Monasteries in Spain

Monastery of San Juan de Duero

Monastery of San Juan de Duero, built in the Romanesque style, consists of a single nave with a wooden roof, semicircular apse, and a pointed barrel vault. From the 12th century it belonged to the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, until it was abandoned in the 18th century. The 12th century church and the 13th cloister, with Gothic and Mudéjar elements, are still standing.The arcades combine the various architectural sty ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Soria, Spain

Santa María de Valdediós Monastery

Monasterio de Santa María de Valdediós is a 13th-century Catholic monastery near Villaviciosa. The Cistercian monastery was founded by Alfonso IX and dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was built by master builder Gualterio between 1218 and 1226, according to an inscription on the northern portal. Throughout its history, the monastery has had different uses, housing a secondary school and a sem ...
Founded: 1200-1226 | Location: Villaviciosa, Spain

Miraflores Charterhouse

Miraflores Charterhouse is an Isabelline style Carthusian monastery built on a hill (known as Miraflores) about three kilometers of the center of Burgos. Its origin dates back to 1442, when king John II of Castile donated a hunting lodge located outside city of Burgos, which had been erected by his father Henry III of Castile 'the Mourner' in 1401, to the Order of the Carthusians for its conversion int ...
Founded: 1442 | Location: Burgos, Spain

Sobrado Abbey

Sobrado Abbey was founded in 952 by Count Hermenegildo Alóitez and his wife Paterna. In 958, the founders transferred the county of Présaras to the monastery and, in that same year, Hermenegildo retired there where he lived as a monk the rest of his life and where he was buried. The abbey was inherited by his descendants and nearly two centuries later, in January 1142, the brothers Fernando and Bermudo Pérez, two of th ...
Founded: 952 AD | Location: Sobrado, Spain

San Esteban Monastery

The monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil is one of the most prominent and spectacular of the rich monumental heritage of Galicia. It was built between the 12th and 18th centuries. According to most ancient tradition, Santo Estevo was founded in the 6th century by Saint Martín Dumiense. With the privilege of Ordoño II, issued on 12th October of the year 921, the documented history about this monastery begins. The K ...
Founded: 921 AD | Location: Nogueira de Ramuín, Spain

Sacromonte Monastery

The Abbey of El Sacromonte was founded in the 17th century. Under the church there are the catacombs where St. Cecilio, the first bishop and actual Patron of Granada, suffered martyrdom. The monument was designed by Juan de Maeda and finished in 1567. The front façade, by Pedro de Orea, is a magnificent example of the Renaissance period in Andalusia at the end of the 16th century.
Founded: 16th century | Location: Granada, Spain

Monastery of la Ascensión de Nuestro Señor

Monastery of la Ascensión de Nuestro Señor in Lerma was founded in 1604.
Founded: 1604 | Location: Lerma, Spain

Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas

The Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas is a monastery of Cistercian nuns located approximately 1.5 km west of the city of Burgos. Historically, the monastery has been the site of many weddings of royal families, both foreign and Spanish, including that of Edward I of England to Eleanor of Castile in 1254, for example. In 1187, Pope Clement III issued a papal bull authorising the founding of a ...
Founded: 1187 | Location: Burgos, Spain

Monastery of San Vicente do Pino

Above the plain of Monforte de Lemos rises a small hill which overlooks its entire expanse. This was the site chosen in the 10th century for building what would subsequently become the current monastery. It is also said that this was the location for the well-known Castrum Dactonium, of the Celtic Lemavos tribe, mentioned by the historians Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder. Construction of the current San Vicente del Pino mona ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Monforte de Lemos, Spain

Royal Monastery of Santo Tomás

The Dominican Monastery of Santo Tomás was built under the patronage of Hernando Núñez de Arnalte (treasurer of the Catholic Monarchs), his wife, María Dávila, the Inquisitor Fray Tomás de Torquemada and the Catholic Monarchs. The work began in 1482 and was completed in 1493; however, at the Catholic Monarchs" initiative, a palace was built around the eastern cloister, together with the sepulchre of Prince Jua ...
Founded: 1482-1493 | Location: Ávila, Spain

