Sitting and talking, Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho were waiting for us in front of the Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes at Calle Mayor 48. Who better than them to welcome us.
The Cervantes House is located in the historic center of Alcalá de Henares, in the Community of Madrid, Spain. It is located on Calle Mayor, next to the Antezana Hospital, where it is believed that Rodrigo de Cervantes, the writer’s father, worked. According to Luis Astrana Marín, author of “Vida ejemplar y heroica de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra” (Exemplary and Heroic Life of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra), in 1948 he made this site known as the place where the family home of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was located and where the writer was born and spent his early years. Thus ended the debate on Cervantes’ birthplace and the City Council of Alcalá de Henares in 1954, acquired the property to install a Cervantes museum on it, ceding the building to the State. The current building was constructed in 1956, evoking the canons of the traditional Castilian-Toledan house.
The building recreates the different environments of the daily life of a well-to-do house of the 16th and 17th centuries. The main access to the house is through a garden. The garden was part of the reconstruction that was done in 1956 from the original estate. The rooms are distributed on two floors and around a courtyard of columns. At one end of the courtyard there is a well with stone curbstone that supplied water to the family.
All the rooms are decorated with furniture, ceramics, objects and paintings of the period, which gives us an idea of how life was lived during the 16th century in a modest house. On the first floor are located the rooms destined to the daily life, it was the public and gathering area, where the guests and patients of Miguel de Cervantes’ father were received. Thus we can see the living room, the kitchen and the pharmacy where Miguel de Cervantes’ father worked as a “zurujano”, which is equivalent today to working as a surgeon.
The upper floor of the Casa Museo de Cervantes is reserved for private life, with the bedrooms and what would be the toilet area itself. We can see furnishings of the period, as well as a portrait painting of Cervantes on what would be a “secretaire” that leads us to imagine him reading and writing.
The upper floor has a room dedicated to “El Retablo de Maese Pedro”, a musical work for puppets by Manuel de Falla, with a script inspired by an episode of Don Quixote (Don Quixote, volumn II, chapter XXVI). The work was composed to be performed in the concerts and private performances offered in Paris by the “Princesse de Polignac” to whom it is dedicated, sharing the dedication with Miguel de Cervantes and by the author, Manuel de Falla.
Two temporary exhibition rooms are located on the upper floor, as well as rooms where a great variety of editions of Cervantes’ works from different periods and in different languages are exhibited.
Admission to the “Museo Casa de Cervantes” is free and even if it were not, worth a visit. Additionally, the people visiting it, as well as the people of Alcalá de Henares in general, are very kind and attentive. As part of the activities offered are the children’s and youth workshops, thematic visits, theatrical and musical shows and conferences that take place throughout the year. The opening hours of the “Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes”, in “Alcalá de Henares”, are from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 10 am to 7 pm. This museum is closed every Monday and on January 1 and 6, May 1 and December 24, 25 and 31.
Chatting and taking a picture with our hosts was simply unavoidable.