguna is a traditional wine-growing area) and the Empiedro Mill, we may take a stroll to the Peña Huevera which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape, and is in fact the starting point of the Vega Route that can be traced from this very spot.
Vega del Jarama—Villaconejos
Calle Carretera de Madrid
11.2 km | 13 min
7.2 km | 9 min
Carretera de Valdelaguna & Calle de los Cerezos
5.5 km | 10 min
Towns: Villaconejos, Chinchón, Valdelaguna.
Wineries: Bodega Señorío de Val Azul, Bodegas Pablo Morate
Museo del Vino
Distance Madrid: 40,4 km | 35 min.
Length: 26.7 km