A forgotten in time palace in Jerez

Riquelme Palace. Market square. Jerez de la Frontera

It history…

After the definitive conquest of the city of Jerez by the Castilian king Alfonso X the Wise, the monarch had the arduous task of repopulating these frontier lands. For this, he chose the Castilian nobility and brought with him thirty nobel knights, being one of them Mr. Beltrán Riquelme and Mr. Bernal Riquelme.

This was one of the relevant family names in medieval times, in competition to other important families such as the Ponce de León or the Villavicencio.

To show their power, they chose the ancient nobility medieval centre to establish, the Market Square in the Saint Matthew district, betting on the construction for an advanced art style that would break the moulds of the city medieval architecture.

In the 15th century they acquired a block of houses in the aforementioned square. Don Hernán Riquel, perhaps amazed by the splendid corner window of the Ponce de León Grace palace (https://dejateguiarporcarolina.com/en/the-most-charming-corner-of-jerez/) contacted for his palace’s facade with the same architect, Fernando Álvarez.

As result, this beautiful and harmonious Renaissance inspiration palace was the most important civil building, for hosting on numerous occasions the city council sessions, due to epidemics and other calamities that constantly threatened Jerez.

The facade…

Palace main facade. Guided tour organized by Jerez tourism department.

It is a magnificent work piece with historical and mythological features, worthy of the glorification of tRiquelme family lineage.

We know from a very deteriorated cartela, that the completion date of the sculptural part was in 1543.

Let’s start from the bottom to the top…

The entrance door is flanked by two pairs of Corinthian Roman capital columns raised on plinths. The scrolls have been replaced by masks with reduced grotesque heads, winged, with elongated necks, mixed with normal ones.

On the jambs, four reliefs of portraits in medallions or tondos, identifiable thanks to the signs surrounding them:

On the left:

  • “Nabucodonosor Rex Babylon” Depiction of the King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar. Bearded and crowned face. The crown is made up of the figure of a naked man who crawls through the center, flanked by serpents and dragons at the ends, casting fire (chapter we can read in the Bible, The book of Daniel 4,30)
  • Roman Emperor Constantine

On the right:

  • “Camila Regina Magna.” Camila’s profile, wearing a helmet. The front of it consists of the face of an old man, perhaps his father, and a small scene of the fights between centaurs and lapites (Virgil speaks of Camilla in the Aeneid, she was the daughter of King Metaboo, and was consecrated to the goddess Diana, therefore, trained in hunting and war arts). The helmet scene corresponds to the episode of the mythological wedding between Hypodamia and Peritoo.
  • Romulus and Remus. Legendary founders of Rome.

On the lintel: the coat of arms of the family, helm worn by two tenants, men with vegetable legs (grutesco decoration)

The Frieze: profusely decorated, formed by three tondos with portraits and fantastic hybrid animals among them.

The fantastic hybrid animals:

  • Flanking the central portrait with bird upper body and vegetable lower body, the tail of the one on the left finishes in a feline (the one on the right is not appreciated by deterioration)
  • The farthest ones are equally hybrid, the left one half upper wolf with wings and lower vegetable finished in lion head tail. The other, top half feline with wings and goatee and bottom vegetable with tail finished in monkey head.

The tondos:

  • Central: beautiful young woman with wavy hair with flowers and fruits. From her neck hangs a medal that seems to be half a heart.
  • To the left and to the right we see tondos with reliefs of busts of man and woman.

The central tondo could represent several goddesses or allegories, but the closer situation of crows, the panther and the half-heart of pendant, makes us choose the representation of the Concord. However, there is another possible interpretation, the Virtue being attacked by the Vices, the same decorative motif is found in Villamarta palace.

At the ends, on the capitals of the columns:

  • on the left side: rectangular relief where a strong man fights with a lion. It is Hercules fighting the Nemea lion
  • on the right side: similarly shaped, representing the rapture of Deyanira by Neso Centaur, where we see Hercules again, here wielding the bow and arrow to prevent it. Deyanira sits on the centaur over the waters of the river, among trees.

On the sides of these reliefs: four faces are sculpted, one on each side.

  • On the left: female figure with cap, in Renaissance clothing, and young bearded man with winged helmet.
  • On the right: Woman’s bust with two small side caps, and man with angular features with hat.

Of the four, we can identify the winged figure as the god Mercury.

On the top

In the center, blind span flanked by three columns on each side, being the interiors ones with smooth shaft and classical capital; and the exteriors of abalaustrado shaft and grutesco capitals.

The columns are flanked by human and animal figures of practically real size.

  • On the left, there is a strong bearded man, of good musculature, dressed only of ribbon or turban on the forehead and chlamsy by the thighs covering his intimate parts. Between his hands at the height of the head that looks to the front, a sledgehammer to defend himself from the lion that stands next to him with the body looking towards the column, but the head turned looking at him, one paw is resting on the column and the other on the plinth.
  • On the right, a character with the same physical characteristics and ribbon on the forehead. The chlamys now falls from shoulder to back, being held with one hand towards the hips for the same purpose as the previous one. The sledgehammer is held by the other hand, also at head level. His gaze, this time, directed to the sky. The lion has the same posture as the previous one, looking forward though.

We may be either seeing the symmetrical representation of Hercules against the Nemea lion, or two savages fighting against two beasts.

Above the blinded gap: reliefs of fantastic zoomorphic figures, some of difficult interpretation. At the ends, the reliefs of two children playing a tuba, and among them another frieze, smaller than the previous one.

Frieze of the upper span:

  • On the left we see a unicorn with its front paws bent. At the other end, a female figure with a floral crown, kneeling, trying to cover herself with a cloak (unicorns were difficult to hunt, being only attracted by the singing of young virgins)
  • In the center, relief of female bust, with crown of fruits, leaves and flowers. Accompanied by figures with bird body and elongated neck with head in the form of a deformed and contorted mask. The tail long and tangled vegetable. The tail of the figure on the left ends in the shape of an ape’s head and the one on the right in the form of a ram’s.

Surmounts the top two panther-shaped animals covered with leaves and joined by the neck with bell necklace. As tenants, they hold a shield with a deformed human head with the empty eye socket, semi-covered by bangs, huge ears with two branches finished in flower coming out of their mouth.

If you want to visit it yourself…

Recently, the tourism department on the town hall hasbeen offering guided tours in which they explain what I have said in this section, in addiction you have also the possibility to enter the palace and visit the ruins, through which you can get a lot of information about the original building, like how it changed throughout time, its functions… So if you feel like, contact the city hall website and register as I did. You will enjoy the visit!

If you want to see videos of the inside and many more photos, look for me in the social media to watch a Reel I made about the whole visit, do not miss it!

If you wish to see the facade and take a walk through the city, do not forget to visit the tours and services section of this website to find interestings tours options. However, if you don’t find something you like, no problem! Just tell me your ideas and we will design one that suits you.

Thank you!

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