San Clemente Monastery

Completed Project
Toledo, Spain


The Royal Monastery of San Clemente was first built in 1131 by King Alfonso VII. The structure was built on existing Moorish houses and became one of the largest monastic complexes in Toledo. In the 16th century, the monastery was transformed by several noted architects, including Alonso de Covarrubias and Juan Del Corral. The main cloister was built by Covarrubias’ successor on the project, Nicolás de Vergara el Mozo, in the early Renaissance style over an existing courtyard. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War,the convent was damaged by several bombings. Minor restoration work following the bombing uncovered the remains of 15th century stucco decoration and paintings. In the later 20th and 21st centuries, the deterioration of the monastery became a severe issue. The tile work of the chapterhouse had been affected by rising damp and salt efflorescence caused by an adjacent cistern. The wooden ceiling was damaged by moisture as well as from a fire from a laundry operated by the nuns next to the chapterhouse.

How We Helped

In collaboration with the Consorcio de la Ciudad de Toledo, WMF completed the restoration of the chapterhouse including its decorative tile work, mural paintings, and wooden ceiling. The project also included replacement of the electrical and heating system of the chapterhouse to prevent another fire, and the draining of the adjacent cistern. In the process of restoration, previously unknown 11th-century mural paintings were uncovered, believed to be some of the oldest surviving wall paintings in the city.

Why It Matters

San Clemente Monastery is still partly occupied by a cloistered community of nuns, and it still retains its original functions. The uncovering and conservation of the paintings preserved in the cloister will allow portions of the monastery to be opened to the public and will increase public awareness about the history and significance of the monastery. The maintenance work done in tandem with the conservation program will ensure its long-term survival.

Last updated: May 2017.

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