Tordesillas - History and Facts | History Hit


Tordesillas, Castile and Leon, Spain

Tordesillas was the location of the imprisonment of Juana of Castil (Juana la Loca)

Image Credit: IRMA Sanchez / Shutterstock

About Tordesillas

Tordesillas is an interesting small town off the E80 in Northern Spain. It has a number of historic sights, including the convent of Santa Clara, which was originally built as a castle by King Alphonso XI in 1344.

History of Tordesillas

The significance of Tordesillas in Spanish history lies in two events: the signing of the treaty between Portugal and what is now Spain, and the incarceration of Juana of Castile.

The treaty signed in 1494, established the division of how the New World, and its valuable resources would be divided up between Spain and Portugal. This treaty, which was soon ignored by both signatories, has given a certain amount of fame to the name Tordesillas.

What makes the name of Tordesillas more recognisable to modern History enthusiasts is the fact that Juana of Castile (also known as ‘la Loca’) was incarcerated there for nearly fifty years. Juana was the third child of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, and she had been married at the age of 16 to Philip the Fair a Hapsburg Prince. Due to the failure of the senior lines of the family, Juana stood to inherit both thrones on the death of her parents.

Isabella died in 1504, and when Juana claimed her inheritance, Philip became, by right of his marriage, de facto King. He consistently tried to usurp her powers as Queen Regnant, and put out rumours that she was mad. However, he died in 1506, leaving Ferdinand to become joint ruler with Juana. To achieve his ambition of becoming sole ruler of Castile, Ferdinand had Juana imprisoned in the convent in reason of her ‘madness’.

She was supposed to have had Philip embalmed and she took him with her into her prison. On the death of her father in 1516, and the accession of her son, Charles I, both crowns were united.(Charles is better known as the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V). Juana again had her rights usurped, and she was kept a prisoner, isolated in windowless rooms in the convent, until her death in 1555 at the age of 75.

Although she has gone down in history as ‘la Loca’, modern medical thinking is that she was either clinically depressed or schizophrenic.

Tordesillas today

Today, you can see the convent where Juana spent most of her life. Amongst the other interesting places in the town are four rather beautiful churches, two more convents and, of course, the Plaza Mayor. The town also has a museum dedicated to the 1494 treaty and its consequences.

Getting to Tordesillas

Tordesillas is about 30km south west of the city of Valladolid on the A-62 and 90km north east of Salamanca. There’s a direct train from Valladolid (50 minutes) if you don’t have a car. The town is easily explored on foot once you’re there.