Hospital for the poor and beggars

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17th century

HospitalThis old hospital -a.k.a. House of the Chimney- was built by the Church to assist those most in need. The coat of arms by the corner, featuring a Paschal Lamb, certifies the former Church ownership. Its remarkable chimney is topped by a decoration in the fashion imposed by the renowned royal palace of El Escorial, and it is one of the most notable chimneys in the area.

There probably existed another hospital before or after this one, since there is a piece of land just outside Peraleda still known as “The Hospital”, marked on the attached map with a 5b.

A hospital served in the past different functions from modern institutions. They were alms-houses for the poor, hostels for pilgrims, or hospital schools. The word "hospital" comes from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. Another noun derived from this, hospitium came to signify hospitality, that is the relation between guest and shelterer, hospitality, friendliness, and hospitable reception.

Peraleda was always a transit point so it makes sense that the Church had a hospital here to attend the many pilgrims and travellers passing by. In the Middle Ages we were part of The Way of Saint James and two different routes coming from the centre of Spain merged here before turning north to the mountains seeking connection with the Ruta de la Plata way, a pilgrimage road going from the south to the north. The most notable visitor coming along this route was San Francis of Assisi, though he was walking the route in reverse, going from Santiago down to Toledo in order to convert the Moors in Al-Andalus. He could not see our village, though, because it was some years before Peraleda actually came into being. It was in 1276 when the king Alphonso X the Wise founded the Lordship of La Peraleda in the person of Don Domingo Velasco, first lord and founder of this village.

It was also here the merging place for the different pilgrimage routes coming from the north towards the famous Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 60 kms south from here.

But apart from all that, Peraleda was also on the main route connecting Madrid to Lisbon and the south-west of Spain. At the end of the 18th century the traffic shifted to the near town of Navalmoral, but before that, most people preferred a diversion going straight from Belvis to Calzada and avoiding the several streams of water which had no bridge to cross before then. That explains why Peraleda felt the need to assist the many poor constantly passing by.

This hospital has a big porch with a well at the entrance. The door opens to a roomy hall with some rooms around, including a big kitchen whose big chimney can still be seen on the outside.

When the bridge over the river Santa Maria was built, the history of Peraleda as a major transit route came to an end. The route of goods first, and later the post traffic in 1785, were diverted to Navalmoral, which started to grow while Peraleda dwindled. From that point onwards the hospital will have no reason for being and was left unattended and in a state of neglect. The last mention we find for this hospital could not be more gloomy. A document from 1791 and reads:

There is a little house called hospital so full of scum as a stable, with no one to care of its cleaning. It is used by the lazy and possibly by rogues too, so it would be better not to have it, because though the Elder of the brotherhood sometimes visits the place, it is most of the times completely neglected.





Escrito por Angel Castaño

Apóyanos con tu firma para salvar el Dolmen de Guadalperal y también para salvar el retablo esgrafiado de Peraleda.

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