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.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.