Monastery of Santa María de Huerta foundation was made by the king Alfonso VII of León and Castile, in fulfilment of a promise he made in the siege of Coria. For this project, the king brought in 1142, from the abbey of Berdoues in Gascony (France), a community of Cistercian monks, with their abbot Rodulfo. The monastery ransfer to the lands near the Jalón river in 1162. Alfonso VII of León and Castile laid the first stone of this new construction on March 20 of 1179. It is believed that the works were made under the direction of the master of the cathedral of Sigüenza. They advanced very quickly thanks to the royal protection and the abundant donations.
In 1215, Martín Muñoz, mayordomo mayor of Henry I, nephew of the abbot Martin of Hinojosa, paid for the works of the refectory. In the 16th century he obtained aid and benefits from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Philip II of Spain. Other constructions were built and the monastic complex enlarged.
In 1833, according to the Ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal, the monks were expelled and only the church remained as parish. Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, marquis of Cerralbo, made an exhaustive study of the entire monument, taking charge of making known the history and inventory of the works of art. Thanks to his work, this monastery could be saved from total ruin. In 1882 it was declared a national monument.
Since 1930, the monastery has been a community of monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (Trappists).
One of its most outstanding features is the Gothic cloister, although it also contains other interesting elements such as a 12th-century kitchen or an extraordinary refectory, which is considered to be a masterpiece of Cistercian art. This 12th-century refectory only has one nave, although it is very illuminated and presents oval-shaped vaults on the ceiling. Its originality is due to the open staircase on the wall that passes through arches until it reaches the pulpit. A horizontal window connects the refectory with the kitchen, which is divided into three naves with a great fireplace in the middle.
Other aspects worth mentioning are the Plateresque cloister of Los Caballeros or the keep which shows a strong Mudejar inspiration. The upper level of the cloister is decorated in a Renaissance style, with low arches decorated with medallions, and the lower floor still maintains its original monumental arches. For a modest fee, you can spend the night in this monastery and visit the church the next day.
The church has three naves and inside the most impressive pieces are the major altarpiece and the tombs and urns of the Finojosa family. On the western façade of the building, you can see the main entrance formed by a pointed arch with six archivolts decorated with various types of geometric motifs. Above the door is a massive and impressive rosette formed by four concentric circumferences that are decorated with diamonds and frame twelve tri-lobed arches. There is a Romanesque parlour from the 12th century that was built with many French characteristics and is separated into two naves which also have oval-shaped domes, like the refectory.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.