The Monasterio de Santa María de El Paular is a former Carthusian monastery. Construction is believed to have begun in 1390 by orders of Henry II of Castile, and construction proceeded for fifty years under his son, John I of Castile. It was sited where an old chapel stood. Supposedly he was spurred to this project due to his plundering of a chartreuse during a campaign in France. This was the first chartreuse in Castille and Leon. In 1403, a small adjacent palace was built under Rodrigo Alonso. Multiple architects contributed to the complex, including Juan Guas, Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, Francisco Hurtado and Vicente Acero. The refectory was designed in a Moorish style.
The monastery was dissolved in 1835, and not till 1876 was some state protection afforded to the site. Since 1954, part of the monastery is occupied by the Benedictine order; while part was a private luxury hotel, operating as the Sheraton Santa Maria de El Paular, for many years, until it closed in 2014.
The spectacular late-Baroque decorations of the chapel of the sacristy and its Transparente (mid-18th century) by Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo and containing polychromatic marbles, solomonic columns, and gilded leafwork, contrast with the rocky serene simpleness of the cloisters. The silver decoration of the church included a silver “custodia” weighing some 24 arrobas (approximately 15 kilogram per arroba), which among with many other items, was probably looted by Napoleon's troops. There is a large 15th century carved wood reredos in excellent condition, and a fine ironwork screen segregating the monastic choir from the nave.
While it still has an interesting library, its once famous collection of books and maps has been dispersed. In 1755, an earthquake damaged the tower and nave roof. Missing from the site are 52 paintings by Vincenzo Carducci on the life of St. Bruno and other devotional incidents. The paintings are in local museums, including the Prado in Madrid. The paintings were returned to the monastery after restoration in 2011.
Parts of both monastery and hotel are open for visits by the public.References:
Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.
Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.
The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.
During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.
The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.
From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.
The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.
Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.