From Toledo we followed the Tajo river and discovered some fascinating landscape but also a little Visigoth church and the bridge of the archbishop. Our first stop were the Barrancas de Burujón.
The Barrancas de Burujón are more than 100 metre high cliffs formed by water and wind erosion, which created the red clay gullies. The Castrejón reservoir at the bottom gives the Tajo more the appearance of a lake than a river.
There is a parking (39.875340, -4.301180) from where you could walk or cycle, but you can also drive to the first lookout over a bumpy gravel road for 2 km and walk from there. On our way back we tried to take a different road, which turned out to be very overgrown and ended at a muddy ford, where we decided it would be better to turn around.
On the other side of the river Tajo, just a couple of kilometres away, lies an old church of the Visigoths called Ermita de Santa María de Melque (39.750426, -4.373406)
Originally, there was a Roman settlement at this location, with five dams across the two brooks that surround a small, rocky hill. We could see one of these dams just behind the gallery building.
Construction of Santa María de Melque as part of a monastery commenced in the 7th century, during the Visigothic kingdom. It continued as a catholic church during the Muslim period until it was abandoned, maybe after a fire. After the reconquista, the Knights Templar turned the church into a defensive tower. The remains of it can still be seen on top of the church.
It is described as the biggest fully vaulted early medieval church still standing in Western Europe. The church, once part of a monastery, is exemplary Mozarabic-Visigothic, and the most important religious monument of the Early Middle Ages in Spain.
The church has contributions of clearly Visigothic style with new solutions that the mozarabs contributed, and memories of the Roman style like the enormous blocks assembled without mortar, which look like the Aqueduct of Segovia.
The rounded corners of the outer walls are unusual. A vertical line along the rounded corner underlines its curvature and sets it apart from the outer walls like three-quarter columns that resemble those inside.
We had visited 2 other churches from this period: San Pedro de la Nave and Santa Maria de Quintanilla de las Viñas. Both were very fascinating and we were happy we had found this one too.
To cross the Tajo to go to the Sanctuary of Guadalupe flimsy boats were used causing frequent accidents at the river. For this reason, Pedro Tenorio, the Archbishop of Toledo, ordered the construction of a great bridge at the river. The archbishop wanted a town to supervise the construction and hence the birth of “El Puente Del Arzobispo”.
Our next stop will be at a town, famous for its tiles. More on our next post!