Route through the most famous tombs in churches in Jerez: from a poisoned queen to a dictator

Cities have in their history a key aspect to understand their present, a past that enriches the local culture and fills it with a monumental heritage that today constitutes a value of the first order in tourism, in addition to printing a special character to these localities. This history reveals that centuries ago these cities had a singular geopolitical importance that is no longer present, but that is recorded by names, notable people and even legends that enrich that past time.

The only tangible thing that remains of those past times, in addition to old files, more recent historical studies, and even in some scholar of the time who cared to collect the historical facts, are the graves in which some aspects are revealed. of the lives of these characters.

In Sherry, as in many other cities and towns with a distant heritage, we have some testimonies that still survive and that tell a lot about episodes that were fundamental in the lives of ladies, queens, gentlemen… It is not something known by the general public; only scholars and those interested in analyzing these tombstones or tombstones have been concerned with them and elevate them in their consideration not only for the person who is under those tombs, but also for the quality and artistic value with which these burials were conceived. The oldest churches are the ones that reveal the most tombstones.

Blanca de Borbon: France, 1335–Medina-Sidonia 1361. Queen of Castile, wife of Pedro I ‘El Cruel’

The life of this Castilian noblewoman, who became queen of Castile, is dark and cruel, honoring the nickname of her husband Pedro I ‘El Cruel’. Queen Blanca de Borbón died in 1361, assassinated by order of her husband. Her last words were: ‘Tell me, Castilla, what have I done to you?’ Her burial is located in the church of San Francisco in whose presbytery her tombstone is located. Her marriage was political, as was the case at the time, for strategic reasons. The main objective of that link was to strengthen relations between the monarchies of Castile and France.

Two days after the marriage was made, which, according to all indications, was consummated, Pedro I left Blanca de Borbón to leave with his lover. For this, the monarch, who locked Doña Blanca in a tower in Toledo after exiling her, was excommunicated for disobeying an order of Pope Innocent VI who denied him the second marriage he contracted. The prison for Blanca de Borbón continued in Medina-Sidonia; before in the castle of Sidueña, better known as that of Doña Blanca, and in El Alcázar Jerez.

His death was due to poisoning ordered by Pedro I “who sent his jailer to give him some herbs” which he refused. In the end ‘El Cruel’ ordered such a mission to his crossbowman “Juan Pérez de Rebolledo, a resident of Jerez”. The former wife of the King of Castile was only twenty-five years old. Her remains were transferred to the church of San Francisco, in Jerez.

Tombstone of Queen Doña Blanca de Borbón, wife of Pedro I el Cruel.  ROYAL ACADEMY OF HISTORY
Tombstone of Queen Doña Blanca de Borbón, wife of Pedro I el Cruel. ROYAL ACADEMY OF HISTORY

The tombstone, translated into current Spanish, says: “Consecrated to Christ, Supreme Benefactor and Almighty Lord, Doña Blanca, Queen of Spain, daughter of Bourbon, descendant of the illustrious lineage of the kings of France, was greatly beautiful in body and customs, but the mistress prevailed, she was killed by order of the King D. Pedro I the Cruel her husband. Year of Health of 1361. She being 25 years old”

The Queen Isabel la Católica ordered the remains to be transferred to the main altar of San Francisco after having been deposited in a chapel. The tomb is made of marble and is adorned with the coats of arms of Castile and Bourbon. When the temple was rebuilt, at the end of the 18th century, the investigations and testimonies that are preserved indicate that the remains of Doña Blanca were deposited in a cedar box, which was kept in the prior’s cell.

With the First Republic in 1873, the cedar box was deposited in the Municipal Archives, to return on February 24 of the following year to the convent of San Francisco, where it was housed in a small crypt on the left side of the main altar. In 1910, the former municipal archivist Adolfo Rodríguez del Rivero, says that on that date he went down to the crypt next to the then mayor, the Marquis of Campo Real, “and there was a rickety box with the remains of that queen. Inside it was a can that contained a parchment that was impossible to touch because it fell apart, given its state of decomposition.”

Alvaro Obertos of Valeto. Jerez de la Frontera 1427 – 1482. Founder of the Charterhouse

This gentleman from Jerez was of French origin from a family line dedicated to commerce. Álvaro Obertos remained single throughout his life and stood out for his pious acts, which earned him the nickname “father of the poor”. He was a sworn member of the collation of San Juan de los Caballeros and took part in favor of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia “in the fierce battles between factions that confronted the Ponce de Leóns and that provoked numerous bloody confrontations in the last decades of the century. xv”.

Obertos de Valeto experienced a kind of spiritual catharsis when he visited the Cartuja Santa María de las Cuevas in Seville in 1463. Upon discovering the spirituality of the monks and the charitable works they did, he made the decision to offer his estate in the foundation of a Carthusian monastery near Jerez.

