The known history of this unique building, declared a site of cultural importance, dates back to 1621, when it was built under the orders of the maternal grandfather of  Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo, Velazquez’s disciple, who began to work in his Madrid studio in 1631.

While in Velázquez’s studio Bautista met the maestro’s daughter, Francisca, half his age, a fact that did not prevent their August 21, 1633 wedding in Madrid.

 The marriage not only influenced  Martínez del Mazo´s life but also his profession as a painter: his  father-in-law, Diego de Velázquez, offered him the position of  chamberlain  as a wedding present. Thus, Juan Bautista, entered court life, occupying positions of varying importance, With the death of his master in 1661 he succeeded to his position as court painter.

Autorretrato Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo

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There is evidence that in 1657, on a trip to Naples, where he had been sent by Velázquez, Martínez del Mazo made a stop in Cuenca, to visit his family, and stayed at what is now the  Posada de San Jose, owned then  by his  grandfather, whose family crest is still present in the hotel lobby.

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Martínez del Mazo rarely signed his works, which has led on multiple occasions, perhaps intentionally, to confusion of his works with those of Velazquez. Among his most important works are portraits of royalty of the time such as “Doña Margarita of Austria” and “Prince Don Baltasar Carlos”, to whom he taught painting. His most famous painting is that of his own family, ” Artist´s Family”. But where Martinez del Mazo´s talent was most notable was in  landscapes with titles such as “View of Zaragoza,” “The Hunt in  Tabladillo, Aranjuez” and “The Arch of Titus”.

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Fulfilling the wishes of the canon and archpriest of the Cathedral of Cuenca, Diego Mazo de la Vega, the Martinez del Mazo family home became the residence of the “Colegio de San José”.

Foto Coro 1920

His intention was to find a perfect location for the choir boys.”It must be the best (house) on San Pedro Street of this city and close to this holy church (the Cathedral of Cuenca) to enable them to reach the Holy Services on time”… and then equip the school “…beds, tables and other necessities for the school as well as clothing …all to be there before their arrival, as well as a provision of five hundred thousand maravedíes.” Unfortunately,  Diego Mazo de la Vega died in 1647, 20 years before the school actually opened its doors, so in 1660, Pedro Zapata  drafted the rules that were to govern the school, from the selection of the boys, their education and life after  leaving the institution.  Once the organization, budget and refurbishing of the building was complete, The “Colegio de San José” opened its doors on March 17, 1668.

It was a well organized institution in which, besides a number of boys between six and twelve years old, there was a rector, the  music teacher (usually two), the choir master, guards, curators, music commissaries  and  a housekeeper. This arrangement and the faithful support of the diocese and private individuals allowed the College to experience an era of   splendour, but economic problems and the various political and social transformation of Spain in the late nineteenth  and the early twentieth century lead to the complete closure of the school and the transfer of boys to the seminary until, around 1960, the voices of boys´ choir of  the Cathedral of Cuenca ceased to be heard.

Felipe Rubio Piqueras, a former student who experienced its closure in July 1953, describes the school: “… bedrooms, study rooms and playground, chapel, refectory, kitchen, closets, garden in the true style of Molinos de la Hoz del Huécar, abundant water for all sorts of domestic uses… barns, stables and other facilities …” . In 1953, Fidel García Berlanga reopened the Colegio de  San José, this time as a hotel.

Letrero puerta principal

Under the direction of Fidel García Berlanga, the Posada de San José came into close contact with the Spanish and international cultural scene, welcoming a number of important writers, painters, journalists, actors and cinema enthusiasts (most certainly by  the action of his brother Luis García Berlanga). Although the Posada de San José has changed hands over the years the bond to culture has never faded. Many familiar faces from the political and cultural scenes – including radio, theatre, television and cinema – have since been welcomed.

Fidel Garcia Berlanga passed ownership in 1983 to Antonio and  Jennifer Cortinas. On March 28, 1983, the Posada de San José reopened its doors after a major refurbishing, retaining the structure and spirit of the building whilst improving services, comfort and quality for the use and enjoyment of our guests.

Text taken from the research:

Fernando J. Cabañas Alamán,
Carlos Solano Oropésa,
Juan Carlos Solano Herránz and
Manuel Amores Torrijos

Spain