Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas

The Royal Monastery of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas is a Cistercian abbey located 1.5 kilometers west of the city of Burgos on the Avenida del Monasterio de las Huelgas.


The Castilian King Alfonso VIII (reigned 1158-1214 ) and his wife Eleanor Plantagenet founded in 1187 near Burgos at the point at which up to then a royal residence had found pleasure, the Abbey of Santa María la Real, better known as Las Huelgas Reales (translated as: royal leisure domicile).

The 1186-1189 reigning abbot of Citeaux Wilhelm II ( also known by its French name Guillaume II de la Prée known ) announced in September of the year 1187 its approval for the formation of the nunnery, where he established that the nuns themselves one or two abbots were allowed to choose from regional male Cistercian abbeys to their visitators. Eleonora, the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine ( who had retired to the Abbey of Fontevraud ) and the English King Henry II, had an essential part in enforcing this preferential treatment of the monastery ( other nunneries could not choose their visitators ).

The first nuns came from the Abbey Tulebras in Navarre, which had been founded in 1157, first abbess was Doña Misol. Alfonso VIII saw his creation as head of a congregation, in the other Castilian Cistercian should be involved.

The Monastery of Las Huelgas was richly rewarded by its founders, it was 49 items, including the Hospital del Rey in the immediate vicinity. Moreover, it was in 1199 declared the burial place of the royal family. The abbey possessed an extensive territory in which they wielded the secular and spiritual jurisdiction and acted independently of the bishops of Burgos.

Abundance of power and wealth of the monastery also means that arose over time an important library led. The abbey has, among other things, a lectionary from the scriptorium of the nearby Cistercian abbey of San Pedro de Cardena, a Bible from 1181, a review of Apocalypse of Beatus of Liébana from the year 1220 and a copy of the Benedictine Rule from the year 1246th

Work on the monastery began in the year 1187 and were completed in the second half of the 13th century.

The monastery also houses today a convent of Cistercian nuns. The architectural ensemble is a national monument.

Special position of the Abbess of Las Huelgas

The abbess was partly the title prelatus and was the administrator of the royal foundation in spiritual and temporal matters. Thus it was Grundherrin over 60 lordships and villages. It issued litterae dimissoriae to allow men to priestly ordination, ordered priest and gave the confession and preaching proxy. At the Cistercian General Chapter 1189, she was transferred to the kingdom of Leon and Castile the authorities. Your quasi- episcopal powers were abolished in 1873.


The exterior has the clean lines of the art of the Cistercians. Inside it is divided by a partition between the areas of the faithful and the nuns into two parts. This is surmounted on the side of the nave by a Descent from the Cross in the 13th century. In the central chapel behind the high altar there is a Baroque altarpiece is from 1665, on which the Assumption of statues of Saint Benedict of Nursia and Bernard of Clairvaux and founder of the pair is framed. About the connection with the central nave is a picture from 1594 shows the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa ( July 16, 1212 ), fought in the Alfonso VIII, the work of Jeronimo and Pedro Ruiz de Camargo.

From the gilded pulpit of beaten iron ( 1560), the preacher can make himself understood on both sides of the separation, both among the faithful in the transept and the choir, as well as with the nuns who sat in the choir stalls of the Fore and Aft.

The central nave, which is accompanied by two side aisles ( St. Catherine's ship in the north and the Johannes - ship in the South), houses the double sarcophagus for Alfonso VIII and Eleanor, who both died in 1214. Here and on the sides also found many other sarcophagi place, such as the Catherine - ship of the Infante Ferdinand de la Cerda, the son of King Alfonso X, who died in 1275.

From the John - ship, where is the tomb of Mary of Aragon, Nun in Las Huelgas and daughter of King Ferdinand the Catholic (reigned 1474-1516 ), one can pass through two gates in the Gothic monastery.

Monastery of San Fernando

The Gothic monastery of San Fernando is from the 13th to 15th centuries. Here there are fragments of stucco in Mudejar style in the gallery vaults from the years 1230 to 1260

The Romanesque monastery

The Romanesque monastery dates - such as the Resurrection Chapel at its northeast corner in the Mudejar style - from the years 1180 to 1190 and is located south of the Gothic. Here give double rows of columns with stylishly drawn capitals of the monastery elegance. It then passes through several rooms of the palace of Alfonso Moorish decoration.

Chapel of St. James

To the east of the monastery has something off get a blanket from the end of the 13th century in the chapel of St. James, its colors and its stucco friezes are original.

Museum of medieval materials

The museum is housed in a room that opens up to the monastery. The fabrics and the plaster that are shown in the former granary, are evidence of the royal clothes in Castile of the 13th century. The clothing ( tunic, furs and cloaks ) were found in the graves. The most precious come from the grave Ferdinando de la Cerdas that has not been desecrated by the soldiers of Napoleon in 1809.

Chapter House

The chapter house opens on the eastern gallery and hosts the " Pendón ", a trophy from the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. It comes from the tent of Muhammad an-Nasir, the defeated Almohad general.