Legends survive in Extremadura from generation to generation through songs and stories, and many times they cling to a monument. In addition to the historical value, when making legendary tourism we must consider the charm of a story and the popular imagination. We have collected a small sample of legends that take us to beautiful corners in Extremadura. This is a region in Spain located west of Madrid a close to neighboring Portugal.
The Serrana (mountain girl) of La Vera
“Garganta de la Olla” is a village set in the foothills of the “Gredos “ mountains with stone houses that are typical of this region of “La Vera”. They are beautifully built crossed by interior wooden beams. The rocky mountains of the region shelter caves and waterfalls that are refreshing in the summer and bring a delightful sound in the winter. Through these mountains, also, runs the legend of the “Serrana de la Vera” (the Vera Mountain Girl). They say she was of noble origin and her name was Isabel. Who by spite took refuge in these mountains and blamed men for her dishonor. The truth is that on top of a mountain, at a vantage point, stands a statue of a proud woman, with a long braided hair, a dagger and a sling. At her feet reads a poem: There in “Garganta de la Olla” a league and a half from Plasencia, a mountain girl is strolling, blond and dark skinned…This is the way the group “Acetre” sings the story, which has also been taken to the movies. Every year the neighbors of “Garganta de la Olla” celebrate a day in honor of their most popular personage.
The “Torre Vieja” (old tower) of Badajoz
Ibn Marwan built the “Alcazaba” in Badajoz with pampered care and full in detail, although the current building is the result of many extensions and modifications. From there you can see the meadow surrounding river Guadiana and the lands of neighboring country Portugal. The “Alcazaba” is the largest in Spain and is accessed by several gates. Ibn Marwan is credited with many stories and Badajoz pays tribute each year to this person with the celebrations of Al Mossassa. His love for this work was so great that he once said, “he wanted to be like the stones of this building to live here forever”. And the legend has it that his wish came true, because his spirit lives in the old Tower of the “Alcazaba” and from there he enjoys the beautiful views.
The “Mansaborá” of Cáceres
From the Tower near “Fuente Fría” (Cold Fountain) of Cáceres and overlooking the Palace of “Veletas” which was an old fortress of the city, during the magical night of San Juan and for some the night of San Jorge, you can hear deep sighs and the chipping of a hen and her chicks. They are the souls of the daughter the” kaid” of Cáceres and her maidens, who in 1229 delivered the city out of love and carelessness. A local governor and judge, the “kaid”, who’s daughter had fallen in love with a knight who accompanied King Alfonso IX of León and, with the help of her maidens made him enter the Palace through a secret passage so she could be with him. In revealing the secret passage the Christians managed to enter the Castle and conquer the city. The “kaid “cursed his daughter and maidens and from then on, they cheep in despair for the end of the spell.
The sword of the Alcántara Bridge
The Bridge of Alcántara has joined the banks of the Tajo for twenty centuries. There is an inscription in the temple, along the side of one of its shores that reads: “this bridge will last until the end of the world”. During the Muslim domination, when the bridge was named “Kantara As-Saif” (the Bridge of the Sword) a legend was tagged to this bridge. According to the German author Franz Baer, the gold sword of King Rodrigo hung from the highest arch of the bridge, where neither men nor river could reach it. Others assert that a sword is embedded among the stones of the arch and is impossible to draw. The legend of the sword of the bridge of Alcántara is a fairy tale in a magical place, which is loaded with history.
The legend of Marmionda at Portezuelo
The grasslands at the shores of the “Rivera de Fresnedosa” are not only a whim of nature with the help of men but also have unforgettable corners like the “Cachos de Ramiro” or the smallest convent in the world. However, not everyone knows that these northern grasslands, in addition, keep a love story that reminds us of a local Romeo and Juliette. High on the premises of the Portezuelo Castle the Arab Princess Marmionda and a Captain from León fell in love. The remains of the Castle, now deserted, still govern on the top of the mountain and are visited by sport enthusiasts and hikers. Marmionda threw herself from the high tower, when she saw the body of her beloved Captain in a pool of blood. He had been wounded in a battle after which he intended to take her with him. But the Captain had not died and when he saw his princess lifeless, he also threw himself form the high tower landing next to the body of Marmionda. The wind, when it blows hard, brings the cries of this frustrated love. And the sad legend repeats itself every time we visit Portezuelo and see the high standing Castle.
The Icarus from Plasencia
Plasencia is also a must visit in the north of Extremadura. The Plaza Mayor, every Tuesday holds one of the oldest open markets in Spain and is surrounded by streets that are filled with history. Plasencia has two Cathedrals that are fused into one building but each has its own particular identity. It is wise to allow sufficient time to enjoy the magnificent details that have evolved in these buildings through the centuries. Of course, Plasencia has its own legends; one is associated to a person of royal linkage, and by the name Rodrigo Aleman. He is said to be the author of the magnificent choir of the Cathedral. This multifaceted artist, of whom not much information is known about his origins, also, has a halo of mistery in relations to his end. The legend says that Daedalus and Icarus incarnated in him. He was condemned as a blasphemer to live on top of the tower of the Cathedral and created a devise of feathers with which he threw himself from the bell tower and went to land with his bones upon the pasture near the medieval city. This particular Icarus is still overflying Plasencia and if we have the opportunity to go to the “Puerta del Enlosado”, just out side the Cathedral or to walk the barbican and look over the wall, we can imagine the artists flight, passing over the Trujillo Bridge going towards Cáceres and being lost of sight over the green pasture that surround this area.
Original article by Marian Castillo
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in December, 2016