Lerma near Burgos was our first stop in Spain this time and we treated ourselves to three nights in the Paradore, a spectacular Ducal palace on top of a small hill overlooking the Arlanza River. I had loved the week in Burgos and so was looking forward to these days.Read more: Lerma near Burgos
A brief history
The site of Lerma, a hill overlooking the River Arlanza, has been settled since pre-Roman times, and an important Roman route passed through the site. I think these are Roman tiles which are built into a wall at the top of the town.
Lerma developed as a Mediaeval walled town after the Reconquest.The wall was destroyed in a siege in the 14th century, and then rebuilt in the 16th century. Today only one gate remains, the Arco de la Carcel, which at times was used as a prison.
The heyday of the town was in the 17th century when the Duke of Lerma built in the town. During the Peninsular War the French occupied the town and looted and burned buildings and convents.
Lerma was one of the stops on the Canada Real Burgalesa, one of the nine important drover routes in Spain in the Middle Ages. It must have been a tremendous sight in its time!
Churches in Lerma
There used to be six convents and monasteries in the town but after the decrees of Mendizabal in the 19th century only three remained. The town retains is churches but most now have a different function.
Convent of the Ascension of our Lord is the oldest monastery in Lerma. It has a large community of nuns and two sites, the other being La Aguilera. Here in Lerma the Convent makes and sells sweets, including chocolate truffles. A novice provides the goods but the transaction is conducted through a revolving grid with an unseen nun!
The Convent of San Blas dates from the 17th century when it housed Dominican nuns. It was originally connected to the Ducal palace. The Convent remains a closed order today, with only the church open to the public. St Blaise was a very popular Mediaeval saint who had medicinal and healing powers, like most of the saints.
The Convent of St Theresa recognised her importance before she was canonised in 1621. The church remains, opposite the Collegiate Church of San Pedro but the other buildings now house the tourist office and local government buildings.
The Collegiate Church of San Pedro dates from the early 17th century and is linked to the Ducal Palace by the walls and the The Arches. The Duke of Lerma used to walk to the church in the covered passageway above the arches which connected his palace to the church.
Merino Jeronimo Cob was a priest, but also a guerrilla leader during the War of Independence against Napoleon’s army. He is buried here, in the Santa Clara Square in front of The Arches.
Wandering in Lerma
The Hermitage of La Piedad was once a church but today serves as one of the many cultural spaces in the town. It stands next to a pretty old square near the Prison Gate on a street which leads to the Collegiate Church of St Peter.
Plaza del Mercado Viejo is just a few yards away from the Paradore and has a friendly cafe where we enjoyed coffee and a medicinal glass. And one evening, after dinner we wandered in, following the sound of music and a celebration of the last night of the Festival – it was magical!
The road connecting Madrid with the north of the country and onwards to France possibly crossed the River Arlanza at this point. The Duke of Lerma built this bridge next to formal gardens and orchards which stood under the palace walls.
Lerma is an easy town to visit and the Paradore is a luxurious stop for a few days. What a wonderful start to the weeks of exploration.