Villages with Art and Mysteries: Albendiego, Guadalajara

Juan Carlos Menendez @juancar347June 2019 · 8 min read


Situated on the banks of the Bornoba River, opposite the imposing massif of the Sierra de Pela and a short distance from the border with the provinces of Segovia and Soria, the little village of Albendiego is, at the very least, a historical enigma worthy of attention.

This affirmation is much more evident, with the presence in the place of one of the most imposing jewels, and at the same time most interesting of the peninsular Romanesque: the Mudejar church of Santa Coloma.

There are authors, such as José Javier Esparza (1), who situate here, in Albendiego and its surroundings, the mysterious town of Alhándega, the place where, according to chronicles, the Christian armies finished dismantling the remains of the formidable Muslim army that suffered a resounding defeat in the battle of Simancas, when the campaign called Gazat al-khudra -of the Supreme Power or Omnipotence-, projected by Abdelrramán III, in 939 against the king of León, Ramiro II, failed.

The same author also comments on the possibility that, in reality, this Alhándega could have been Atienza itself.

As with everything related to that period, there is not much historical documentation that allows us to assure, with certain guarantees of veracity, who were the executors of such an impressive work, although the presence of the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine in the place seems to have been documented.

In fact, historians cite a letter dated 1197, where the abbot of Sigüenza, Don Rodrigo, exempted them from the payment of tithes, donating them land and vineyards for their sustenance. However, the case of these Canons Regulars is interesting, since they constituted small groups which, in the absence of belonging to a community or established order, were governed by the Rule of St. Benedict.

The same situation in which the Templars found themselves, before being officially approved in 1129, during the Council of Troyes. This does not seem to be a sufficient reason to categorically attribute to them the construction of this church of Santa Coloma, and it does seem to follow the initiative of military orders such as the Temple, and in a lesser case, the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, with regard to the use of Mudejar alarifes, as well as the implantation of architectural designs inspired by oriental models, apprehended during their stay in the Holy Land.

Be that as it may, the truth is that, officially, and until the opposite is proven - something that seems quite improbable, at least until other data are discovered that would allow us to indicate it - the construction of the church of Santa Coloma must be included in the credit of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.

On the other hand, the insistence of popular tradition when it comes to situating the presence of the Temple, both in this place of Albendiego and in its surroundings -including the strange hermitage that rises at the highest point of the Sierra de Pela, at the known peak of the Holy High King, which will be mentioned at a future entry- is curious.

In fact, undemonstrable and probably meaningless due to the peculiarities of the terrain, there are legends that also comment -as in other places mentioned in previous entries, perhaps the most recent being the one referring to the hermitage of the New Saints, in Morón de Almazán- the existence of a tunnel that would connect the church of Santa Coloma with the aforementioned hermitage of the Holy High King, It is a strategic place of Power, where there are, in which the monks-warriors would not only have an exceptional point of surveillance of the environment, on the other hand, impossible to inhabit in winter, but also where they could give free rein to those supposed pseudo-esoteric practices that are so often attributed to them.

And it is that, far from being the Quixote Route, as they have insisted in making us believe from the posters implanted by the Provincial Council of Guadalajara, we can speak, nevertheless, of the Jacobean route by which the pilgrims who came from places like Cuenca crossed the province, accessing the provinces of Segovia and Burgos, with which, the presence of the military orders would not be a detail, in any way, to underestimate.

One of the places of passage would be the neighbouring town of Campisábalos, in whose cemetery the frame is still preserved, with two paté crosses engraved on it, which is supposed to have been its old church.

Likewise, within the town, the presence of another church is interesting, under the invocation of a saint of Templar devotion, such as San Bartolomé, and a mysterious chapel added, that of the Knight Galindo or San Galindo, which in itself is well worth a visit, and which has been speculated to satiety, especially about the identity of this mysterious knight, apparently with characteristics of repopulator and hospitaler, whose name bears a nearby town: Casas de San Galindo.

In this regard, it may also be interesting to comment on the legend that connects this village with another interesting little village in Soria, not far away: Pedro.

No doubt famous for the existence of the Hispanic-Visigothic church of the Virgen del Val, 7th century, a legend tells of the attempt by the Knights Templar of Campisábalos to steal and acquire the Romanesque image -a beautiful, although deteriorated carving- of the Virgen del Val.

Also intriguing is the presence, in Albendiego, of two images dedicated to Santa Coloma, both of certain antiquity and with interesting characteristics, one of wood -possibly the most deteriorated- and the other of alabaster.

The latter shows characteristics of black virgin in the color of hands and face, which is still an interesting detail. About the alabaster trade, not long ago I got some information about it, related to this trade, partly from England and probably origin of some Romanesque virgin figures, black features also, miraculously found in caves on the coast.

Among these figures, the one that appeared in a cave on the cliffs of Luarca should be highlighted, although I very much doubt that it is the original one; that is to say, the one that is currently venerated in the hermitage of the Virgen de la Blanca, next to the carving of the Christ of Nazareth and another beautiful image, of identical origin, also found in a cave on the cliffs of Luarca, which shows a Saint Anne Triple.

The enigmas associated with this place of Albendiego and its impressive church of Santa Coloma are not few. A church, whose apse turns out to be a poem to a sacred geometry, which collects, in a rough way, the best and most hermetic of a philosophy in which numerous elements of a markedly oriental character abound, but in which Christian elements related to military orders are not lacking either.

And among these elements, profusely carved in the different lattices, crosses of eight beatitudes and crosses paté, possibly the two types of cross most used by these, but not for that reason, less relevant in associated symbolism. The latter, the patado or paté type, are also located on the interior capitals.

Finally, I would like to point out a detail on which historians and researchers who deal with this subject in the church of Santa Coloma de Albendiego do not usually spend much time. It's about the front door to the church.

A cover that, in spite of its apparent simplicity, develops a very interesting hermetic synthesis, in that conjunction of elements of a vegetal nature, that sprout from two heads -it is difficult to assert, if they are fish heads or wolf heads, however, the rich symbolism added to either of the two options- that seem to form a message, at least cryptic. There, engraved on a sillar, are also located a leaf and a solar disk.

Notes, References and Bibliography:

(1) José Javier Esparza: ‘Moors and Christians'.

NOTICE: Originally published in my blog LA ESPAÑA DE LOS TEMPLARIOS. Both the text and the accompanying photographs are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can check the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address:

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[Martial, latin poet]

Ars vtinam more Animvm qve effingere. Posses pulchrior in ter. Ris nvlla tabella foret.
Arte Ojala pudieras representar. el carácter y el espíritu. No habría sobre la tierra. Imagen más bella

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Mi nombre es Nadie y busco tripulación para regresar a Ítaca

La verdad es que esas estructuras fueron construidas para durar. Hoy dia los edificios se caen de tan solo mirarlos 2 veces!

Eran verdaderos artesanos y construían con sentido. Esas casas eran calientes en invierno y frescas en verano y mira, todavía aguantan después de los siglos.