San Benito el Real church was erected at the site of the old Royal Alcázar of Valladolid and designed originally in Gothic style; although the façade, with its gate-tower shape, was designed in 1569 in a Renaissance-influenced style by Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. Originally, the towers flanking the entrance were considerably taller, but these were shortened in the 19th century due to concerns about their structural integrity.
The church was built using stone from 1499 to 1515, following plans of Juan de Arandia and García de Olave. It is organized by three naves, which end in three polygonal apses without a crossing. The aisles are tall, with minimal height difference with the center nave, creating a space that suggests a single church-hall, more common in the first half of the 16th century.
The interior is lit through large oculi, that open in the wall of the lateral nave of the side of the Epistle and in the apses. Originally, there were also some holes in the central nave, but these were covered when the roofs were raised around 1580. The high choir covers the three naves of the church.
The exterior of the building has thick walls of limestone (extracted from quarries near Valladolid, like Villanubla, Zaratán or Campaspero) and large windows that illuminate the spacious interior. The side facades are articulated by buttresses that counteract the thrust of the vaults with terceletes with which it is covered on the inside. The pillars that divide the naves are baquetonates. The sections at the head of the church have decorated capitals and cornices, which are absent elsewhere. This may be due to the search for a cheaper budget as the work proceeded from the head, according to the medieval custom.
As the Benedictines had much power and this was their main house in Castile, the church held artworks of high quality. These included the altarpiece and the choir stalls, in the central nave.
The choir stalls (1528) were sculpted by Andres de Nájera, with low and high chairs. The stalls were used for the annual meetings of the Benedictine abbots of the Castilian monasteries, which took place in this church. The backs of high chairs depict the saints to whom the Spanish Benedictine houses were dedicated, allowing each abbot to find their seat. The style of the stalls is Plateresque. The style to the Roman from Italy had only recently arrived in Spain. Some decorations are based on paintings in Rome's Domus Aurea; the images of saints depart from prior Gothic models.
In 1571 an iron grille was erected, covering the three naves and dividing the church into two parts: the front for common people, and the apse for the monks. The fence is by Tomás Celma and is of high quality.
After the Ecclesiastical Confiscation of Mendizábal in 1835, the monastery became a fort and barracks, and the church was deconsecrated. It was stripped of its works of art, though the choir stalls were kept, and the altarpiece transferred to the Museo Nacional de Escultura in the Colegio de San Gregorio, Valladolid. The fence however remains and has not suffered damage. From the mid-19th-century many people called for the church's reopening, which occurred in 1892, under the Venerable Third Order of the Carmel's administration. Since 1897 it is the Order of the Barefoot Carmelite which takes care of the church. In 1922 was installed a Baroque altarpiece to replace the former, from a church of the town of Portillo, Castile and León.
Adjacent to the church is the monastic building with three cloisters; one of them them known as Patio Herreriano, now a museum of contemporary art, and a Mannerist main facade designed by Juan Ribero de Rada.
At present, the prior of the convent is Juan Jesús Sánchez Sánchez, from Convento de Padres Carmelitas in Medina del Campo.References:
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France"s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.
Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant"s designs after the elder architect"s death.
Shortly after the veterans" chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter"s Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708.
Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.
The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d"artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l"armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.