We visit the Royal Monastery of Santa María de El Paular

The Royal Monastery of Santa María de El Paular is a monumental complex located in the Madrid municipality of Rascafría. It is a place that went from a hermitage to an abbey and has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest since 1876. It is also one of the best places to learn about the history of the Crown of Spain and the Order of the Carthusians.

The history of the Royal Monastery of Santa María de El Paular

The origin of this impressive monastery is found in a small hermitage donated to the Carthusian Order. This was a hermitage dedicated to Santa María del Poblar and which was located in the same place that this monastery occupies today, in the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Its foundation is due to the Royal House of Trastámara. Dates to 1390 and soon it became the most important monastery in the entire Crown. The small hermitage became part of a larger complex, whose master builder was Don Rodrigo Alfonso, who was later followed by Gil Fernández at the beginning of the 15th century to start the construction of the current church.


The curious thing about this monastery is that a Moorish man participated in its works as a master builder. It is the Segovian Abderramán, to whom we owe the Mudejar elements that populate the entire complex.

Rise and abandonment of the monastery

Under the Catholic Monarchs the monastery will become more important. In this way, it will be Juan Guas, Isabel la Católica’s favorite architect, who will take charge of the works. We owe him buildings such as the old Segovia cathedral or the Manzanares el Real palace, among others.

Years later Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón would come into play, who was a native of Rascafría, so he found no better place to leave his mark than his hometown. To him, we owe the cover of the patio of Ave María.

The arrival of the Baroque and the Lisbon earthquake would also leave their mark on the Royal Monastery of Santa María de El Paular. But after began its decline when it was occupied by the Napoleonic troops and go on to swell the lists of disentailed assets.

Its walls began to shine thanks to the fact that it was the headquarters of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza and the Residence of Landscape Painters since 1918. In addition, monastic life would return to him from 1942, but no longer in charge of the Carthusians, but of the monks of the Benedictine Order.

What to see in the monastery of Santa María de El Paular

During the visit, which can be done every day, You will be able to see the different construction stages that this impressive monastery has gone through: from the Gothic to the Neoclassical style, passing through the Mudejar and the Baroque. You can walk through its church, its cloisters and patios and discover the impressive Sagrario chapel or the elegant chapter house.

1. The Sagrario chapel and the chapter house

In the first, do not miss the work of Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo, architect of works as important as the Tabernacle of the Charterhouse of Granada. It is a structure with a hexagonal plan in which the tabernacle and the transparent one are the main elements. Both are surrounded by sculptures and paintings by the best artists of the time, including Antonio Palomino and Duque Cornejo.

While, in the chapter house you cannot stop admiring its magnificent ojaval vaults and the Baroque altarpiece by Churriguera. It is a display of beauty with imposing Solomonic columns that is presided over by the Immaculate Conception, after having moved Saint Bruno to the church of Rascafría.

2. The series of paintings by Vicente Carducho

‘Saint Bruno meets the Count of Sicily and Calabria’ by Vicente Carducho

In the cloister, a clear example of Gothic architecture, the series of paintings by Vicente Carducho awaits you to surprise you. It is a series composed of 52 paintings almost seven square meters. They narrate the life of Saint Bruno and the Order of the Carthusians. His commission came from the hand of Prior Juan de Baeza.

These paintings, after the confiscation of 1835, were transferred to the National Museum of Painting and Sculpture, but later they were dispersed throughout Spain. Recently, the Prado Museum, was in charge of reassembling the series, restoring it and returning it to its original enclave.

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