The Hospital General de la Rioja is located in the northern part of the city of Logroño, very close to the Paseo de la Florida, which links the Ebro and Ribera parks. The convent of San Francisco once stood on the same site, almost opposite the Puente de Piedra, or Stone Bridge. This is a bridge that defies the passage of time, a bridge crossed by the pilgrims following the Way of St James. Five hundred years ago with very different intentions, it was the French troops who wanted to cross it and make it their own, aware of its strategic importance. This was one of the historical episodes in what is known today as the Siege of Logroño.
The construction of the identity of a place often has an epic component with a romantic feel, and the case of Logroño is no exception. In fact, the siege marked a before and after in the future of the city, turning it into an economic, cultural and social reference point. Until 1521, Logroño had been a small rural town, sparsely inhabited, but located in what was then considered a borderland. In fact, Fernando el Católico used it as his headquarters on his campaign for the annexation of the Kingdom of Navarre, and the town remained loyal to the crown when many rose up against his successor, Charles I, who they considered a foreign king because he had been born in Ghent. The fact is that the kings of both France and Castilla were aware of the great value of the southern bank of the Ebro in terms of access to or defence of, the plateau – depending on who was studying the map. So when tensions between the two enemies reached a peak, the French army crossed the Pyrenees in an attempt to destabilise the Holy Roman Emperor, who seemed to be growing more and more powerful. Hondarribia and Pamplona fell, and on 25 May the invaders stood at the gates of Logroño. Far from panicking, in an Open Council, the inhabitants took the decision to confront the enemy. It was the moment when Logroño became aware of itself as a city, looking ahead to the future.