By Wendy Hower Livingston
The Duke of Lerma, who is about as popular as the plague in Spain, is appreciated in just two places in the world. One of them is Lerma, Spain, a Medieval village on a steep hill. The duke built this town with architecture that reflected his plain, unpretentious taste, including a palace, seven convents and monestaries and the Plaza Mayor, where the people watched religious festivals and bullfights. Now Plaza Mayor is a big parking lot. But back then, thanks to the duke, Lerma was “the first urban complex in all of Spain,” says Sarah Schroth, the Nasher Museum’s senior curator. Sarah took me and our UNC-TV crew (videographer Will Mikes and executive producer Scott Davis) through the winding streets today and helped us imagine life here 400 years ago.
The church that the duke built, San Pedro, is practically a cathedral (sans bishop). The visiting King Philip III and his queen would watch mass here with the duke, but from way up in hidden balcony seats above the altar. After the service, the royals would scoot out in little human-powered carriages through “passidizos,” narrow passageways that connected the main buildings in town. This made the royals and the duke mysterious, inaccessible and powerful.
Then Sarah took us to eat some horse. It was sliced so thin it melted in our mouths and we cried “Muy rico!” even after we found out it was horse and not pork. This rare delicacy was prepared by chef Diego (pictured below), a former mayor of Lerma, who also roasts a mean lamb. We topped off this sumptuous feast with “quadrata,” which Sarah describes as sheep’s milk made into yogurt, “but not,” topped with sugar, and various kinds of flan. Oh, and four frosty shots of some very strong liqueur. “Incatada!”
Tomorrow, we head for Valladolid, the other place in the world where the Duke of Lerma is a hero.