Monastery of Las Huelgas, a spiritual shelter

The Monastery of Santa María de las Huelgas in Burgos is a Cistercian feminine monastery dedicated to Santa María la Real. It was the most important monastery of the Crown of Castile.

The construction of the Monastery was order by Alfonso VIII (1156-1214) at the request of his wife Eleanor of England (1160-1214).

They decided to build it in a spot named Huelgas del Rey, on the banks of the Arlazón river. It was a crossing point for all pilgrims who visited the tomb of the apostle Santiago.

In 1199, twelve years after its foundation, monarchs gave it to the religious women of the Cistercian order. However, they added a clause whereby the monastery would become a royal pantheon for them and their heirs.

The Monastery of las Huelgas was also the place where monarchs were appointed knights by the grace of God. This tradition began with Ferdinand III, who was appointed knight there in 1219.

At first, it was an affiliate of the Monastery of Santa María de la Caridad in Tulebras (Navarre). Then, the monastery was selected the head of the Cistercian order.

The Monastery of las Huelgas takes visitors on a tour through the history of art, from Romanesque to Baroque.

The oldest part is the Romanesque cloister of Las Claustrillas. Then, the Proto-Gothic monastic church was built around the first third of the 13th century.

Later, a second cloister was built in a Gothic style, the cloister of San Fernando. Three chapels built by Muslim architects also date back to medieval times: la Asunción, Santiago and Salvador.

The Portería was erected during Renaissance. It includes six round arches over pillars and an attic with a relief of the Coronation of the Virgin.

Monastery of Las Huelgas
Head of the church
Monastery of Las Huelgas
Main access courtyard

The tour begins in the atrium that gives us access to the latin cross church

The church has three longitudinal naves and a crossing to which five chapel open. The central chapel is the deepest and the most octagonal. Lateral chapels are quadrangulars. It is basically the popular layout among Cistercian churches.

It is also worth to mention the paintings on the wall that separate the central nave from the choir. There is represented the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa by Jerónimo and Pedro Ruiz de Camargo.

Monastery of Las Huelgas
Scene of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

The double tomb of Alfonso VIII and Eleanor of England (House of Plantagenet) is in the choir. Their sarcophagus is full decorated with heraldic motifs.

The king’s sarcophagus shows, both faces, castles under trilobate arcs. The frontispiece represents the shipment of the monastery to the religious women. At the feet, there is a cross fleury holded by angels.

The queen’s sarcophagus has a pointed coat of arms with three crowned leopards, symbol of the House of Plantagenet. There is a Calvary on the frontispiece and the queen elevated to the heavens at the feet.

Monastery of Las Huelgas
Detail of the head of the sarcophagus.
Monastery of Las Huelgas
Detail of the feet of the sarcophagus.

Through the nave of San Juan you can access to the Gothic cloister of San Fernando. From there there are a series of chapels such as the Cruz or Belén.

Monastery of Las Huelgas
Cloister of San Fernando

In this cloister you will find the chapter house of Las Huelgas. Here there are several paintings of the hispanic monarchs. It is famous the Virgen de la Merced con la familia de los Reyes Católicos by Diego de la Cruz.

Monasterio de las Huelgas
La Virgen de la Merced con la familia de los Reyes Católicos.
Monastery of Las Huelgas
Detail of the chapter house

A small place give access to Las Claustrillas. It is a small Romanesque cloister with twelve arches supported on coupled columns. 

Monasterio de las Huelgas
Las Claustrillas

You should also visit the Museo de Telas Medievales. It is located in the old tithe barn, that is the old warehouse of the monastery. A wide variety of medieval outfits are exhibited there.

Museum opens from Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 13.00pm and 15.45pm – 17.30pm. On Sundays and bank holidays there are a reduced timetable from 10.30am – 14.00pm.

Location: Calle de Los Compases, s/n – 09001 Burgos
GPS coordinates: 42°20′10″N 3°43′13″O
Phone: +34 947 20 16 30

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