Santa Maria de Guadeloupe Monastery (World Heritage)

By | August 18, 2021

The monastery, founded in the 14th century, was the most important monastery in Spain until the secularization in 1835. The ensemble of buildings is dominated by the main Gothic church. Along with Montserrat, the monastery is the most important Marian shrine in Spain. According to historyaah, the showpiece is the artfully crafted baroque saint niche (Camarin de la Virgen).

Santa Maria de Guadeloupe Monastery: Facts

Official title: Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadeloupe
Cultural monument: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe next to Montserrat the most important Spanish Marian shrine, three-aisled monastery church with a painted high altar, a work by the son of El Greco, and the miraculous image of the Morena of Guadalupe
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain, Extremadura
Location: Guadalupe, southeast of Cáceres
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: Testimony to sacred architecture from four centuries and a symbol of two historical events: the reconquest of Spain by the Christians and the conquest of America

Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadeloupe: history

1340 Laying of the foundation stone, Foundation of Alfonso XI.
1349-63 Construction of the monastery church
1389 Hieronymites take over the monastery
1402 Bronze gate of the entrance portal on the southern broad side
1405-06 Construction of the two-storey cloister
1510 ornate chapel lattice in front of the Capilla Mayor
1595 Relic chamber furnished with azulejos
1835 Expulsion of the monks
1908 Takeover by the Franciscans and renovation
1928 Madonna of Guadalupe by King Alfonso XIII appointed “Queen of the Hispanic World”

Queen of the Hispanic World Circle

According to legend, the shepherd lost a cow. So he left the herd on the stony southern slope of the Altamira Mountains and went on a search. He found the animal perished in a small side valley. But when he was about to peel off the cow’s hide and scratched a cross on her breast with his knife, she got up alive, the Mother of God appeared and said: “Take your cow and bring her to the herd to the others. Then go to your hometown and tell the priests what you saw … to dig where your cow was. There you will find a picture of me. And when they have excavated it, they shouldn’t take it to another place, but build a house for it here. “The legend is not only the origin of the monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, one of the most impressive architectural monuments in Spain, but it is also an example of the Christianization of the Iberian Peninsula. Again and again there are reports of shepherds who discovered images of the Virgin Mary in remote places. And again and again cattle and bulls proved their connection to the divine mother figure. This reveals the mystical meaning that the bull has in Spain to this day. The legendary find also falls during the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain from the Moors. The name of the place where the monastery is located today is also of Arabic origin: “guada” (wadi) means “river”; “Lubein” means “hidden”. What is meant is the valley in which the lost cow rose again.

One and a half millennia of Spanish history is reflected in the legend and the development of the monastery, whose origins go back to a hermitage from the early 14th century. The approximately one meter high Madonna figure is said to have been buried after the invasion of the Moors in 711 at the point where the monastery was founded. The cedar-carved sculpture, allegedly the work of St. Luke, came to Extremadura around 600 as a gift from Pope Gregory the Great to Archbishop Leander of Seville. As before in Rome, the Madonna helped defeat the plague here too.

The fortress-like monastery building, which today stands proudly between the dark red tiled roofs of the town on the dry slopes of the Sierra de Guadalupe, was built in the first half of the 14th century by Alfonso XI. built on the basis of a vow after the victorious battle of El Salado against the Moors. At the convent, which was handed over to the Hieronymites in 1389, a medical school and three hospitals were established in the 14th century, at which autopsies were carried out on people for the first time in Western history. There was also a school of illumination and gold embroidery workshops, the products of which – old hymn books weighing 40 to 50 kilograms and artfully decorated chasuble robes – can still be admired. The Castilian kings also had an inn built, which is still used today for travelers and pilgrims.

Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, and other explorers visited the pilgrimage site before their travels and later donated part of the booty to the Madonna. Conversely, they carried the fame of the Madonna of Guadalupe into the world and named islands and places of pilgrimage in the New World after her. In the 18th century there should have been “scouring buckets and broomsticks made of the purest silver” in the monastery. 120 lamps made of silver and gold adorned the image of the Virgin.

The centerpiece of the sanctuary is the black Madonna figure on the balcony above the high altar. With a tortoiseshell scepter in her hand, she is enthroned majestically on a rotating platform. After the accompanying monk has turned the Virgin to the visitors on the balcony, the pilgrims pray an “Ave Maria”. Then they kiss a piece of the Madonna robe of the “Queen of the Hispanic Circle of the World”, which is otherwise kept under glass. Every year on her feast day, September 8th, the Madonna is solemnly carried through the town on a silver-covered piece.

Santa Maria de Guadeloupe Monastery (World Heritage)