Completed Project

Royal Monastery of Guadalupe

Guadalupe, Spain


Constructed in 1389 to commemorate the miraculous appearance of the Virgin the previous year, the Royal Monastery of Guadalupe sits at an altitude of 660 meters in the Villuerca Mountains of southwestern central Spain. With its main architectural features—the defensive walls, round towers, courtyards, and Gothic church—Guadalupe enjoyed prominence as the principal monastic institution under the patronage of the several Spanish kings, who enriched its collections with lavish gifts, including a new chancel with high altar and royal tombs, the reliquary chapel, and a magnificent new sacristy decorated with Francisco de Zurbarán's greatest paintings. Built by Arab craftsmen using their traditional materials of brick, colored stucco and tile, the cloister of Guadalupe makes use of highly elaborate arches borrowed from Islamic architecture and integrated into a Gothic scheme. The garden is marked by a blend of Christian and Islamic iconography. The monastery's royal patronage ended after its abandonment during the Napoleonic occupation of Spain and a lack of maintenance throughout the 19th century hastened its deterioration.

How We Helped

WMF initiated a preliminary conditions survey in the late 1980s of the materials used and the nature of the evident decay patterns. Between 1989 and 1992, WMF conducted a project that included the extensive restoration of the upper stage of the cloister, the stabilization of its lower register, an interpretive reconstruction of the original garden and fountain, replication of ceramic finials, and replication of the original polychromatic tile scheme of the spire of the templete, the fountain house of Guadalupe’s cloister. The completion of these projects focused on the importance of the monastery as an art and architectural complex and the completion of the project was celebrated in 1992, an auspicious year in Spain as many cities around the country celebrate the Quincentenary of Columbus’s voyages to the New World. WMF collaborated with the Institute for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage in Madrid and the Autonomous Government of Extremadura on this project. In 1993, the site was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Why It Matters

The Royal Monastery of Guadalupe highlights the hybrid style created by the transfer of Islamic artistic traditions to European art and architecture. It was at this site that Columbus was presented to Queen Isabella, and petitioned her for his westward voyage of exploration. The principal cloister is one of the most splendid examples of mudejar, or Moorish, architecture to survive intact in Spain. The medieval monastic garden, a geometric design, with four walkways leading to the four sides of the centrally positioned square templete, symbolizes the sacredness and perfection of the number four in both Christianity and Islam. Guadalupe now operates as a museum of art, architecture, history, and religion as well as an active monastic community and one of the holiest pilgrimage sites of Christendom. The present hospedería facility in the monastery, located around the Patio of the Apothecaries, is run by the monks and continues a long tradition of receiving visitors to the site.

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