Not a few enlightened men of the 18th century warned that the root of good citizenship lay in the instruction given by trained teachers. In the Kingdom of Castile, applicants to run a school had to pass simple tests of knowledge before local observers, the result of which was ratified by the Brotherhood of San Casiano since 1624. This task was assumed in 1780 by the Academic College of Noble Art of First Letters and, later, the provincial examining boards, prior to other instances created by the liberal State of 1833, as detailed Mariano García Ruipérez when studying the educational competences of Spanish municipalities (2002). The need to train future teachers would emerge from the General Plan of Public Instruction (1836) that established in Madrid the Central Normal School, opened in 1839, “to provide good teachers in the normal schools” that arose in the provinces, in charge of the councils. In present-day Castilla-La Mancha, they appeared in Guadalajara (1840), Albacete (1841), Ciudad Real (1842), Toledo (1845) and Cuenca (1846).
On January 7, 1845, the Madrid Gazette published the installation of the Toledo Normal equipped with two teacher positions. On July 3 following the Official Gazette of the Province of Toledo it announced its opening on September 1 and the requirements for the enrollment of “pensioners or non-pensioners” students, basically who were over 16 years old and, if they were interns, not over 30, or married. The opening was staged in the auditorium of the Institute (current Palacio de Lorenzana), until then, headquarters of the recently suppressed University of Toledo. There the first director of the School presented the curriculum, Cayetano Martin Oñate (1817-1886), seasoned teacher, inspector and member of the Board of Primary Instruction and founder of two professional leaders –Conciliation and Constancy-, a character studied in 2002 by Jose Maria Mediavilla Gutierrez. In 1849, after a reform of plans, the Normal was closed to re-emerge with the call Moyano Law (1857). The Center resumed its tasks in September 1859, continuing in the following years, except for a brief period in 1868.
Until 1849 the Normal School would continue in the premises of the Institute, as few spaces would be enough for the development of its study program. When it was reopened in 1857, the new six-year Secondary plan would prevent the normalistas from being accepted again. These and the office of the Board of Primary Instruction were transferred, in 1858, to a part of the Archbishop’s house – seized by the Provincial Council – located on Trinidad Street. The building had been renovated, in 1695, by the senior master of the Primada, Theodore Ardemans (1661-1726). It was known as Infantas House, alluding to Dean Jose de las Infantas who lived there, having served, at the beginning of the 19th century, as the garage of Cardinal Borbón, whose entrance, later blinded, is still recognized on the façade. On the ground floor were the classes and the School’s goal. The houses of the director and the second teacher of the center were also arranged.
In January 1888, the cardinal Miguel Payá He managed to recover the property, forcing him to vacate the Normal, a task that took a few months. Still, in August 1889, the newly created Normal de Maestras was still there, whose vicissitudes we will address on another occasion. The Archdiocese urged the Provincial Council to return the premises so that “poor orphaned children gathered there could learn their trade”, a task that the religious of San Juan de Dios did in another rented property. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Infantas House several pious groups passed by: San Luis Gonzaga (luises), San Estanislao de Kostka (stanislaus), Caballeros del Pilar or the Royal Military Congregation that since 1920 has set up a chapel and a decorated room for their celebrations, such as the reception that was given to Alfonso XIII there on February 27, 1928. Among other later uses, let us mention the house of the auxiliary bishop, the halls and the cinema of the luises O dice, of the Legion of Mary, the failed project to gather ecclesiastical archives, the headquarters of certain services of the autonomous administration or the current facilities of the diocesan radio and television.
Returning to the Normal de Maestros and the search for another headquarters, the solution arrived, in January 1889, with the purchase, in the Plaza de la Cabeza (today Abdón de Paz), of the old palace of the Canon Obrero de la Primada , traced by Jose Hernandez Sierra around 1760. The building, valued at 34,500 pesetas, belonged to the commander Agustín Montagut de Félez that, previously, acquired a rich industrialist and speculator of confiscated assets, residing in Madrid, Francisco de las Rivas and Ubieta. The provincial architect highlighted the “nobility” of the building, its capacity and solidity, however, works were carried out to adapt it to its new function. Let’s say that the owner, at least, since 1879, there had a “college and academy to prepare for military careers”, one of the several existing in Toledo, run by professors of the Academy. The aforementioned Montagut was also a trustee (councilor) of the City Council in 1882, having then offered – unsuccessfully – the sale of the same property for 45,000 pts. payable in three annual installments, so that the City could offer it to the Ministry of Grace and Justice in order to host the Provincial Court.
La Normal would continue in this place until 1936. Around the patio were the classrooms, on the upper floors other rooms and three houses. The Aneja Primary School was located in the basement, which so distressed the journalist Luis Bello in his work Travel through the schools of Spain (1926-1929). He described that the four groups were in the “basement of the building” with dampness from the fountain in the Plaza del Seco, with no ventilation, and hardly any light. The “fourth grade is worse: a dungeon.” At recess, as there was no garden or “corralillo”, the students could not play in the playground because they were disturbing there. Bello concluded: “For the teaching and example of the normalistas, for the encouragement of the teachers and for the health of the children, these schools cannot continue where they are.”
In 1931, the Second Republic was proclaimed and coeducation was already admitted, the direction of the Normal School of Primary Education fell to the professor of literature Felix Urabayen Guindo (1883-1943). However, the lack of space made it impossible to gather future teachers in this building. The hope was in the works that, since 1929, were carried out in front of the Paseo de Merchán to build the Normal de Maestras in the midst of various economic and technical problems that, in fact, already made it unviable on the eve of the Civil War. Since 1944, the building in Plaza de la Cabeza has housed the Home for the Elderly. Between 1969 and 1985 it was the female university residence Santa Maria de la Cabeza and, later, headquarters of successive services of the County Council. Today emptiness reigns inside, far from the time when generations of Primary School teachers were trained behind its rotund granite façade.