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Thursday, August 29, 2013 (read 747 times)

San Jeronimo Monastery and La Cartuja in Granada

by Abigail

Granada’s religious past

From the Moorish invasion of 711 to the reconquering of the city by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 to the 356-year-long Spanish Inquisition, Granada is steeped in centuries of religious history. Located at the foot of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range, in Eastern Andalusia, Granada is most famously known for its close proximity to the beautiful Islamic palaces of La Alhambra. However, the richly adorned monasteries of San Jerónimo and La Cartuja are equally integral to Granada’s religious past and offer tourists an insight into the peaceful lifestyles of the multitudes of devout monks who once lived within their walls.

San Jerónimo: Although the ruthless invasion of Napoleon’s troops in 1810 left it in a state of almost complete disrepair, the San Jerónimo Monastery was restored to its former grandeur at the beginning of the 20th Century thanks to the sheer determination of the State and Granada University. As the first monastery built after the Reconquest of Granada in 1492, and following more than fifty years of careful construction, the San Jerónimo monastery is not only impressive in its appearance but also served as a tangible symbol of a new religious era in Spain—an era in which Islam would no longer be dominant. Gothic and Renaissance in style with an exquisitely decorated church and an orange tree orchard surrounded by cloistered walkways, the monastery transports its visitors to a place of tranquility and reflection. Within the church, eyes are immediately drawn to the magnificent altarpiece of Gil de Siloé, a 15th Century sculptor whose other masterpieces include the mausoleums of Burgos’ Monastery of Miraflores and the altarpiece of the Chapel of Santa Ana in Burgos Cathedral. For those interested in Medieval Spanish History, San Jerónimo is equally the burial place of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. More commonly known as El Gran Capitán, Fernández worked as a Spanish general alongside Queen Isabel I in the 15th and 16th Century and, thanks to his revolutionary use of weaponry and outstanding organizational skills, he is considered by many as the most important military figure until Napoleon.

La Cartuja: Although seemingly plain on the exterior, the La Cartuja monastery is certainly not dull once visitors cross the threshold. Boasting an ornate Baroque church filled with paintings, statues, an elaborately decorated Presbytery and a marbleized Sacristy, the monastery is a trove of religious treasures. Moreover, the extravagant decorations are perhaps even more surprising and intriguing when compared to the simplicity of the monastic lives of La Cartuja´s  Carthusian monks; they lived in confined cells, eat a basic diet consisting only of bread and water on Fridays and devoted their time to prayer, theological studies and manual labour. Thanks to its situation on the Aynadamar hills, on the outskirts of Granada, the La Cartuja monastery also offers visitors a spectacular view of both the city and the mountainous landscape beyond it.

Interesting detail: Prior to his second voyage to America in 1493, Columbus frequently visited the La Cartuja and even kept his will safely locked in the monastery’s vaults.

Keywords: spanish inquisition,granada spain,spanish history,southern spain,religion in spain

Posted In: Spain, Tourism, Culture


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