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Santa Maria de Guadelupe

Santa Maria de Guadelupe
The Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe was the most important monastery in Spain for more than four centuries. It has especially high symbolic value, linked to both the Conquest of Granada and the discovery of the New World in 1492 (the New World, where Our Lady of Guadalupe came to be highly revered).

The monastery had its origins in the late 13th century, when a shepherd discovered a statue of Madonna on the bank of the Guadalupe River. The statue had been apparently hidden by local inhabitants from Moorish invaders in 714. On the site of this discovery a chapel was built.

In 1389, monks of the order of St. Jerome took over the monastery and made it their principal house. Even after the monks from Guadalupe founded the famous monastery of Escorial, which was much closer to the royal capital, Madrid, Santa Maria de Guadalupe retained the royal patronage.

Visit March 2008

The little town of Guadalupe isn't close to any of the bigger cities in the area (Mérida, Caceres, Toledo - all 3 WHS by themselves). I drove to Guadalupe from Mérida. This takes about 1.5 hours. A rather boring drive, most memorable was crossing Miajadas: a town which labels itself as the European Tomato Capital. All the money they earn from the tomatoes probably goes into buying new road signs, because the city's streets are littered with them. 40kmh-20kmh-bump in the road-40kmh-20kmh-another bump (and that x10).

The monastery of Guadelupe is right at the heart of Guadelupe town. It's a massive building, way too big and impressive for the tiny town square where it's located. As about anywhere I visited on this trip I wasn't the only tourist here: a bus unloaded its ageing Spanish passengers just at the front of the monastery.

For only 4 Euros you can join a guided tour inside the monastery. This isn't a contemplative experience - it's never fun being hoarded through a site with a group of about 50 others and here it also is a rushed affair. The most interesting parts for me were the Sacristy and the Reliquaries Chapel. Both have great frescoes adorning their walls and ceilings. Piece de resistance of course is the little Black Madonna. This is left to the end of the tour and is introduced by one of the (Franciscan) monks. An element at the back of the sanctuary can be turned 180 degrees, and there she is - the Madonna with a black face, in yellow garb and seated on a throne.


Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
The Iberian peninsula is full of historic monasteries, with a large number of them inscribed on the WH list, and the one in the small village of Guadalupe in Extremadura is probably the most famous of them. It is quite a big and impressive building, a mixture of Gothic and Baroque styles, featuring many important relics and works of religious art, the most famous of them being the Black Madonna (anyone who has already been to Montserrat or Czestochowa is familiar with this). I can't say I was blown away by what I saw, but granted, the place seems to be perpetually crowded with large, mostly Spanish, tour groups, you can only visit as part of a group, and it is hard to actually see much on your own because of this. The cloister was very nice, though, and there are some interesting historic facts about the monastery, as it was the most important one in Span for many centuries and always under the personal protection of the reigning monarch - e.g. after his return from his first voyage, Columbus made a pilgrimage there, and the Madonna of Guadalupe is much revered in the New World, especially in the famous basilica in Mexico. So, an interesting visit if you don't mind crowds, but because of the very remote location only recommended for those with a strong interest in history and/or religious art.
Date posted: February 2015
Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
In the Ruta de la Plata pilgrimage, from Mérida to Astorga, are not included several very interesting places that I did not want to miss, among them the Real Monasterio de Santa Maria de Guadalupe and the Monasterio de Yuste (where died our first Emperor Charles I), both in Extremadura, so I had to break my pilgrimage twice in order not to miss those stunning historical places.
In Cáceres I took a bus to Guadalupe village. I did not need to ask for the monastery; it was so colossal and impressive that I could see it immediately. I walked there and visited the interior.
I joined a tour and could even visit the camarín (chapel) de la Virgen de Guadalupe.
That excursión gave me great satisfaction.
After the visit I wanted to spend the night in Guadalupe. The monastery had a hotel, but I did not lose my time asking for the prices; I guessed they should be too expensive for my budget. There were no shelters for pilgrims making the Ruta de la Plata, being too far away from that route, so I looked for a hostel to sleep.
I did not know that there is a Camino Real de Guadalupe, also known as Caminos de Castilla a Guadalupe, all starting in Madrid, Guadalajar, Ávila and other towns in Spain. One of them was called the Camino de Felipe II, another one was the Camino de los Monjes, etc. The people making those Caminos, mainly on bicycle, do not sleep in shelters but in hostels.
Finally, in the same main square I found a hostel with a decent price.
In the morning I returned by bus to Cáceres and continued my pilgrimage to Astorga, on foot.
Date posted: October 2013
John Booth (New Zealand):
Despite its remote location Guadalupe is regularly though infrequently connected by a bus service to Caceres. I recall the journey being slightly scary as the bus swerved around bends across a mountain pass.
On the day of my visit I was charged a minimal 3 Euros for a guided tour at 5pm.
Date posted: March 2010
David Berlanda (Italy / Czech Republic):
In our travel around Spain we have been to the nice vernacular village of Guadalupe, where the beautiful Our Lady’s royal monastery stands. It was built from the 14th to the 17th century and is an original mixture of more different styles and above all a strongly symbolic Spanish monument, as it is associated with the Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula by the Catholic Kings Fernand and Isabel and the discover of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, which both happened in 1492. It is also one of the most important pilgrimage places in the world and one of the most sacred places for Spanish-speaking Catholics, above all for those living in all Latin America. In fact the cult of the Virgin statue, found in Guadalupe in the 13th century, was exported in America by Spanish Conquistadores, mainly born in the Extremadura region, in which the monastery is situated; here the first American people were baptised.
As it is situated in the middle of nowhere, the travel to go there strongly proved our patience. From Cáceres it is 130 km on a never ending winding (but panoramic) road with some passes, and the same to go away from Guadalupe towards Toledo (180 km). To enter the monastery, the opening time is from 9.30 to 13 and from 15.30 to 19. You can find information about it on the web pages We arrived quite early - but not so much, at 10.30 - and there was a problem: the visits are only available when the number of 50 people is reached and there was nobody waiting. So we had to wait 30 minutes and fortunately they let us get in with a group of only 25 people.
It was however interesting to see the fine exterior of all the sides of the monastery, with decorated portals and doors, nice strong towers and slender turrets, and above all the stunning monumental façade, called atrium, of the church, with its strange fine curvilinear decoration, rose windows, a beautiful dome and portals; the doors are decorated with wonderful bronze plaques. Only from the exterior, you can see the 18th century New Church, built by a descendant of Christopher Columbus.
First the guide brings you to the beautiful cloister, built in brick from 1389 to 1405 in the Mudéjar style (Christian application of Arab architectonic features) and painted in white and red. There is a nice Plateresque portal and a small Gothic pavilion in which a fountain is located. The architecture is quite impressive, but the most striking and original feature here is the small Mudéjar chapel in the middle, very harmonic with its strong base of arches and a slender group of green points on it. I’ve never seen a type of building like this before. We haven't visited the second Gothic cloister in the guided tour and I don’t know even if it is accessible. After the cloister you will visit the quite boring Museum of Vestments, the Museum of Illuminated Books, with nice exemplars in the Gothic Chapter House, and the Museum of Ancient Paintings and Sculptures, with beautiful works by great artists like El Greco, Francisco Zurbarán and Francisco Goya, all situated on the ground floor. The visit continues on the first floor and first brings you to the stunning Baroque sacristy (preceded by a nice room and followed by the Saint Jerome’s Chapel), built in the 17th century, one of the most beautiful in Spain, with fine decorations and above all the striking 11 paintings by Zurbarán; it is maybe the nicest feature of the monastery. Through the Saint Catherine's chapel, built in the 15th century, square with an octagonal dome with lantern, containing nice tomb, you will reach the octagonal 16th century Reliquaries Chapel, which contains in alcoves interesting reliquaries. Another wonderful feature of the monastery is the adjacent 17th century Baroque Camarín de la Virgen, a small octagonal building situated behind the presbytery of the main church. The ground floor, finely decorated, is accessible from the church, while you will visit the upper floor in the guided tour. The vaults are finely decorated with plaster and stucco and above all the walls are covered by 9 stunning paintings by Luca Giordano.
The last part of the tour was led by a monk and in the Camarín turned out that our visit was more intended as a pilgrimage, naturally paid, to see the Virgin and, above all, to kiss its reliquaries; obviously this ritual seemed us strongly exaggerated also because almost all the visitors, or rather pilgrims, after a prayer recited by the monks, formed a queue and the sculpture was turned from the church to the Camarín, as it is possible to turn it to both the sides.
The visit ended in the church, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, also accessible without buying the ticket. It has three aisles and a wonderful Gothic vaulting (the nicest is that of the dome) and contains beautiful tombs and altars, notably that of the Major Chapel, belonging to the typical Spanish typology of the retables, enormous sculpted and painted main altars that you will find only in the Iberian peninsula.
I quite liked this monastery, perfectly conserved and authentic, because of its quite unusual combination of beautiful Gothic and Baroque art but I think that it is rather worthy to be visited if you are in the Extremadura region more than in a separated travel to see specifically it. I think it justifies its inscription on the WHL (the title of the WHS may be more precise with the official Spanish name of the monastery “Nuestra Señora” rather than “Santa Maria”) and maybe a more important reason than its beautiful architectonic and art features is its connection with important events in the world history and with the widespread cult of the Virgin.
In the picture is the main façade of the church of the monastery.

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Site info

Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe
Country: Spain
Inscribed: 1993
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (4) (6)
Category: Religious structure, Christian

Site history:
1993 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Monasterio Guadelupe

In the news:
Not available

Related links:
» Wiki on Black Madonna.
» About the monastery.

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Mudejar style . Plateresque .
Libraries .
Individual People
Christopher Columbus .
Religion and Belief
Christian Pilgrimage Sites . Hieronymites .
Built in the 14th century .

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