600 years of family history in Navarre

The first documentary reference of the Mencos in Tafalla appears in 1420, meaning that the family has been installed in the city on the Cidacos River for over six centuries.

An old house at the beginning of Tubal Street, next to the church of Santa María (Saint Mary), testifies with its coat of arms to having been the family’s residence. At the end of the following century, Mr. Martín de Mencos y Garinoain and his wife Doña Juana López de Dicastillo y Balda-Chávarri, lords of Ezcaba, would establish the Mencos mayorazgo, promoting the construction of a beautiful house, which their son León would complete. The latter’s marriage to Doña Margarita de Arbizu and Diez de Aux Armendáriz, lords of Iriberri, brought their coat of arms to preside over the building’s façade.

The Palace of the Mencos is located in Tafalla, a city and municipality within the Chartered Community of Navarre

Attached by an arch to the Convent of the Recoletas it is structured as a two-storey, large cubic block of masonry with cut stone, topped by an attic. The main building is adorned with straight windows, except for the main entrance, fronting a half-point arch, featuring the coat of arms of the Mencos. Affixed to the building, at an angle, is a prismatic turret in cut stone. On the ground floor, the turret incorporates elements from its mediaeval predecessor, possibly a remnant of the ancient walls of Tafalla. Designed as an observation post, the upper floor is embellished by half-point arches resting on pillars. The Palace rises over a low hill facing what were the ancient city walls of Tafalla. Around 1590, part of the Mencos family, then living near the Church of Saint Mary, purchased a plot of land “extramuros” on this hillock. It was here, on the royal road that leads to Olite, that their new residence was built.

It remained the main dwelling for the core Mencos family until 1770. The house of the Real Defensa, on Zapatería Street in Pamplona, became the main residence of the Mencos family following the marriage of Joaquín José Mencos y Areizaga (Conde de Guendulain and Barón de Bigüezal, Gobernador de los Reales Alcázares of Tafalla) to Magdalena Eslava y Eslava, (Marquesa de la Real Defensa y Condesa del Fresno de la Fuente). The Palace in Tafalla became a secondary residence until the mid-twentieth century, when it returned to being the main home of the entailed estate of the Mencos of Tafalla.

Wartime occupation

The Palace was occupied by different troops on numerous occasions during the various confrontations that took place in the region. An example of such occupations was that of the French Army between 1808 and 1813 during the Spanish War of Independence (or Peninsular War). The same fate befell it during the First Carlist War, becoming the headquarters of the army of Maria Christina between 1833 and 1839. In the Third Carlist War (1873 -1876), it became a Red Cross Hospital (it would appear to be the first frontline hospital of what were then called Aid Societies for the Nursing of the War Wounded). In the twentieth century, it was occupied once again in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, becoming a training academy for under-officers and the Headquarters of the Civil Guard. Throughout the centuries, the building suffered considerable damage. Renovation work started in the 1940s, under the impulse of Don Tiburcio Mencos y Bernaldo de Quirós, Marqués de la Real Defensa. The Palace is currently in far better condition than it was before the Civil War.

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