Spain Guide

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Valladolid History

Valladolid was founded in 1074 when King Alfonso VI granted the lordship of the area to Count Pedro Ansurez. The church of Santa Maria de la Antigua (which still stands today) was created along with the Puente Mayor bridge over the Pisuerga River. The foundations had been laid for a city which was later to become the capital of the mighty Spanish empire.

The city grew and flourished under the Ansurez lordship and in 1208 Alfonso VIII, noting the increasing importance of Valladolid, incorporated it within his crown lands.

Its glorious era began with the betrothal of royal cousins Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. The pair were married here in 1469, uniting the two biggest kingdoms of the time.

Valladolid became the seat of the royal court and as Spain's empire grew the city emerged as the capital of a kingdom which dominated a large part of the world.

Queen Isabella was an ardent supporter of the great adventurer Christopher Columbus whose voyage to the New World in 1492 was backed by his king and queen. His discoveries led to the expansion of the empire and opened up important trading links between Europe and the Americas. His epic voyages were to change the course of history.


After Isabella's death in 1504, Ferdinand refused to reinstate Columbus as governor of the Indies. Broken in mind and body, he died in Valladolid in 1506 at the age of 54. But even in death he was destined to continue his travels. He was buried at the city's Franciscan convent but his body was later moved to Seville and ultimately taken to South America. His final resting place is still a matter of hot dispute.

The house in Valladolid where he lived and died is now a museum dedicated to his achievements.

Valladolid was capital of the empire under both Felipe II and Felipe III, who were both born here.

A burgeoning class of wealthy capitalists transformed the barren landscape with major land reclamation and irrigation projects which saw the big merchant families get rich, primarily on the wheat trade. Milk laden donkeys trekked from the countryside to the city's production centres of cheese, butter and cream (all luxurious items at that time and an indication of Valladolid's great prosperity during this period).

The city suffered a prolonged decline after Felipe III transferred his court to Madrid at the beginning of the 17th century.

By the 18th century the city which once had 100,000 inhabitants and ruled much of the world was reduced to a second class town of just 20,000 citizens.

The Peninsular Wars between 1808 to 1814 saw the city's fortunes dealt further devastating blows with the invasion of the French and the destruction of many historic buildings.

After the Spanish Civil War of 1936 39, Valladolid started to recover some of its former glory with a spectacular growth of industrial development. The city became a major centre for car production and other manufacturing industries. The population today is nearly 400,000.