Monastery of Saint Mary of Parral is a Roman Catholic monastery of the enclosed monks of the Order of Saint Jerome just outside the walls of Segovia. It was founded by King Henry IV of Castile, who acquired the lands before he became king in 1454. Despite a generally irreligious life, Henry IV maintained connections with the Hieronymites and was buried in the sister-house of Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe.
In the 16th century a mint was built near the monastery using the Eresma River to power the machinery. The monastery was closed as part of the secularisation program of 1835. Following a Papal Decree of 1925, the Hieronymite Order was re-established here in the following years and was finally granted its Rule in 1969.
There are some works of art in the monastery, for example a 16th-century retable in Renaissance style. However, it is perhaps better known for its association with works that have been removed. Following the closure of the monastery in the 1830s, some of its works of art were moved to Madrid where they were stored in a monastery at Atocha. In the 1870s they were moved again to the Royal Gallery of El Prado in Madrid, where they were stored with little further research until some greater investigation took place between 2000 and 2003.
One painting in particular, The Fountain of Grace (The Triumph of the Church over the Synagogue), has attracted interest because of its presumed connection to the artist Jan van Eyck. Listed in the Convent's Libero de Bercero (Vellum Book) as a gift of the King in 1454, it uses the same symbolic language and constructional forms as part of The Mystic Lamb polytych in St Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium.
Theories regarding its attribution have included the idea that it was rushed copy of a lost original, originally commissioned by Pope Eugene IV for a chapel in Brussels, possibly undertaken by Jan van Eyck during a diplomatic mission he undertook to the Iberian Peninsulain the 1430s.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.