From its foundation towards the end of the XV century, the Monastery of the Cartuja has been converted into the cornerstone of the Jerezano thoroughbred horses. For three centuries, which coincided with the centuries of greatest splendour of the kingdom of Spain, the Carthusian monks established a breeding stock which, through time, would be converted into one of the most celebrated and appreciated stocks in the world. The exemplary livestock management, carried out in the surrounds of the splendid Renaissance building, situated in an exceptional geographical location in terms of climate and fertility, where the universally renowned Jerez wines are also grown, was interrupted at the beginning of the XIX century as a result of the War of Independence and coincided with the years of splendour in Spain and, as a consequence, of its horses.
The Carthusian monks are a closed religious order which, governed by constitutions approved by Pope Innocence II, lead a rigorously ascetic life in retreat. The origins of the Cartuja de Jerez can be traced back to the XV century, when the landowner Don Álvaro Obertos de Valeto, made a proposition to the Friar of the Carthusian Monastery in Seville to found a monastery of this order in Jerez. Don Álvaro ceded the rights of the land which he owned in the municipality of Jerez to the Carthusian monks who requested the necessary licence from the Archbishop of Seville in order to found the monastery, which was granted in 1475. Three years later, work began on the building which we now know. In a short period of time, the Carthusian monastery had managed to amass substantial wealth from donations, the sale and exchange of goods which was added to the already significant assets inherited from Don Álvaro. Among the land acquired, was the Dehesa de la Fuente del Suero, which until then had been the property of the Genovese Celín de Bilbao who sold the land in exchange for 140,000 maravadies. Grazing on this farmland in the present day, five centuries later, are the beautiful specimens of the Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado.
The true origins of this stud farm are unknown, although one popular anecdote has it that when tenant of the Carthusian monastery, Don Pedro Picado, was unable to pay his ground rent to the monks, he decided to pay them with in kind by offering them his mares and colts. These animals had been bought by Don Pedro from the brothers Andrés and Diego Zamora, farriers to trade, who formed this small stud farm from a stallion bought from a soldier, and one of its sons, a colt of extraordinary beauty and grace, called "Esclavo". The descendants of this stud farm, which enjoyed great prestige, were called "zamoranos". However, evidence which has come to light and which has recently been analysed along with historical studies, has shown that the monks already had a breeding stock at the end of the XV century.
The XIX century
The XIX century represents an era of convulsion and drastic changes for the Stud farm, following its past years of splendour and stability. The Napoleonic invasion and the dissolution of the property belonging to the Church meant that the stockbreeding of Carthusian horses would leave the hands of the monks and become the property of various owners, eventually incorporating the present day brandings.
The expulsion of the Carthusian Monks
The beginning of the XIX century coincided with the invasion of our country by the Napoleonic troops and the subsequent War of Independence. The arrival of the French army in Jerez brought about the departure and fleeing of the monks from the Carthusian monastery, who were given refuge in various convents in the area. In their escape, the Carthusian monks left all of their possessions behind them, among which were the horses and mares that filled the stables of the convent. After more than two years in exile, the monks were able to return to the Carthusian monastery in 1812, coinciding with the Decree of the Courts of Cadiz through which the State expropriated the belongings of the monks. Nine years later, the monks were once again forced to abandon the monastery at the orders of the Courts, following the abolition of all the monasteries in the country. In 1835 the Carthusian monks were expelled from their monastery for the last time and the monastery was subsequently used as a prison, later changing hands and coming under the control of the Diocesan Board of the State (Junta Diocesana del Estado) and finally being handed over to the Commission for Historical and Artistic Monuments (Comisión de Monumentos Históricos y Artísticos) which declared the monastery a National Monument in 1856. Not until a century later, in 1948, was the monastery returned to the Order of the Carthusian Monks, who continue to inhabit the monastery to this day.
Recovery and change of ownership
In 1810, after the monks fled from the Carthusian monastery, the legendary stockbreeding stud was saved from what would have been an irreparable dispersion by the clergyman Pedro José Zapata.
Zapata, founder of the Hospital de Arcos de la Frontera, bought 60 mares and 3 stallions of the best calibre and hid them in "Breña del Agua", sending the Carthusian monks in Cluny the amount for the established price. From these horses was formed what is at present known as the Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado. The brand in the form of a Bridle without the letter C, designed by Zapata for branding the animals, which originated from the stud of the Carthusian monastery, has given the name to this prestigious stock.
Don Pedro, and his brother Don Juan José, took charge of the Stud until the death of Don Juan, when the stud passed into the hands of his son until his own death in 1854. It was then that his widow, Doña María Romero, took over the reins of the stud.
Years later, in 1857, Don Vicente Romero García, acquired part of the stud and added a letter "C" to the traditional brand in the form of a Bridle. Seven years later, he also acquired the brand without the letter C, which he used to brand the stock. Throughout the century, several fine specimens from the stud began to stand out for their excellence and won prizes in horse shows and competitions held all over the country.
The present day
Following the death of Don Vicente Romero García at the beginning of this century, who consolidated the thoroughbred status of the Carthusian stock and who introduced the brand with the letter C, the stud was to pass through the hands of a multitude of owners: Doña Rosario Romero, the widow of Domínguez, Don Francisco Chica Navarro, the Viscount of Montesina, don Roberto Osborne, don Juan Pedro Domecq y Núñez de Villavicencio, don Fernando C. de Terry y del Cubillo and Doña Isabel Merello, the widow of Tery ..., all of whom coincided in their endeavours to safeguard the purity of the blood line of the Carthusian thoroughbred. In 1981, Rumasa S. A. bought the vineyard from Fernando A. Terry S. A. together with its livestock. In 1983, with the expropriation of Rumasa, the State Heritage department (Patrimonio del Estado) took charge of these assets, and in 1985 the livestock was separated from the other assets belonging to the vineyard. In 1990, the State Heritage department (Patrimonio del Estado) incorporated the stud farm into the public sector company EXPASA Agricultura y Ganadería, S. A., which was given the responsibility of maintaining and improving this unique genetic heritage.
In March 1998, the Carthusian monks ceded to EXPASA, for use in the Stud, the original branding iron in the form of a bell, with which the horses were branded in the XV century. With this act the branding irons which have distinguished the stud since its creation were brought together, that of the Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado.
The Yeguada de la Cartuja - Hierro del Bocado, is in the present day, the most important reserve of Carthusian horses in the world, with over 200 horses grazing in freedom in the grasslands of the Finca Fuente del Suero Estate.