The Abbey of Santa Maria de Benevívere was ordered to be built in the twelfth century by Don Diego Martínez de Villamayor. He was a Castilian noble from the house of the counts of Bureba, who was very influential at court. He was the advisor of Alfonso VII and Sancho III, and treasurer of Alfonso VIII. After losing his wife he decided to retire and devote himself to the contemplative life. He laid the foundation of the Abbey in 1169.
The Poema de Benevívere (Poem of Benevívere) was written in Latin around the beginning of the thirteenth century in 758 verses. The poem tells the story of Diego Martínez de Villamayor, who aspired to be a saint, and King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It contrasts the religious and secular goals and ideals, and shows their intimate relationship.
The house was occupied by Canons Regular living in community under the Augustinian Rule. It was approved by apostolic bulls of Pope Alexander III (1178), Pope Lucius III (1183), Pope Innocent IV (1284) and Pope Eugene IV (1483). The abbey also had two suffragans that followed the same rule, Trianos in León and Villalbura in Burgos. There were six dependent priories: Santiago of Tola near Ceinos de Campos, Vallodolid, San Salvador de Vallarramiel in Palencia, San Martín de Pereda near Riaño, León, Santa María de Pereda near Benavente, Zamora, Nuestra Señora de Mañino near Sotobañado, Palencia and the hospital of San Torcuato. The founder established a pilgrim hospital next to the abbey, served by monks, called White Hospital or San Torcuato. The abbey also served the farmers of the parish.
The monks lost their property in the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal of 1835. The convent was sold in 1843 and was almost completely demolished, despite efforts by Valentín Carderera and the Central Commission of Monuments to save it. Most of the monastery's papers are now held in the National Historical Archives in Madrid. Other relics are in a park at Carrión de los Condes and in various museums. A sarcophagus from Benevívere sculpted by Roy Martínez de Bureba y de Bame is held in the Palencia Museum. There are now only a few small remnants of the abbey at the site.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).