THE BULLRING OF JEREZ DE LOS CABALLEROS
An artistic, historical and bull-fighting monument.
Amongst the rich offer that this old town has, to recreate the sense of vision and the sense of perceiving with pleasure the essence of the past times, we can find the bullfighting area located in the place known as La Pipa.
The bullring, with its singular appearance as explained below, must have been a repeated request from the neighbourhood which, since very ancient times, held capeas and bullfights in various territories around the village. Thus, in 1849, the Brotherhood of ‘ El señor Coronado de Espinas’ went to the authorities <<manifesting the intention of holding a bullfight on the afternoon the 25th of July, with the aim of promoting the cult of the aforementioned Effigy>> .
The support of the municipal councilors was noticeable to support the celebration of festivities as can be read in ‘ La Minuta’ of Núñez Barrero’. He recounts that, in
1605, in order to honour the patron saint San Bartolomé, a farce company was hired and juegos de cañas were carried out on horseback and four cuadrillas (group of four people). If we look back in history, it is proved that in 1528, by a Royal Provision, the Emperor Charles V granted Xerez the privilege of holding a 15-day fair in September.
In order to understand better the ancestral bullfighting tradition of the town, which was already a city in 1525, we have to think that in those distant times when Christian worship had so much weight and social prominence. At that time bullfighting was the most important local entertainment along with the disantos (dates on which the poor were helped), and the patron saint San Bartolomé, whose recognition as a heavenly protector comes from long time ago. It is no exaggeration to say that veneration of the apostle was already a fact in the 13th or 14th centuries. Such deep-rooted popular devotion took place in a population enclave which was smaller than the one we know today, as most of the people of Jerez lived in farmhouses, humble country houses, or in shacks covered with broom plants which were scattered throughout the municipality. However, the territories located next to the parish churches were the ones chosen for all kinds of public celebrations. Therefore, it must be explained that, next to the church of the patron saint, a part of the territory was assigned as a place for bullfighting.
The traveller Pascual Madoz did not overlook the fact that there was an ‘ old square’
in the city of the Temple. This is how he describes the interior of the town in his Geographical-Statistical-Historical Dictionary: <<It has eight squares…another one next to the church of San Bartolomé, at the top of the hill, to the north, is the bullring, which is closed and only open its doors when there are bullfights, because its three gates make way for several streets outside the walls and for some roads>> .
This fact of taking advantage of the sites next to the temples is curious, but also understandable, as the city was located on a hill and all the lands of the anteiglesias ( territory before the church entrance) were not flat but were contemplated on a slope, and it was obligatory to use them for public events. The traveller Antonio Ponz, in his work Viaje de España , also tells us that <<the site occupied by the city is very uneven>>, alluding with this expression to the slopes of the city , but this irregularity of the terrain did not seem to matter too much as the uneven land of the area was assumed to be an irreversible fact.Moreover, the old square, which was placed in the ‘ Llano de la Cruz’, next to the church of San Bartolomé, was intended to be a tribute to the saint, there, in the surrounding of his own church.
The majestic ‘Puerta de Alconchel’ was also used on this plain, and the semicircular arch at the entrance to the city was used as a balcony for relevant people as the owners of the cattle ranches, the corregidores (the mayor who were appointed by the king at that time), and the hierarchs of the clergy of Jerez.
THE 19th CENTURY SQUARE.
A monumental monument
The intention to build a fixed bullring was a concern of the local residents and the municipality. It was a difficult task to reserve with carts pulled by oxen a space for bullfighting, due to the bustle involved in these tasks. So, in 1770, the Governor of the city, Don Fernando de Mena y Solís leaves us a testimony that shows the lack of a monument for bullfighting: <<there is no fixed bullfighting festival, and only by some mayordomos (resources manager) of some brotherhoods of saints, with the judicial licence, bullfights usually take place, which are just one, two or three at maximum in order to support the product obtained from them for the saints and festivals to which they are dedicated >> .
