Founded in 1168, the building of the Santa María de Gradefes Church, according to an engraving on the northern lower wall, began on March 1st, 1177 under the patronage of the woman who became its Abbess -Teresa Pérez, widow of García Pérez, a knight of Alfonso VII. The first community was made up of Cistercian nuns who came from the monastery of Tulebras, Navarra. It became an important and privileged female monastery.
It is the only example in Spain of a female monastery having an ambulatory. In the church are the tombs with statues of the founding couple, a polychromatic work from the late 13th century. Kept in the monastery rooms are the polychromatic wooden carvings of a 12th century Virgin and a Gothic Christ, formerly part of a Calvary from the 14th century.
Valuable sculptures from the twelfth century. Fourteenth century tombs. Virgen de las Angustias (sixteenth century). Chalices, crucifixes and lignum crucis (largest section of the cross).
In monastic dependencies are kept polychrome carvings of a Virgin of the XII century and a Gothic Christ which was part of a Calvary of the XIV. Garments and shoes belonging to the founder are also kept.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.