Two routes for tracing the life story of Isabella the Catholic Queen

The first queen of Spain and the driving force behind the discovery of America, Isabella the Catholic Queen is one of the most influential personalities in world history. We suggest two routes, one around Castile-León and the other around Extremadura to relive some of the key moments in her life. Would you like to travel back to the 15th century and discover the secrets of her fascination?

If you opt for Castile-León…

First stop: it can only be Madrigal de las Altas Torres (in Avila), the birthplace of Isabella I of Castile. Inside what today is the site of the Royal Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, you can see the Hall of the Court, the chamber where Isabella the Catholic Queen was born. Another curious fact: in the church of San Nicolás de Bari you'll find the font where the Queen was baptised. Arévalo is where she was to spend her youth. Second stop: the city of Valladolid and its Los Vivero palace. It was here that Isabella married Ferdinand the Catholic Monarch in spite of the Pope's refusal to grant authorisation as they were cousins. Are you familiar with the phrase 'Tanto monta, monta tanto Isabel como Fernando', meaning 'equal opposites in balance'? Third stop: we also recommend a visit to the lovely city of Segovia to imagine the scene as Isabella was proclaimed queen in 1474. She processed from the imposing Alcázar fortress to the church of San Miguel carrying the standard of Castile. Fourth stop: we now come to the final stage of the Queen's life after her exciting story. After receiving the title of Catholic Monarchs, and overseeing the conquest of Granada and the discovery of America, Queen Isabella moved to Medina del Campo (Valladolid) to her palace located in the Plaza Mayor square, where she died in 1504.  

If you opt for Extremadura and the province of Cáceres…

First stop: Alcántara is the place where Alfonso V (King of Portugal) renounced the throne of Castile in favour of the Catholic monarchs, and where –according to legend– Queen Isabella learned of the death of her only son the Infante John. A secret: find out the significance of the stone knights that guard the door of the church of Santa María de Almocóvar. Second stop: head for Plasencia. This is the site of the wedding of Juana 'La Beltraneja' to Alfonso V (King of Portugal), after which they established a court in the Palace of Las Argollas. On your visit, you will find yourself in a place that was staunchly opposed to Isabella's coronation. The war of succession to the throne was underway. Third stop: Trujillo witnessed with intensity of the struggle between Isabella and Juana 'La Beltraneja'. Finally, once peace was signed in 1479, Trujillo was able to live in splendour under the Queen's protection. You can find out more at the Three Cultures Visitor Centre. Fourth stop: now we come to the city of Cáceres, where Isabella travelled on two occasions: once to supervise the removal of the upper part of the towers of the nobles who had refused to support her, and another for the Oath of Municipal Charters by her husband Ferdinand. Do you know where they always stayed? At the Palace of Los Golfines de Abajo. Don't miss the Las Cigüeñas tower, the only one that was left intact. Fifth stop: have you heard of the festivity of the 'Boda Regia' held every year in Valencia de Alcántara? It recreates the wedding of Isabella, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, to the King of Portugal, Manuel the Fortunate, in 1497. Sixth stop and one of the most special: Guadalupe. The royal family had immense devotion to this place and its famous monastery. In fact this is the burial site ofIsabella's father and brother and Ferdinand's father. The best idea is to sign up for a guided tour of the monastery. Here we've given two routes, but remember there are many other cities in Spain that have been marked by this queen: in Alcalá de Henares she had her first meeting with Christopher Columbus, and she is buried alongside Ferdinand in the Royal Chapel in Granada. Follow the tracks of her fascinating life story.  

Things to remember

To enjoy these routes to the maximum: In Castile-León: try the typical 'Isabelline Cuisine'; enjoy festivities such as the recreation of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas, the Mediaeval Market in Arévalo and the Renaissance Week in Medina del Campo, and sign up for guided visits of the Avila of the time of Isabella and the historical recreations laid on to mark the Route of Isabella. In Extremadura: if you want to visit the monastery of Guadalupe you can do so along the path known as 'El camino de la Reina' or 'The Queens' path', through the Villuercas Ibores Jara geopark. If you like hiking, another important route which goes through Extremadura is the Route of Charles V, the grandson of Isabella the Catholic Monarch, who died at Yuste Monastery. And if you're in the market for gastronomy, ask about the delicious 'Tosta de Fernando' and 'Tosta de Isabel' toasted open sandwiches.

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