• The author of the bullring
As a tribute to the architect of such a wise decision, let me quote its origins in the Libro de Bautismo (Baptism Book) nº 10, of the Parish of San Bartolomé, and referring to the year 1800, where we read:
<<In the city of Xerez de los Caballeros, on the eighth day of March of one thousand and eight hundred years, me, Dº Miguel Blázquez, Priest, Chaplain and Priest of the Cavalry Regiment of Farnecio quartered in this City, in agreement with Dº Juan Antonio Núñez Barrero, Beneficiary and proper Priest of the Parish Church of the Apostle Sr. San Bartolomé, in it, I baptised and poured the sacred oil (Santos Oleos) over a child. He was born on same day, and I named him Luis, Josef, Alfonso, Antonio, Juan de Dios del Carmen, legitimate son and of the legitimate marriage of Captain Don Luis María de Solís y Solís, First Lieutenant of the Cavalry Regiment of Farnecio and of Doña María Luisa Manso y Español, his legitimate wife… >>
This person, must have clear the need to reserve a site for such a much desired monument, as we can already see how on 18th June 1866, when he drew up a plan designed by the Administrative of the Neighbourhood Roads, to repair the one which goes from Jerez to Salvatierra, the ‘ring’ of the bullring can be clearly appreciated .
There is official proof of the purchase of the land to raise the bullring. It is a registry entry dated the 6th of August in 1868. There we can read how Don Juan Manuel Fernández and his wife María Hernández, sold to the Marquis of Rianzuela <<a calm land enclosure with the capacity of three bushels, in the territory of La Pipa … >>
After this transaction, Don Luis de Solis y Manso possibly ordered an expert builder to go to Seville, a trip to see the famous square that was being finished off in the city of Betis, and which the marquis was enthusiastic about. Thus it turned out that the profile construction of the Jerez bullring was undeniably influenced by the bullring of Seville.
In1737, the project for a bullring for the ‘Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla’ (Royal Cavalry School of Seville) appeared, but it was never built. The construction began in 1761. In 1833 it was still partially built. In 1867, the construction of a balcony for cattle ranchers was proposed. The bullring of Jerez was inaugurated in 1862, so there is a certain chronological parallel in construction between the Jerez and Seville bullrings. Thus, the support of the technicians and artists who worked in the beautiful Seville meant a stylistic leadership that was copied by other bullrings of the 19th century, including the one which is ‘almost his twin’ in our city of Jerez.
However, this date in 1862 would not be the first time that important celebrations were held on the old site of San Bartolomé, or on the land of the new bullring which has still not been built on. In that place there were still no grouped neighbourhood houses, as there was only the old windmill near the ‘Fuente de los Caballos’ (fountain with horse figures), where the entrance to the village began along the road called ‘La Corredera’.
We assert that information because in the list or collection of all the bravest and most famous bulls in history, recorded by the outstanding specialist of the national festivity, José M.ª de Cossío, he includes that an animal called Cotorro; which belonged to the cattle of of Atanasio Martín and <<was ‘bull-fighted’ in Jerez de los Caballeros in 1853, and seriously wounded José Manzano (El Nili), when he was going to stab him>>.
It is also appropriate to note here that the Official Bulletin of the Province no. 141, dated the 27th of November in 1861, inserted a document from the minister of the Kingdom Government, in which the City Council requested to communicate the name of <<the establishments or properties that exist in the city destined for public entertainment>>.And, from Jerez, the 29th of the same month of November, a letter was sent indicating: <<I must state to you that, in this city, there is only one Bullring under construction. It is the exclusive property of the Marquis of Rianzuela>> .
As the Marquis of Rianzuela had his own livestock, he also wished to have his own bullring, as he did not consider the uneven Llano de la Cruz to be a suitable place for celebrations and bull-fighting.
THE BEAUTY OF THE JEREZ BULLRING
Apart from the fact that the Jerez bullring is one of the oldest in the country, it is important to point out that a few years later, for the pleasure of the amateurs, the settlement of the cattle ranch of the Earl of the Court in ‘Los Bolsicos’ was managed . The Marquis of Rianzuela’s economic investment in the bullring was not profitable, as in those years of the 19th century the city had neither the money nor the wealthy population to cover the six thousand seats which were available. As a result, when the Marquis died (+22-II-1868), his son, Don Luis de Solís Manso y Soto, who lived in Madrid and was not involved in Jerez issues, sold this bullfighting monument in 1881 to Don Juan Marín y Roselló, a cork businessman from Cordobilla. The bullring belonged to various owners until it was registered as municipal property in 1999.
