Opening Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 10:30 to 12:45, 16:00 to 17:45 h; Friday: 10:30 to 12:45 h; Sunday and holidays: 11:00 to 13:45 h; Closed Mondays.

Descalzas Reales means Barefoot Royals and the monastery is a convent of Franciscan nuns. The daughter of Carlos I and Isabel of Portugal was the Princess Juana, and she founded the convent in 1557. Juana married Juan Manuel, who was the heir to the Portugese throne, but he died early and Juana had to return to Madrid.

The convent building is a 16th century Renaissance palace in the heart of Madrid. It has an impressive façade and was remodeled in 1556 and 1564 by Anonio Sillero and Juna Bautista de Toledo.

When women joined the convent, they had to bring a dowry with them. If they had to leave the convent, their dowry would be given back to them so that they would have a means of subsistence. If they died in the convent, they left their dowry to the convent. Since many young noblewomen joined the convent, the convent accumulated a lot of riches, much of it in art.

In the 20th century, the majority of the nuns were poor, but they could not sell the treasures of the convent. The government intervened and the Pope granted the nuns a special dispensation to open the convent as a museum. The museum opened in 1960. Today there are still nuns living in the convent, so tours are given at hours that do not interfere with the lives of the nuns. Visitors have to be accompanied by the tour guide and cannot go exploring by themselves.

The art treasures include floor to ceiling frescoes and paintings by Rubens, Titian and Murillo. There are beautiful Flemish tapestries designed by Rubens. Other artists found in the convent are Sanchez Coello, Brueghel and Luini.


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