Convento de San Marcos

León, Spain

The Convento de San Marcos is today an operating luxury parador hotel. It also contains a consecrated church and museum, and is one of the most important monuments of the Renaissance in Spain. It is one of the greatest architectural jewels of León. It has a highly ornamental plateresque facade.

The origins of this building lie in the twelfth century, in the days of Alfonso VII of León. His sister, the Infanta Sancha of Castile, made a donation in July 1152 to construct a modest building on the outskirts of the walled city. This would be a hospital-temple of shelter for pilgrims travelling the Camino de Santiago. Also, the building was the main residence for the Order of Santiago in the Kingdom of León.

In the sixteenth century, the medieval building was found to be in poor condition, so it was demolished and a new work was carried out thanks to a grant from King Ferdinand in 1514. The new work was not started until well into the reign of Charles I. It is known that the wall of the main facade of the convent was built from the entrance up to the church in 1537, and this was consecrated in 1541. In the following years, architect Orozco constructed the sculptures of the facade, the choir area was completed, and in 1549 Juan de Badajoz finished the sacristy. In 1615, the staircase was built, and in 1679 was completed the still missing part of the cloister. Finally, between 1711 and 1715 there was a large expansion of the building, with another wall being raised that went from the main entrance to the river, and ending at the palace tower.

The darkest period in the monastery of San Marcos's five centuries of history is concentrated in just four years. During the course of the Spanish Civil War cells, rooms, stables, cloisters, church, choir, museum and every fast corner of the building were transformed into impromptu dungeons or jailers' offices. Between July 1936 and the end of 1940, up to 7,000 men and 300 women were imprisoned at the same time. It is estimated that, over the entire war and the period immediately following, the number of Republican militia members and political prisoners that passed through its cells totaled some 20,000. In the province of Leon, around 3,000 deaths are recorded due to the repression, and a good number of these came from the dungeons of San Marcos.

Today, it is a hostel belonging to the state-owned Paradores de Turismo and a church with a museum. It is necessary step in the Camino de Santiago.

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Address

Plaza San Marcos 7, León, Spain
See all sites in León

Details

Founded: 1514
Category: Religious sites in Spain

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

some guy (9 months ago)
It's free and old and impressive in scale. Worth 10 minutes for a quick walk about even if you've recently experienced an overload of churches, like myself.
Žan (9 months ago)
Impressive building with amazing exterior.
Nina Wolf (3 years ago)
It was nice and it was free.
Jan-Thijs Koster (3 years ago)
Beautiful, recommended when in Leon.
Shirley Johnson (3 years ago)
Beautiful. The river seems to have been in full flow. Lots of uprooted trees along the way.
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