The architectural balance of the building is appreciated. Its layout, similar to that of ‘La Maestranza’ in Seville, as we have already mentioned, is built with a stone called morteruelo, and bricks. It has two floors in addition to the seating area; there are grandstands and balconies, which are accessed by eight staircases, after entering into the bullring through one of the three existing doors. It has 2 corrals, 1 stable, 8 pigsties, a ticket office, a bullfighters’ room, an infirmary, an administration room and other small rooms. 8.- FOTO PAG 96 (CABALLOS) When you walk around, inside you can see that it is a solid construction, built to last for many years. The tunnels that lead to the front row give the feeling of those old Romanesque constructions. All of it oozes the taste of t
of genuine popular architecture, with its shape recalling the expertise of the veteran master builders. In the decoration of the square there is a mistake which, as in the case of the stamp defects, philatelists are aware that they make them to acquire a greater value.
Well, the marquis wanted to reproduce the coat of arms of his noble house on the front part of the balcony. A mould of his coat of arms was made in his palace of Saint Agustín Street, but when the clay was boiled, it was placed upside down, i.e. what should have been on the right, is now on the left. The visitor can see how they identify the Solís family, Nieto and Córdoba.
In addition to this fact, in our country we have a patrimonial sense of history. Sometimes we want to invalidate the past and «reconvert» what happened yesterday. So the bullfighting monument is not different from that. Regarding this, we can state that when the 2nd Republic was proclaimed, the14th of April in 1931, great festivities took place in the city. Society experienced ‘the joy of the 14th April’. A large popular gathering was to take place in the bullring. The local republican leader, Don Manuel Barbosa, went there and was upset to see the coat of arms of Rianzuela topped by the royal crown. Such was his displeasure, that the decoration was mutilated at night with a sledgehammer. So the planned events took place without the crowned presence of the coat of arms.
When the visitor walks through the bullring, without the amateurs, music bands and without a bullfighting afternoon, he has the opportunity to listen better to the constructive suggestions of its forms. Thus, the bare bullring, without people, without the noise of the five o’clock in the afternoon, it looks like a silent monument, but it speaks to us. 10.- FOTO PAG 125 This picture of apparent silence conveys a suggestive and calm message. The repeated arches seem to copy the old monastic cloisters. The grandstand, affected by the passage of time and by the absence of the past use, reminds us of the summacavea, which in Roman constructions was destined for the plebeian people. In the ancestral theatre, the proscaenium, which is where the actors moved, is today the arena area, the substitute in our square for that intra-historical inheritance that invades popular culture. The monument, the whole of it, is the son of the Roman circus that served to commemorate the events of the Empire.
In this arena we do not see chariots as in that oval design. In that one, it was noticeable the courage and strength of the charioteers and horses, and the spectacle was dangerous, as one could even die in the arena area. In this new space, where the lineage of a brave animal competes with the skill of a person dressed in a silk suit. The diestro (person who kills the bull) does not carry a lance or a shield, but only a rag as a weapon to deceive the beast; danger lurks there too.
The balconies, all looking the same and lined up like soldiers at the time of being inspected, provoke in those who come to the square the memory of the embroidered shawls. The president’s handkerchief orders the rhythm of the celebration. He orders the change of the tercios ( one of the parts of the bullfight spectacle) or the pardon of the wild animal.
The vomitories are, in their constructive robustness, like the necessary alveoli through which the tunnel’s lungs can breathe. From the bullring you can see them, like hypertrophied pupils anxious to appreciate the light, opened to the arena area. Even the cavern of its casks is filled with joyment, when the enthusiasts accompany the ‘olés’ with the liturgical rhythm of the muleta, which, with the skill of an expert wrist, knows how to temper and control the courage of the fighting bull.
In short, in the Jerez monument they knew how to combine size with form. It is proportioned and its constructive arrangement seems to have been designed to please the spectators. For this reason it is, in its authenticity, appreciated and unique, without any other gigantic aspirations, a work of art that provokes in the spectator abundant glory and pleasure.