Tordesillas is a town and municipality in the province of Valladolid, part of the autonomous community of Castile-Leon in central Spain.

It is located 25 km southwest of the provincial capital, Valladolid at an elevation of 702 meters. The population was 8,643 in 2005 (INE 2005). The population was 8,045 in the 2001 census [] , 6665 in 1970, 5,838 in 1960, and 5,029 in 1950.

Tordesillas is located on the Duero River, but the river is not navegable up to Tordesillas. There are excellent highway connections (a four-lane freeway) with Madrid, 182 km. to the southeast, and with Salamanca, 96 km. to the southwest. The provincial capital is also linked by four-lane highway. There are railroad connections with Salamanca, Orense, Madrid, and Valladolid.

Because of its important highway connections Tordesillas has become a major transit hub. The economy is based on services--especially connected to tourism--and the agricultural production of the surrounding area. Wheat has long been the traditional agricultural product.

The town is well served by hotels with a parador, 4 three-star hotels, one two-star hotel, and 10 hostals and pensions. There is also a camping site. There is also an abundance of restaurants--27 in total--with the Parador restaurant having a three fork classification. The town of Tordesillas is currently under a tourist boycott for its controversial 'Bull of la Vega' festival which takes place every year. (see Festivals below).

North of the town there is a fertile valley formed by the Duero, with extensive use of irrigation by central pivots.


The Roman Turris Sillae, built on the hill of Siellas, was the bulwark of the defensive line of the Duero during the Reconquest. In 1262 it received its charter from Alfonso X the Wise. The town began to be a place chosen by the royalty and the nobles, above all after Alfonso XI decided to build a palace there (1325), creating a tradition that would continue during the fifteeenth century with several meetings of the Cortes. During the skirmishes between Henry IV and the nobility the city supported the monarchy, and the same occurred in 1476 in the clashes between the Catholic Monarchs and Joanna La Beltraneja.

In 1494, also with the Catholic Monarchs as protagonists, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed, by which Spain and Portugal fixed the dividing line for the division of the territories of the New World. Despite its traditional support for the monarchy, the city took the side of the Comuneros, whose leaders came to the town to ask for the mediation of Juana la Loca, locked up in the Santa Clara convent. Finally the royal troops of the Count of Haro captured the city. This was, to a certain extent, the beginning of a long decline, although the position of Tordesillas at a crossing of highways has always been a decisive factor in its economic development.


Convent of Santa Clara

This was originally the palace built by Alfonso Xi in 1344. His son Pedro the Cruel embellished it and in 1363 ceded it to two of his daughters by María de Padilla. They turned it into a convent, but it retained its role as a royal palace. Blanche de Bourbon was held here after her abandonment by Pedro for María de Padilla in 1353.

In 1420 the Infante Don Enrique of Aragón burst into the palace and seized the person of Juan II who escaped thanks to Álvaro de Luna.

Santa Clara's saddest association is with Queen Juana, the unbalanced daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. She succeeded her mother as queen of Castille in 1504, but the early death of her husband, Philip the Handsome, in 1506 tipped her permanently over the edge. She was confined in the convent from 1509 to her death in 1555, though the exact rooms are unknown. In one room her little clavichord has been preserved.

Here she received her son Charles I after his arrival in Spain in 1517. Charles had landed on the Asturian coast in September and it took six weeks for the royal entourage to reach Tordesillas. The fact that Juana remained queen - at least in theory - until her death must have caused Charles at least some disquiet. His chambers at the monastery of Yuste (Cáceres) to which he retired on his abdication in 1556 were and still are hung in black in her memory.

Pedro the Cruel's Mudéjar artists worked the same magic at Santa Clara, though on a much smaller scale, that they did in the Alcázar in Sevilla. The facade, a lovely small patio, a chapel and the baths remain of Pedro's palace. The former portal, blocked off now, has a particularly fine Mudéjar doorway.

Plaza Major and Churches

This is an attractive space surrounded by porticles erected in the seventeenth century. Nearby is the church of Santa Maria, built from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. It has a monumental barroque sacristy. Other churches are San Juan, San Antolín, San Pedro and Santiago. There are also two convents--Carmelo and San Francisco. The massive 15th-century church of San Antolín is of special interest, containing a museum of religious art taken from churches in the vicinity. The spacious church has a single nave. Its most outstanding feature is the sumptious Alderete chapel containing the 1550 alabaster tomb of Don Pedro de Alderete, Commander of the Order of Santiago.


One of the most renowned festivals in Spain has been held in Tordesillas since the medieval period. The festival of Tordesillas is observed during the second week of September to honor the Virgin of la Peña. The main festival day is Tuesday, when the famous "Bull of La Vega" runs. The bull is obliged to run to cross the bridge, while people throw spears at him. The medieval-style spears end in sharp points of 33cm in length, which are used to strike any part of the creature. Before crossing the ridge, the bull is only allowed to be injured by the spears. On the other side of the river, the bull is allowed to be struck mortally. Horsemen and pedestrians, armed with spears, await him and will not stop until they have killed it. The bull eventually dies, though not usually immediately. On one occasion, the bull endured an hour with a spear sticking out of its eye.

This Tournament is currently ruled by norms given by the City Council of Tordesillas which prohibit killing the bull before the animal reaches the delimited area, and use of any motor vehicle. "The fortunate person who succeeds in the mortal throw has the right to cut the testicles off and show them proud on the end of his pike. (Since a few years ago, this is not allowed, even though some still try to do it). The City Council awards the winner a golden medal and gives a spear made of wrought iron." []

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