Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas


The Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas is located at Calle Compases de Huelga, a bit out of the town center. The Spanish word “huelga” has several meanings. For this monastery, it means “recreation”. This was the place where the Spanish kings went to relax and for recreation, as well as a place for spiritual retreats. The monastery was started in 1187 by Alfonso VIII and his wife Leonor, and continued in the 13th century. The Cistercian nuns occupied the monastery when it was started. Today one can still go to the monastery for spiritual retreats because it has its own little hotel.


There are two important cloisters that are famous for being very beautiful. The first is called the Little Cloisters and was built at the end of the 12th century in the Romanesque style. It is characterized by double pointed arches with artistic capitals and a wooden roof. The second cloister is Gothic in style and was constructed in the middle of the 13th century. It is called the San Fernando cloister and is named for Fernando III, el Santo. The arches have the Mudejar style and there is plenty of typical Mudejar plasterwork.


There are three naves in the church. One of the naves of the church is called the Santa Catalina Nave and it is the Royal Pantheon of the Castillian Dynasty. Buried here are Alfonso VIII and his wife Leonor of England.  One also find the tombs of Princess Blanca of Portugal, Enrique I and his wife Berenguela, and the Infante Fernando de la Cerda. The central nave contains the choir in the middle.


The Chapter Room has the standard captured from the Moors in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which occurred on July 16, 1212. This battle was the most important battle of the Reconquest.