The Royal Monastery of St. Jerome is a Hieronymite monastery in Granada. Architecturally, it is in the Renaissance style. The church, famous for its architecture, was the first in the world consecrated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
The monastery was founded by the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in Santa Fe outside the city of Granada, during the siege of the latter city, the last stage of the Reconquista. The construction of the current buildings in Granada properly began in 1504, and the monastery relocated at that time. The principal architect and sculptor was Diego de Siloé; others involved as architects or sculptors included Jacopo Torni (from Florence), Juan de Aragón, Juan Bautista Vázquez the Younger (Vázquez el Mozo), Pedro de Orea, and Pablo de Rojas, the last three associated with the Granadan school of sculpture.
The Hieronymites are an Augustinian order. The monastery church follows the usual plan for churches of this order, a Latin Cross with an elevated choir at the foot and the altar behind a wide staircase. The mannerist altarpiece of the main chapel is considered the point of departure of Andalusian sculpture as such; it is mainly the work of Pablo de Rojas. The richly decorated Renaissance interior features coffering, scalloping and sculptures, and is a late work of Renaissance humanism. The iconographic program highlights the military and the heroic grandeur of the Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, known as the Gran Capitán ('Great Captain'), who is buried in the crossing with his wife, Doña Maria de Manrique.
As of 1513, the church was under construction under the leadership of Jacopo Torni 1513. Upon his death in 1526, the task devolved to Diego de Siloé. The main chapel was completed in 1522 and the bodies of the Great Captain and his wife were moved from the Casa Grande of the Convent of Saint Francis.
Although occupied again today by the same order of monks as at the time of its founding, the monastery has undergone many vicissitudes, including invasion by the French in the Napoleonic era during the Peninsular War. The Hieronymites were expelled and the monastery eventually became a near-ruin. The State undertook a restoration of the building in 1916–1920, hiring the architect Fernando Wihelmi for the job. The slender tower of the church had been demolished by the French, who used its stones to build the bridge known as the Puente Verde, which crosses the River Genil, linking the Paseo de la Bomba to the Avenida de Cervantes. Only in the 1980s was the tower re-erected; the project was completed in 1989.
The monastery has two cloisters, each built around a garden. The older of the two has more genuinely Renaissance decoration: seven arcosolia in the style of chapels, richly adorned in classical style, configure a funerary space that was originally intended to receive the Great Captain's remains into the monastery. The second cloister, now the enclosure of the monastery's community of monks, was the residence of the Empress Isabella of Portugal on her wedding voyage after her marriage to Charles I of Spain (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V).
The gateway that separates the grounds of the monastery from the Calle Rector López Argueta is, indeed, original to the monastery, but had disappeared in the 19th century and was only returned to its position in the 1960s after being found abandoned in a courtyard of in the Vega de Granada. The sculpture of the Virgin of Sorrows on the gate is not original.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.