Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe
Royal Monastery Of Santa María De Guadalupe
Cultural Spain Europe And North America Province Of Cáceres, Autonomous Community Of Extremadura

The Monastery of Guadalupe, an ensemble of religious architecture spanning four centuries, symbolizes two significant events in world history that both occurred in the same year, 1492: the final expulsion of the Muslim power from the Iberian Peninsula and the discovery of America by Columbus. Its famous image of the Virgin also became the pre-eminent symbol of the Christianization of the New World.

The Monastery, the principal of the Order of St Jerome, played a very influential role in the history of Spain, being associated by the crown with important events, notably by the Catholic Kings (Los Reyes Católicos ) with the conquest of Granada and the discovery of America in 1492. The Monastery was, and remains a centre of pilgrimage. It was a cultural centre of the highest order: its hospitals and its medical school were renowned, as was its scriptorium and its library, containing a very rich collection of documents. Many famous artists were attracted to Guadalupe, including Juan de Sevilla, Francisco de Zurbarán, Vicente Carducho, and Luca Giordano. The harmony between the buildings and the works of art that it contains confers an outstanding value upon the ensemble. The site is one of great beauty, overlooking a valley surrounded by high mountains, notably the Villuercas, and containing abundant vegetation.

At at the end of the13th century a Cáceres shepherd discovered close to the River Guadalupe a statue of the Virgin Mary that had been buried by Christians from Seville around 714 when fleeing before the Moorish invaders. The shepherd built a chapel to house the statue. A few years later it became a church, enlarged in 1337 by command of Alfonso XI, who visited it on several occasions. This king invoked the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the battle of Salado in 1340 and, following his victory, declared the church a royal sanctuary, founding a secular priory there. For 447 years under the Hieronimite Order the monastery was the most important in Spain and one of the most famous in Christendom. In 1835 the order passed responsibility to the Archdiocese of Toledo, which handed it over to the Franciscan order in 1908.

The ensemble of the monastery of Guadalupe comprises the following main buildings:

  • the main Gothic Church or Templo Major has a notable facade with its doors ornamented and finely wrought bronze plaques. The interior has three naves with fine ornamented vaulting, tombs and altars;
  • the Sacristy, built between 1638 and 1647, and exuberantly decorated, is best known for the series of paintings by Zurbarán on its walls;
  • the Chapel of Santa Catalina, constructed in the 15th century, links the Sacristy with the Reliquaries Chapel. It has an octagonal cupola lit by a lantern and contains outstanding 17th century tombs;
  • the Reliquaries Chapel is an octagonal-plan edifice built at the end of the16th century. The lower part houses many elaborate reliquaries and other works of art in its arcaded alcoves;
  • the Camarín de la Virgen is a small octagonal building of 1687-96, situated behind the presbytery of the basilica, in highly decorated Baroque style. In the upper storey, the 'Chamber of the Virgen' proper, the vaults a decorated in plaster and stucco and the walls covered with paintings, among them nine by Luca Giordano. It houses the famous statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, on a magnificently ornamented throne;
  • the Mudejar cloister, built between 1389 and 1405, is situated to the north of the main church and is constructed in brick, in the Mudejar tradition, and painted in white and red. The small chapel in the centre dates from 1405, and there is an impressive portal of 1520-24 in Plateresque style;
  • the Gothic cloister dates from 1531-33 and has galleries on three sides;there are three tiers of arches. As it belongs to the hospice of the monastery it does not contain any important works of art;
  • the New Church: one of the descendants of Columbus, with a special affection for the monastery, promoted the construction of this building in 1730-35, in modified Baroque style with three naves.