San Juan de Poio Monastery

Mercedarian monastery of San Juan de Poio was built in the 17th century and reflects the taste for combining Classicist and Baroque styles. The first document of the monastery on the site is however much older, dating from 942 AD. Inside, there is a splendid retable from the 18th century, in Churrigueresque style, and the tomb of St. Trahamunda is in the left-hand aisle (much venerated in the district). The procession cl ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Poio, Spain

Granada Charterhouse

Granada Charterhouse  is one of the finest examples of Spanish Baroque architecture. The charterhouse was founded in 1506; construction started ten years later, and continued for the following 300 years. While the exterior is a tame ember in comparison, the interior of the monastery"s is a flamboyant explosion of ornamentation. Its complex echoing geometric surfaces make of it one of the masterpieces of Churrigueres ...
Founded: 1506 | Location: Granada, Spain

Monastery of Santa María de Oseira

Monastery of Santa María de Oseira became a monastery of the Cistercian order in 1141, an order of French monks sent by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The monks left in 1835 forced to leave by the government policies, abandoning it. They returned in 1929, this time being a community of Cistercians of the Strict Reform - commonly called Trappists. The monastery is popular stopping point on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compo ...
Founded: 1137-1141 | Location: San Cristovo de Cea, Spain

Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova

The monastery of San Salvador de Celanova was founded by St. Rudesind (San Rosendo) in 936. The jewel of the complex is the small mozarabic chapel of San Miguel, dating from 942. In the garden is one of the oldest chapels in Spain, built before 973. In the abbey church are the ancient sepulchres of Ilduara and Adosinda, the mother and sister of the founder, who was buried in a sepulchre supported on four pillars, and con ...
Founded: 936 AD | Location: Celanova, Spain

Carboeiro Monastery

The Monastery of San Lorenzo de Carboeiro is one of the most outstanding architectural works of the late Romanesque, the transition to the Gothic, in Galicia. Its gestation was founded in the year 939 AD. When the construction was completed, the priest Felix was chosen as the first abbot of the community. Its moments of greatest splendor were between 11th and 13th centuries. Abbot Fernando, from 1162 to 1192, expanded t ...
Founded: 936 AD | Location: Silleda, Spain

San Zoilo Monastery

This Benedictine San Zoilo monastery is on Saint James"s Way. The most important part of the building is the Plateresque cloister (16th century), which is adorned with medallions and busts.
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Carrión de los Condes, Spain

Convent of San Francisco

In the 14th century, after the fire that destroyed the first Franciscan convent in Ourense (located in the current Mayor’s Square), the order moved to this place on the side of Montealegre Hill, where they remained until the 19th century. In 1843 the old convent was transformed into infantry headquarters (until its closure in 1984), producing numerous reforms. The most significant of them was the move of the apse and fr ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ourense, Spain

Santa María da Armenteira Monastery

Santa María da Armenteira Monastery belongs to the Cistercian order and was founded by the knight Ero de Armenteira in 1168. It has a square cloister, a kitchen, and a tower, all in the 18th-century Baroque style. The monastery was abandoned after the sale of church lands in 1835. The church has a floor plan in the shape of a Latin cross, three naves and three semicircular apses. The central nave is crowned with a pointe ...
Founded: 1168 | Location: Meis, Spain

San Juan de Ortega Monastery

San Juan de Ortega Monastery was probably built by Saint John of Ortega himself, with the help of his friend and fellow saint, Domingo de la Calzada, around 1142 as a help point to the pilgrims who walked to Santiago de Compostela along the Way of Saint James. The monastery was originally staffed by a community of Augustinian canons. The monastery belonged to the Order of Los Jerónimos from 1432 until the 1835, when the ...
Founded: 1142 | Location: Barrios de Colina, Spain

Monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil

The Benedictine monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil has its origin in the 10th century. It was first an independent monastery and after the improvements in the 16th century, it remains today as a priory dependent on the monastery of San Esteban de Ribas de Sil. At this time the cloister was improved and the paintings in the church were made. It was one of the most important monasteries of the Ribeira Sacra during ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Parada de Sil, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.