MURCIA. We are in full center of Murcia in the building that today we all know as Azarbe Residence Hallwhich is none other than the Palace of the Saavedra Fajardo. In the old street called Rambla del Cuerno, Don Gregorio Saavedra y Fontes he built a small palace in the second half of the 17th century, after the plague epidemic of 1648. Knight of the Order of Calatrava and very close to the monarch Felipe IV, he asked him not to leave the city of Murcia adrift of the fates of the destiny and confer perpetual protection. Childless, he left a large inheritance among which the palace itself stands out, whose owner almost a century later was José Joaquín de Saavedra, Perpetual Regidor of Murcia and Baron of Albalá. He became a patron of culture and science since in the palace itself he paid for free drawing and mathematics classes, under the condition that they were universal for anyone regardless of economic or social scale.
This palace has been framed in legend since then: on June 22, 1765, the Infante María Luisa -Duchess of Tuscany-, who was going to take a boat in Cartagena towards Genoa, needed to stay in Murcia. Among the preparations we find a document that recommends the use of the Saavedra house for the troops; but the response from the royal coordination was very surprising (see Cristina Torres Suárez, Monteagudo: Magazine of Spanish and Latin American literature and theory of literature‘The House of the Saavedra’, University of Murcia, p.124) and of which we give an account below:
“In view of Your Excellency’s letter of the 27th, I must tell Your Excellency that the troops that are in that City and the one that I have once again assigned to the procession of the Lady Infanta Archduchess, must lodge there to the punctuality of the service that needs to be rendered, the burden of which is essential for that Town to suffer for as long as it is necessary, since I will try to alleviate it after the reason has ceased. As regards the lodging that VJ tells me that he has assigned me to Casa de Don Joseph Saavedra, Baron of Albala, I have very just reasons for not staying at this Cavallero’s House, for which I owe it to VI to commune it to me for another. God keep VJ for many years. Real de Valencia 1 June 1765. The Count of Aranda”.
What were the “very just reasons” that would lead to changing the location of the troops with all the logistical and security problems that this entailed? From a historical point of view, we do not have an answer that can please us, although on occasion the possibility that there were discrepancies from the religious point of view between the Count of Aranda, who that year had just been elected Grand Master of the Spanish Freemasonry and that the following year he decreed the expulsion of the Jesuits, and the more than well-known religiosity of the Baron de Albala, in which from this point of view they would have a great disagreement. This hypothesis falls by itself since for that expulsion of the religious to be decreed, there was still more than a year to go.
Another hypothesis tells us that Don Gregorio Saavedra died in that building in 1683 and that his ghost has wandered through the corridors, rooms and dependencies of the building since then; It is not for nothing that this place has been known for centuries as La Casa del Duende.
The Legend of the Walled Woman
This palace, which was part of the Saavedra family heritage for two centuries, is characterized by its relationship with a supernatural past and present. Many of the residents talked about how at night, when everyone was sleeping, a woman’s screams and sobs were heard, shadows could be seen and even with the passage of time the neighbors began to hear lamentations coming from one of the windows of the apartment. building.
Tradition says that a young lady, belonging to the noble family clan, fell in love with a street boy, a foreigner, with a low social lineage. He was a petty thief with a white glove, a ‘zagalico rascal’ as they were known in ancient Murcia, who stole a little food to survive. But she, whose name has not come down to us, could not resist her charms and she fell deeply in love with him. Her Family, upon finding out about her, forbade her to see it again and again, without getting her to get it out of her mind. There were many amorous dalliances of the lovers over the course of many months and there were also many warnings that this family made to this young woman under penalty of a maximum and very severe punishment, as they reminded her over and over again that every occasion for the one who was seen with that foreigner dishonored his family.
Tired of warning him, they decided to imprison the foreigner, so this woman could no longer see him. What they did not count on is that this girl would be able to bribe the jailers and spend evenings with her lover; the same jailers who revealed this situation, causing her relatives to become enraged and decide to wall up this young woman in the walls of the palace tower. Since then, since the middle of the 17th century, those laments and screams have been heard coming from the walls of the building, which, according to chronicles of the time, clamored for the liberation of that voice.
Specifically, the neighbors talked about lights, shadows that could be seen crossing from one window of the building to another, ghostly screams and flashes. Some testimonies maintained that this shadow looked like a woman’s, while others spoke that she looked more like a goblin.
The true and certain thing is that nobody dared to approach this building and more specifically to the tower, where the screams were heard with more intensity. The only person who was filled with courage and approached was the parish priest to perform a prayer -rather an exorcism- for the souls in pain or in transit who were there, promoted by the citizens themselves. Legend has it that at the very moment he was pronouncing the word ‘amen’ the lights in the tower went out and a dove flew out of the window where the screams were said to come from. This event was interpreted by many as the liberation of the young girl’s soul. From that moment the screams and the shadows ceased to occur, leaving the neighbors to rest in peace.
A few years ago some works were carried out to condition the building to what is now a university residence and the fact that a part of the tower was discovered that until then had been lost to collective memory had attracted great attention. Coincidentally, it is the area where the legend said that the girl was locked up, being a place that, as could be verified, could be accessed from the roof, so the legend gains even more strength.
* Santi García is responsible for ‘Mysterious Routes’ andauthor of the book ‘Murcia, Supernatural Region’