The origins of this temple are difficult to pinpoint exactly, as the documentation and the most significant remains begin to be important from the sixteenth century.
San Juan Bautista Parish
Surely there was already a church since at least the end of the Middle Ages. After the definitive reconquest in the 13th century, the towns were established and Madrigalejo, as always, appears among the villages of the land of Trujillo.
On the bell tower is engraved the date of 1515, when we can consider the construction as we know it today. The stone used in its construction, according to popular tradition, was brought from the destruction of the castle that Isabel the Catholic had ordered to destroy in 1477, in the nearby place of Castillejos.
We are in the Plaza de España, in front of the main façade of the church. We will enter through the door under the semicircular arch. Note the details on the cover, which is elaborately decorated. Do you see the coat of arms of the monastery of Guadalupe? This indicates that this church depended on the monastery, which was the owner of the lands of Madrigalejo.
Once inside the church, we will visit the three naves. The central nave is the widest and brightest, and is separated from the lateral ones by pointed arches that support the vaults. At the back of the central nave is the apse, where the main altarpiece is located. This altarpiece is a jewel of the plateresque, an artistic style that combines Gothic and Renaissance elements. The altarpiece has a very complex architectural structure, with columns, entablatures and niches.
In each of these niches there is a sculpture or a relief representing a religious scene. Can you identify some of these scenes? For example, in the lower body there are four reliefs that narrate the life of St. John the Baptist: his birth, his preaching, his baptism of Jesus and his beheading. In the upper body there are four reliefs that narrate the Passion of Christ: the prayer in the garden, the scourging, the crowning with thorns and the road to Calvary. In the center of the altarpiece is an image of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the church. Next to him are two apostles: St. Peter and St. Paul. And at the top of the altarpiece there is a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin, surrounded by angels.
The main altarpiece is a masterpiece of the sculptor Pedro de Ybarra, who made it in the sixteenth century commissioned by the monastery of Guadalupe. The altarpiece is made of gilded and polychrome wood, which gives it a very bright and colorful appearance. The polychromy is due to the baroque painter Francisco Rizi, who also painted the Assumption in the attic. The altarpiece is a sample of the art and devotion of the time, and also of the power and wealth of the monastery of Guadalupe.
Now we are going to see the other altarpieces in the lateral naves. There are several altarpieces dedicated to different saints, such as San Antonio, San José or San Roque. All of them have images carved in wood or painted on canvas. One of the most outstanding altarpieces is that of the Virgin of the Rosary, which is in the left nave. This altarpiece is from the 18th century and has an image of the Virgin and Child surrounded by the fifteen mysteries of the rosary. The mysteries are episodes in the life of Jesus and Mary that are meditated on when praying the rosary. Do you know what the mysteries are? There are five joyful, five sorrowful and five glorious. For example, the first joyful mystery is the annunciation of the angel to Mary; the first sorrowful mystery is the prayer in the garden; and the first glorious mystery is the resurrection of Jesus.
In addition to the altarpieces, there are other works of art that we can admire in the church. For example, there are several oil paintings on canvas, such as a Crucified Christ or an Immaculate Conception. There are also some liturgical objects, such as chalices, monstrances or reliquaries. And there are some archaeological pieces, such as Roman columns and medieval tombstones.
The church of San Juan Bautista is a historic-artistic monument that reflects the wealth and splendor of the town of Madrigalejo.