Ducal Palace of Lerma – Lerma, Spain


This 17th century palace was the home of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma and an influential favorite of King Philip III of Spain. The Duke was an important diplomat who negotiated many treaties, and his magnificent and imposing palace was believed to serve as a symbol of his power. He was also somewhat of a religious and racial fanatic and was the person who, along with the Archbishop of Valencia, Juan de Ribera, initiated the expulsion of several thousand Moriscos, descendants of the Muslim population of Spain who s’ were converted to Christianity. These two fanatics also encouraged the king to enslave the Moors for use as laborers, which they claimed he could do “without any qualms of conscience.” Fortunately, the proposal was rejected.

The Duke eventually fell out of favor (but not before becoming a cardinal) and his palace fell into disrepair. Today it has been restored and turned into a parador, an upscale state-run hotel. The palace is one of many historic buildings used in this Spanish effort to support tourism.

As Lerma approaches, the four towering black spiers at the corners of the building are visible from afar, resembling a giant, slightly menacing ecclesiastical edifice. True to the ideas that arose from it, the building resembles what one might imagine the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. But seen from close to the town square, it looks imposing and grandiose. The palace had beautiful gardens and was renowned for having seven chapels, although only one remains.

Next to the palace is an impressive church which, like the palace, bears the coat of arms of the Duke of Lerma. Also discover the other historic buildings of the city including the tourist office, in a building where Rubens is said to have stayed. Rubens’ portrait of the Duke of Lerma once appeared on the Spanish 10 Pesata postage stamp


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