Yuso and Suso Monasteries
The San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries are known for their role in the development of the Spanish language. The twin monasteries are located in San Millán de la Cogolla in La Rioja. They owe thier existence to the holy man Millán, who settled here in the 6th century and founded the first 'monastery' at this spot.
Suso is the older of the two monasteries, and it is the site where phrases in the Spanish and Basque languages were written for the first time. A monk had put annotations in Spanish and Basque next to a Latin text. The codex in question was subsequently preserved in the monastery library at Yuso before being moved to its current location in Madrid.
Yuso monastery dates from the early 16th century. 'Yuso' means 'below', while 'Suso' stands for 'upper'.
Visit August 2009
Yuso Monastery is an impressive complex when you first arrive. And popular with the tourists as well. Entrance is only via a guided tour, which costs 4 EUR. The tour (with ca. 40 people) lasts about an hour. It’s a tiring affair to non-Spanish speakers, as the guide will stop often for long talks. It will take you through all the important rooms however. Especially the Sacristy is a feast of paintings, furniture, frescoes and a golden altar. The church is under restoration at the moment, and all the decorations are packed in paper (as if the artist Christo had stopped by).
Yuso’s older sister, Suso, is located uphill. When you’ve bought a ticket, a bus will take you there to go on a guided tour. What’s left of Suso is only the church. So it’s only one room, quite tiny. This guide also starts a long story before we can enter the building. No photos are allowed inside, but this is not strictly reinforced. The interior is almost empty, except for graves. What I liked most was the medieval graffiti at the outside of the building.
I stayed overnight in the ‘Hosteria del Monasterio de San Millan’, which is located in a wing of the Yuso Monastery. It’s one of our ‘Hotels in Historic Buildings’! The long hallways give it away that you’re in a monastery. I guess the hotel is quite new, the room at 60 EUR was pretty modern and luxurious (it has a bath, minibar and Wifi!).
The hotel restaurant gets a definite thumbs down at Tripadvisor, and also their breakfast is overpriced at 11 EUR. So I skipped both and only stayed for the night. The village of San Millan does have at least two other restaurants at the central square, which seem to be open while the tourists are there (until 7 p.m.). I ate a good value menu at the more upscale restaurant of the two.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I visited this WHS in August 2014. After some reading and research I decided to concentrate my visit mostly on the Yuso Monastery which is the bigger one of the two. It costs 6 euros to visit and we were accompanied by a Spanish guide throughout the visit. A leaflet in English containing the gist of what she says in Spanish is handed out but it isn't really all that necessary. The Yuso monastery houses the first verses written in the Castillian language so it is an important national cultural site apart from being a WHS. The church cloister and gilded furniture are nothing out of the ordinary compared to other WHS I've seen. The sacristy though is beautiful. The Books of Gregorian Chant weighing up to 80kg were the highlight of my visit. Two treasures worth seeing are the boxes/chests decorated with the original 12th century ivory plates of San Millan intricately carved and in very good condition. The exterior is worth a quick photo mostly for the serene environment surrounding the Yuso monastery. The Suso Monastery is very small compared to the Yuso Monastery and there is a shuttle bus that takes you there and back every 15 minutes departing from in front of the Yuso Monastery. Entrance tickets (inclusive of shuttle bus service) are sold at the Yuso Monastery. I enjoyed my visit as another stopping point on my return road trip from Portugal but it's definitely not one of Spain's best WHS in my opinion.
| Date posted: August 2014|
|Jorge Sanchez (Spain):|
La Rioja is internationally known for its excellent wines, and I advise you to visit at least one of its many wine cellars. Inside of them you will be invited to taste several wines that you can buy at a cheaper price than in the supermarkets.
But apart from the wines, La Rioja is a very stunning Spanish autonomy, something that you will better appreciate if you walk, as I did in the year 2003. The Camino de Santiago (Saint James Way) crosses all this autonomy where one the most interesting stops is Santo Domingo de la Calzada, founded by aholy man in the XI century, Saint Domingo, who constructed a bridge to help the pilgrims to cross the river Oja. And also built many paths or calzadas (calzada means path in Spanish). In this beautiful town you can visit plenty of surprising monuments, such as the cathedral, the Parador Nacional, just in front, which in the past was a shelter for pilgrims, and several interesting churches in the old part of the city.
Najera is another Jacobean town along the Camino in La Rioja. The most remarkable monument there is the Monastery Santa Maria la Real, incrusted in one side of a mountain.
When I made the Camino de Santiago I slept in the shelter of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It is located in the same house where the Saint Domingo lived. The shelter is always open. First you have to meet on the ground floor the Prior of the Cofradia (Brotherhood) to show the Credencial del Peregrino to sleep there for free (It is customary to leave a donation).
The dormitory is on the first floor, very pleasant, and with a huge kitchen where you can cook your dinner and make friendship with other pilgrims.
Dif you visit Santo Domingo de la Calzada do not miss the church, just next door. .
Regarding La Rioja capital, Logroño, is a quiet and pleasant small city on the banks of the river Ebro, the longest in Spain, with 910 kilometers. The most remarkable of this town is the street along the Camino de Santiago, with plenty of statues and Jacobean motives.
Before reaching the shelter in Logroño, an old woman will give you figs.
When leaving the shelter you will pass through a gigantic Juego de la Oca (Spanish table game meaning Game of the Goose, related with the Camino de Santiago), a beautiful statue of Saint James, and many other monuments associated with the Camino.
But the main wonders in this Spanish region are the two monasteries: San Millan de la Cogolla and San Millan de Yuso. The first one was erected in the VI century by the eremites’ disciples of Saint Millan A Rioja saint born during the V century). Before of that they lived in caves.
When more monks joined and the monastery became too small for so many monks, they erected another one during the XI century at about 200 meters distance, called Monasterio de Yuso. Because of their interest and their historical riches both monasteries were declared Patrimonies of the Humankind by the organization UNESCO.
In Suso monastery were written the first phrases in Spanish and Basques languages and much later, in the year 1492, the Sevilla born Antonio de Nebrija would write his famous Grammatica, or the first book setting the rules of a Romance (Latin) language, much before the Italian, French, Rumanian or Portuguese languages. Nebrija also wrote a dictionary Latin – Spanish.
For a Spaniard it is a must to visit such a historical place as it is the Monastery of Suso, the birthplace of our beautiful language.
| Date posted: July 2013|
|sally herbert (England):|
My husband and I are, at present, staying in the Yuso hostelerie. We have done the tour and visited Suso this morning. We walked back through the woods glimpsing deer on the way.
It is Sunday. Staying in a monastery we looked forward to daily Mass and special celebration today but no............. we will have to go to the chapel in the village since no mass is said in church - at least not for visitors. What a terrible waste of resources.Such atmosphere, such history and the centre of it all ignored!
| Date posted: July 2011|
|John Booth (New Zealand):|
The village of San Millan de la Congolla was picturesque and set in an amazing landscape.
I reached it by a bus that travels there in the afternoon from Logrono via Najera, and returns in the evening allowing several hours for a visit to the Yuso and Suso monasteries.
I found the displays of the earliest books in the Castillian language in the Yuso monastery very interesting. Because the bus to Suso was not operating on the day of my visit I hiked up the hill through the forest to see this ancient building.
| Date posted: April 2010|
|Jose Gomes (Portugal):|
The spanish language started in these monasteries. The most ancient document with some different words (not latin) are from here. Important cultural site for the spanish language/people. Interesting only and should be visited if you are nearby.
| Date posted: June 2005|
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