Quiñones and Guzmanes. The aristocracy’s greatest moment

Category: Edad Moderna

After losing the honour of being the capital of the Kingdom in 1248, León saw its political influence reduced, but its economical prosperity still remained. Its strategical value as military zone from the Roman times was over, but León had turned into an important Castilian commercial point, and the ancient city that was visited during the pilgrimage to Santiago, was now a main point for the goods trade with Galicia and France.

Front door of the palace Palacio de "los Quiñones”

The craft industry was flourishing, as the names of the streets of San Martin’s guild area tell: Azabachería, Frenería, Ollería, Platería, Tripería, Zapatería... After some years, the former court of León’s Kings came to the hands to a group of owners of large states that came from the nobility. Those noblemen aspired to rule the city and faced the Concejo (Town Council), which held the municipal power.

We are in the XIVth Century. León has 5000 inhabitants. The areas of San Martín, los Francos and San Marcelo are included inside a new walled zone. For its construction, a new tax, known as alcabala, is introduced. A growing middle class formed by "bones nomines" (craftworkers, traders), makes an important number of inhabitants, together with modest government employees and salaried workers, priests from many churches and monasteries, noblemen from any lineage and aristocrats descending from the nobility that fight for the Town Council’s power. Property belongs to Church and, above all, to the Council of Santa María.

Then, in the year 1369, the king Enrique II gave important properties to Pedro Suárez de Quiñones, from the Luna family, one of the most powerful lineages of this time. The Luna, who had their origin in Navarra, had some important personalities, such as don Álvaro de Luna, Juan II’s delegate, and the Pope Benedicto XIII, "el Papa Luna". This family won their priviledges against León’s Town Council, which fought during almost a century for the properties, including the area barrio de Palat de Rey.

The Town Council recovered Palat de Rey from the “Quiñones”, the most distinguished and powerful inhabitants of San Marcelo by that time, in 1445. This family’s luck changed when, in 1520, Francisco Fernández Quiñones, Count of Luna, was expelled from León by the comuneros (a revolutionary group against the Emperor) headed by Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, representative from the other aristocratic family: the “Guzmanes".

The palace Palacio del Conde Luna has a stone front from Mudejar style, dated on the XIVth Century. The front has an enclosed balcony with three arcs that coincide on their extremes and four Visigothic columns, crowned with an arc placed over the wall. In a square’s corner, here is also a tower dated on the XVIth Century which has the Count’s name. It was declared Nacional Heritage in 1931.

Stained-glass windows in the courtyard of columns from the palace Palacio de los Guzmanes

The "Guzmanes" were the other aristocrats from León during the Renaissance. Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán, Count of Porma, Marquis of Toral and ruler of León from 1513 to 1520 and his son Gonzalo were important members from the comuneros’ parliament, facing the Emperor Carlos I. Gonzalo was also León’s solicitor. Ramiro expelled the Count Luna, which was part of the political party “partido realista” in defence of Carlos I, from the city. But the defeat of the comuneros put their lives and properties at risk.

Both father and son were sentenced to death but they escaped to Portugal. Then the emperor ordered to destroy their possessions, but the Leónese avoided the revenge from Carlos I. Gonzalo came back to Spain safely some years later.

The palace Palacio de los Guzmanes, head today from the Diputación Provincial (the Provincial Council) , is dated on the middle XVIth Century and the creation is attributed to the great architect Enrique Gil de Hontañón. It is a wide trapezoidal building, with four towers in the corners and a courtyard with columns. The palace was abandoned from the XVIIth Century, and the Council bought it during the XIXth Century. It was declared Historical Monument in 1963.

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