Plasencia comprises the civil provinces of Cáceres, Salamanca, and Badajoz. Its capital has a population of 8044. The city of Plasencia was founded by Alfonso VIII on the site of Ambroz, which he had conquered from the Moors. He gave it the name of Placentia, "that it may be pleasing to God and man " (ut Deo placeat et hominibus), and sought to have it made a see by the pope, which Clement III did in 1189. In 1190, the see was occupied by Bricio and, at his death in 1211, by Domingo, a native of Beja, who was more warrior than shepherd, fighting at Las Navas de Tolosa at the head of the men of Plasencia, and subsequently directing his movements against Jaén, conquering Priego, Doja, Montejo, and other towns. He assisted at the Lateran Council of 1215, with Archbishop Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, whom he served as vicar when the archbishop became legate in Spain. Dying in 1235, Domingo was succeeded by Adan, third Bishop of Plasencia, a no less warlike prelate, who with four other bishops accompanied St. Ferdinand to the conquest of Córdoba, where the five consecrated the mosque as a Christian cathedral. His successors, Ximeno Simon, and two Pedros, devoted themselves mainly to the government of their diocese ; Juan Alonso assisted at the Cortes of 1288, where he obtained from Sancho confirmation of the privileges already granted to Plasencia. His successor Diego spent much time at Valladolid with the king.
The cathedral was originally built on a lofty site, near the citadel, afterwards occupied by the Church of St. Vincent the Martyr, then by that of St. Anne and lastly by the Jesuit college, now an almshouse. Another cathedral was begun early in the fourteenth century; this edifice, in the Early Spanish Gothic style, is now the parish church of Santa Maria. At the end of its cloister are seen the arms of Bishop Gonzalo de Sta. Maria, in whose time the cloister was finished, and the first solemn procession was held there, 26 March, 1348. This cathedral had hardly been built when it began to seem too poor for the see — one of the richest in Spain. In 1498, in the episcopate of Gutierre Alvarez de Toledo, the twenty-fourth bishop, another cathedral was begun in Late Gothic, and completed in Renaissance. The high altar is the work of Gregorio Hernández, a famous sculptor of Valladolid; the choir grille was made by Juan Bautista Celma in 1604; the stalls are noteworthy, rivalling those of the cathedral of Badajoz. In the sanctuary, on the Gospel side, is the tomb of Bishop Pedro Ponce de León, inquisitor general, who died at Jaraycedo, 18 January, 1573. In the winter chapter house are a "Nativity" by Velázquez and a "St. Augustine" by Españoleto. The adjoining college was founded in 1554 by Bishop Gutierre de Varagas de Carvajal, a native of Madrid, one of the most notable occupants of the see. The parish Church of St. Nicolas, also at Plasencia, contains the tombs of Hernan Pérez de Monroy, the champion of King Pedro I, and Pedro de Carvajal, Bishop of Coria. The Church of S. Juan Bautista, outside the walls, has been converted into a match factory. The noteworthy church of S. Vicente formerly belonged to the Dominicans ; in its chapel of St. John is the magnificent tomb with kneeling effigy of Martin Nieto, knight commander of the nine towns, in the Order of St. John, and comendador of Yebenes.
The episcopal palace was rebuilt at the expense of Bishop Francisco Laso de La Vega (1737), on the site of one that dated from the fifteenth century. Besides the almshouse already mentioned, there are the hospital of Sta. Maria, popularly known as Doña Engracia de Monroy, which was restored by Bishop Laso; and the hospital of La Merced, known as Las Llagas (The Wounds), intended for persons suffering from wounds or accidental injuries. The conciliar seminary of Purísima Concepción was founded in 1670 by Bishop Diego Sarmiento Valladares and, later on, reorganized by Bishops Antonio Carillo Mayoral and Cipriano Varela. In 1853 Bishop José Avila y Lamas installed it in the convent of S. Vicente.
The Diocese of Plasencia was formerly suffragan of Santiago, but under the last concordat (1851) it became suffragan of Toledo. In this diocese is the famous Hieronymite monastery of Yuste, to which Charles V retired after his abdication. The ancient monastery itself has been destroyed, but the dwelling built for the emperor is preserved, as well as the church. In 1547 the Count and Countess of Oropesa caused this monastery to be rebuilt in Renaissance architecture. The vaultings of the church were reconstructed in 1860; above them are white-washed walls with the emperor's arms, on one side, and on the other, a black wooden casket which contained the body of Charles V, in a leaden case, until 1574, when it was removed to the Escorial. Plasencia has had many distinguished sons; among them Juan de Carvajal , created a cardinal by Eugene IV, filled many important posts under the Holy See and rendered important services at the Council of Basle and in the war against the Turks, while his cousin, Bernardino de Carvajal, presided in the conclaves which elected Adrian VI and Clement VII. Among others were the jurists, Alfonso de Acevedo and Juan Guttiérrez; the chroniclers Lorenzo Galindez de Carvajal and Alonso Fernádez; and Diego de Chaves, confessor to Philip II. Within this diocese is the native home of the conquerors of America: Hernando Cortés , a native of the village of Medellín ; and the Pizarros, natives of Trujillo. The bishops of Plasencia were lords of Jaraycejo, the town of Miajadas, and other domains.
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