Valladolid, Oviedo, Avila and Zaragoza
Albert Frederick Calvert
Library of Alexandria
Valladolid, a thriving, bustling place, as Spanish cities go, stands on the rivers Pisuerga and Esgueva, a few miles above the confluence of their united streams with the Duero. All round spreads the vast, dreary plain of Castile, interrupted within sight of the town by a ring of low hills. Trains thunder past from north, south, and west, keeping Valladolid in close touch with Madrid, with France, with Portugal, and with the rest of the world. The natural centre, this, of the old kingdom of Leon and Castile, of which it was for a long time the political capital. The etymology of the name has perplexed historians not a little. The most probable derivation is from the Arabic Belad-Walid, the valley of Walid, or (as likely) of the Wali or governor. In Latin documents the name is Vallisoletum, from which the poetical etymology, vallis odoris, was ingeniously manufactured. Though a great many of the towns in this part of Spain were founded on fresh sites on the resettlement of the country in the ninth and tenth centuries, Valladolid can, with some show of probability, claim a more remote origin. The contention of the old writers that this was the town called Pintia, described by Ptolemy as lying on the road from Caesaraugusta to Asturica, is to some extent borne out by numerous remains, attesting the existence at this spot of a Roman community of opulence and importance. The earliest mention of the place since the Christian era occurs in the Chronicle of Cardeña, where in the year 1072 it is referred to as one of the two towns (Rio Seco being the other) offered to Doña Urraca by her brother, Sancho, in exchange for Zamora. We may presume, therefore, that it was already a place of some consequence. In 1074 it was handed over by Alfonso VI. to Count Pedro Ansúrez, the companion of his exile at Toledo. This noble plays the same part in its history as Count Raymond does in that of Salamanca. The principal buildings, such as Santa Maria la Antigua and the bridge over the Pisuerga, are ascribed to him. He founded and generously endowed the collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor, with the adjacent abbey, of which, in after years, infantes and the sons of the most exalted persons were alone deemed worthy to be abbots. The famous Bernard, Archbishop of Toledo, came to bless the church, with the not less famous Alvar Fañez, who was Count Pedro’s son-in-law. When good King Alfonso passed away, Ansúrez took the oath of allegiance to his daughter, Queen Urraca, and to her husband, ‘The Battler of Aragon.’ When the royal twain came to blows, the count surrendered all the strongholds he held to the queen, and presented himself to the king, saying that ‘with the hands, the tongue, and the body which had paid him homage,’ he could do as he willed. Alfonso the Battler let him depart unmolested, and he was laid to rest in 1118, clothed in his armour, in the collegiate church he had endowed.