History of Mancha Real
by Saskia Mier
The first indications of human presence in Mancha Real date to the Paleolithic era, in the settlement of El Soguero. During the Neolithic era (fifth and fourth millennium BC) and in the Bronze Age (third millennium BC) there were abundant settlements in this area, including those of Piedras Gil, Cerro Moreno, Cerro Alcalá and Peñaflor.
The Iberian period is evidenced in the settlements of El Toril and Las Casicas. The first of them has been identified with the legendary city of Letrania, although some scholars attribute it to another hypothetical city, that of Gaiscal. In Roman times the OssigiLatonium was located in Cerro Alcalá, which had a privileged status. In its surroundings a large number of villas abounded: El Pino, Cirueña, Las Pilas, La Puente, and so on.
During the Islamic era, the area was already populated by small villages (alquerías), one of which was Peñaflor, which, we know from archaeological studies, had between 20 and 30 houses. After the Christian Re-conquest, this dispersed settlement was maintained around control towers, including those of Peñaflor, Risquillo, Torre del Sordo, and others.
Leading up to the population centre we see today, the city of Mancha Real was founded by Carlos V in 1537, thereby fulfilling the wishes expressed by his mother, Juana, in 1508. The town took the name of “La Manchuela”. It was founded as part of the repopulation process in this area which occurred after the Re-conquest, to safeguard and defend the roads.
La Manchuela was initially forecasted to host about 100 families, but it was soon overwhelmed by the arrival of people from the surrounding towns. The rise and consolidation of La Manchuela as a population centre led to a struggle for its independence from the capital, Jaén, from almost the beginning of its foundation in 1557. Felipe II granted it the title of Villa, not before his neighbours had paid an important sum of money, 58,000 reales. Despite this recognition, the conflicts between this town and the city of Jaén did not stop.
The strategic importance of La Manchuela is testified by its visit from Felipe IV in 1635 whilst on a royal tour. It was this famous guest who led to the town being renamed with its current title Mancha Real