Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas
In the site where the royal recreational place called Las Huelgas was located, Alfonso VIII founded this monastery of Cistercian nuns in 1187. The architectural styles of the monastery are Gothic, Mudejar, Romanesque and Renaissance. Prominent people looked for seclusion there, it was used as royal pantheon and as the place where knighthood was conferred to monarchs by the divine authority.
The monastic complex is dazzling due to its fortress character, with a fortified tower and an entrance atrium called ‘Pórtico de los Caballeros’ (Knights’ Gateway). The outer Church atrium leads to the church and adjacent funerary chapels (Saint Martin and Saint John) and from there, towards the cloister and its annexed churches. The following area is the inner Church atrium, into which several rooms corresponding to the porter’s lodge and monastic hostel, as well as into subsidiary buildings where, in the past, the chaplains’ houses and others, at present used by the Patrimonio Nacional institution -National Heritage-, were located. The church is an exceptional sample located inside a nuns’ monastery. It is a clear example that matches the characteristics of a mid Gothic temple (13th Century), while it is also and undoubtedly, the closest one to the archetypes of a monks’ church.
It consists of a large front with five apses, a remarkable transept and three naves, and in the central nave, the nuns’ choir. The visitor who contemplates it for the first time can feel that it is the proper place for silence and spiritual absorption, with a solemn atmosphere, surrounded by elegant and remarkable altars and tapestries as well as by burials of kings and their consorts, princes and infantas. As a whole, the monastery calls for our contemplation, providing us with a lesson of life and death, elegance and, above all, good deeds. A spacious cloister built during Ferdinand III, called the Saint, reign emerges from the southern side of the church, hence its name, St. Ferdinand's Cloister.