The workshop of La Madreña

Alive museum

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Forests are probably the main symbols of the region of Asturias. This is even truer overall in the council of Caso. The 40% of this territory is forest, for this reason an interesting museum dedicated to wood is located here.

This museum of the wood in Caso joins together the Natural Reserve of the Park of Redes with the Reserve of the Biosphere.

The result is a long tradition of wood that has made possible the creation of a museum for it. The forests of this area still remain the state of centuries before and they also remain untouchable by humans. If one is interested in knowing better this old tradition can visit the Interpretation Center of the Park, placed in the capital, Campo of Caso.

From here, we can start a route and visit in the town of Veneros, its Etnographic whole with a clear asturian essence where we also find the Museum of Wood. This museum was founded by the neighbourhood of this council and it has a wide collection of the most basic woods of this Principado of Asturias. Here, we can find woods of ash trees, oaks (these last trees were venerated by Druids in old times), chestnuts or beeches (these last trees are present in many of the asturian woods).

Visiting the Museum of the Wood is always a pleasure because we can learn a lot about trees and we can distinguish better those trees we can find on our route. We can also know particular aspects, as for instance, those beeches can reach 42 metres of height and live over 300 years. On the other hand, we can also discover here those tools mostly used in carpentry and cabinet-making and also see how the “madreñas” (especial shoe used for walking on fields or walking with the cattle). In the case of Caso, there are the most well known sign of identity. In other times, around one hundred of artisans worked on producing these type of shoes.

Foto de Arnaud Späni.

Talking about “madreñas” implies also talking about the asturian culture. This kind of shoe was very much used when the roads were full of mud and not asphalted streets. The “madreñas” occupy a central point in the Museum of Wood in Veneros. Here we can find many types of madreñas and belonging to all parts of the world, but basically from the North of Spain, Cantabria and from the continental Europe. The madreñes resemble much those wooden clogs use in the centre of Europe, but the madreñas are slightly bigger and have a especial heel and two other heels on the front to be one prevented from humidity and mud. Basically, there are two types, one which is closed normally called “calcetos” or those who are broad enough to introduce on them other shoes. On the other hand, some madreñas have ornaments which have made them more sophisticated, including optional heels which were much used by women when they used to go to feasts and then look taller.

The madreñas were the type of shoe used by many rural generations. But the sells decreased with the innovation of a new type of shoe made of rubber, waterproof and cheaper. In any case, there are many people who still use the madreñes nowadays. Even some have collected them in order to preserve the old tradition, not only in Asturias but in the whole country.

The Workshop of the “Madreña”

Luis Testón Lozano at the age of 56 is one of those collectors interested in the preservation of this art. In this Workshop of the “Madreña” in the town of Pendones (a complementary centre to the Museum of Wood) we can learn a lot about this noble work of creating these genuine shoes which are far of being fashionable item.

Luis tells us that the first generation of those producers of “Madreñas” started working in 1770-1780 but probably this production began earlier, because it was rather than useful in some rural centres. The council of Caso is a good example of a selected handicraft that is today in danger of extinction.

Testón takes an ax and gives shape to a simple piece of wood to be later a madreña. Beechg tree woods are used for doing the madreñas because the lowest part of these trees is harder. At the end of this process we can get different sizes of foot 36, 37, 38, 42… Luis tells us that this type must be carefully treated because the result is as much precise as possible. A drill is used to do the hole on these shoes. The exterior side of the “madreña” is carefully carved and finally it can also be varnished or smoked. On this same side we can distinguish floral motives which make them more beautiful and attractive to be worn.

Long ago Caso supllied the astur trade with 50.000 pairs of madreñas yearly. Today this craftsmanship is more than a cult, almost a relic made of pure asturian wood which is a sign of origin and identity. One may visit this place to take contact with the rich asturian tradition that combines both a culture and a nature which have been linked for many centuries.

Texto: © Ramón Molleda para

Information of interest

33990, Caso

Contact telephones: 985 60 80 97 y 985 60 80 02 (Town Hall).