Tombstone of the burial of Alvero Oberto de Valeto in La Cartuja.  RAH
Tombstone of the burial of Alvero Oberto de Valeto in La Cartuja. RAH

For this, he chose some land located in El Sotillo, near the Guadalete River, where, according to tradition, the Virgin helped the Christian troops to defeat the Muslims in one of the skirmishes of the war of reconquest. On September 20, 1475 the new foundation was authorized, placing the first stone three years later. The Monastery was incorporated into the Order of the General Chapter of Grenoble, held in 1484

Álvaro Obertos de Valeto is buried at the foot of the main altar of the Cartuja church under a magnificent marble tombstone, on which, around the effigy of the knight, one can read:


Fifteenth-century funerary tombstones of San Juan de los Caballeros

Located in San Juan de los Caballeros, in the presbytery at the foot of Cristo de la Esperanza, these tombstones were made under the patronage of husband and wife Lorenzo Fernández Villavicencio and Juana Fernández Zacarías, although recent studies reveal that only the former is buried since his wife decided to rest with her father. The figures of the couple can be seen on the tombstones and they were discovered after the restoration carried out in the temple under the direction of José Esteve y López at the end of the 19th century. San Juan de los Caballeros was the burial place of the main Jerez families.

Both pieces have the particularity of coming from Flanders, something that was then highlighted for the quality of their execution, which implied a high cost, and which were not common. “The material in which they are made, since it has been mistakenly pointed out that it is black stone from Gibalbín. In them we observe an incised drawing, representing in both cases the stereotyped figures of the deceased” point out in a study the historians Romero Bejarano and David Caramazana, who at the same time emphasize that in Andalusia there is only one other documented lauda in the Archaeological Museum of Seville , in Sanlúcar and others in the Cathedral of Seville but that were lost. “The value they have is that they are very rare in the area. There were a lot of exports from Flanders, but there were few who could afford them. Currently, 25 are documented in Spain, eleven are preserved and two of them are in Jerez,” Romero points out.

Funerary tombstone in San Juan de los Caballeros from the 15th century created in Flanders.  CANDELA NUNEZ
Funerary tombstone in San Juan de los Caballeros from the 15th century created in Flanders. CANDELA NUNEZ

The transcription of the text that is inscribed on the tombstone is: “Friend, say the Pater Noster and Ave Maria. This tomb belongs to Girardo Gil Yacaria, may God forgive”

Another tombstone in this temple, of notable antiquity (15th century) is the one located on the side wall of the temple where there used to be an altarpiece to the Sacred Heart. In it, well preserved although with repainting, it reads “AQVI IACE THE MVY NOBLE CAVALLERO THE ALCAIDE IUAN DE PEREA DIED YEAR 1481”

Tombstone in San Juan de los Caballeros of the knight Juan de Perea (15th century).  CANDELA NUNEZ
Tombstone in San Juan de los Caballeros of the knight Juan de Perea (15th century). CANDELA NUNEZ

Miguel Primo de Rivera and Orbaneja. Sherry January 8, 1870-Paris 1930

This Jerez-born is part of the contemporary history of Spain. He was a Spanish dictator and soldier who ruled the country between 1923 and 1930, after leading, on September 13, 1923, a coup d’état that had the approval of the monarch himself, Alfonso XIII. He was buried in Jerez in the church of La Merced, where his tomb is located in the old chapel of the temple’s tabernacle and in which the ashes of his grandson, Miguel, were also recently placed.

In his military aspect, he was the architect of the military operation of the Alhucemas landing in 1925, which closed the territorial dispute that he had been holding with Morocco. Primo de Rivera was losing popularity among the population; Finally, after losing the favor of the monarch and the Army, he ended up resigning on January 28, 1930.

Burial of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja in the church of La Merced.  CANDELA NUÑEZ
Burial of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja in the church of La Merced. CANDELA NUÑEZ

The dictator studied at the San Luis Gonzaga school, located on Calle del Carmen de Jerez. Married to Casilda Sáenz de Heredia, daughter of the last mayor of Havana, he had four children; one of his grandchildren, Miguel, who was mayor of Jerez and the promoter of the current Horse Fair. He was very devoted to the Patron Virgin of Mercy; he placed the landing in Morocco under the protection of this image in whose dressing room a painting representing the bay of Al Hoceima and a telegram from the general thanking the triumph of the landing is preserved.

His grave is located in the chapel where the Madre de Dios de la Misericordia is venerated and is housed in the side wall of the room under an image of the crucified Christ.

Route through the most famous tombs in churches in Jerez: from a poisoned queen to a dictator