SIGÜENZA, 120km northeast of Madrid, is a sleepy little town with a beautiful cathedral. At first glance it seems quite untouched by contemporary life, though appearances are deceptive. Its origins date back to Celtiberian times and it was used by both the Romans and Visigoths as a military outpost. Following the Reconquest it became an important medieval settlement, though its influence gradually declined in successive centuries. Taken by Franco’s troops in 1936, the town was on the Nationalist front line for most of the Civil War, and its people and buildings paid a heavy toll. However, the postwar years saw the cathedral restored, the Plaza Mayor recobbled and the bishop’s castle rebuilt, so that the only evidence of its troubled history is in the facades of a few buildings, including the pencil-thin cathedral bell tower, pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel.

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