Closely linked to the history of Alcalá de Henares, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, La Oruga estate, with its privileged natural environment of more than 500 hectares, houses the complex “La Vega del Henares”.
Its access, only via a picturesque bridge over the river Henares, tributary of the Jarama, receives its name from the Castilian word “henar”, which means hay field due to the crops which were harvested in its basin.
Surrounded by hills and knolls, such as Cerro La Virgen and Ecce Homo both located within its property and which make a natural border together with the river, and where fossils of the tertiary era have been found, including some shells of giant tortoises.
Historically and within the archaeological map of Alcalá de Henares, La Oruga and its surroundings were cited as privileged places, as regards to the Ecce Homo at the end of the Bronze Age and beginning of the Iron Age and Al-Qal’at or Al-Qulay Castle built in 825AD, ninth century, and property of Ab-al-Salam, relative of Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Cordoba.
The current Alcalá de Henares already began to operate as an urban nucleus in Roman times. The Complutum, Roman city of the1st century AD and reformed in the 3rd century AD, was already an urban nucleus and of great importance being the most significant city in the centre of the peninsular, with an extension of 58 acres and situated on the river Henares.
The Roman presence encompassed, more or less, six centuries, developing greatly during the Early Roman Empire.
In 1118 the Archbishop of Toledo conquered the castle of Alkala in the name of King Alfonso I, tradition telling that the taking of the Al-Qulay’a Castle was very costly and the day that Archbishop Bernardo de Sédirac was about to make the decisive attack, there appeared on the top of the highest hill, Ecce Homo, an illuminated cross causing the frightened Muslims to retreat and Christian troops to win the battle.
The Archbishop of Toledo erected several chapels in the area and specifically, as a tribute, the Chapel of Vera Cruz at the top of Ecce Homo.
In the year 1257 for the first time the city was to be known as Alcalá de Henares, a city sited on three staggered planes, Ecce Homo on the high part, Plateau of the Muslim castle or Alcazaba on the central part and on the low part on the outskirts, the extent of the plain. The river served as a moat, and through it hidden course, water was provided to the fortress where the wealthiest of Moors lived.
According to annals of Complutense history, on the banks of the Henares the Moors would have recreations and gardens and in the jurisdiction of Alcalá the name “Caterpillar” (Oruga) appears with a very characteristic description “… in a certain place of a room paved with a genre of very expensive and finely coloured tiling ( …) with talent and artifice, which was of great and costly labour.. .”
The 10th of February of 1126 King Alfonso VII donates the dominion of Alcalá to the Archbishop of Toledo in perpetual inheritance.
It is in 1135 when the Archbishop Reymundo (successor of D. Bernardo de Seridac) grants to Alcalá and to its lands the so called Old Law in which can be read; “… the sotillo of l’Abrega to be unveiled and defecated and that of the Caveza to be grazed and cut, and whatsmore may it be the defense of the Caterpillar of Pastura.”
Finally, in the confiscation of Mendizabal, in 1851, the agreement on ecclesiastical goods was signed, these lands passing to the Trinitarios Calzados, according to the documentation of the Palacio de Oriente (reserved papers of D. Fernando VII, volumes IX and X), which states “Hacienda de La Oruga. Proprietors the Trinitarios Calzados, with several buildings and a hermitage dedicated to Santa Maria “.
The picturesque Hermitage of Santa María, within the estate, was the place of worship of the old convent and today its eighteenth century bell tower, so characteristic, serves as emblem and symbol to the Vega del Henares providing, together with its adjoining patio adjacent to the Hermitage, all the charm in its entirety.