Walk through cloisters in which the air is thick with the scent of citrus blossom and bathe in the golden light of one of Spain’s finest chapels at this Granadan monastery.
Explore the church, chapels, cloisters and gardens of the San Jerónimo Monastery, a 16th-century religious sanctuary built for an order of Catholic monks known as Hieronymites. Amid this somber, stone setting lay beautiful courtyards and a towering main chapel filled with gold, statues and light.
Founded in 1492 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, this was the first monastery to be built after the Christian Reconquest of Granada. During the Napoleonic era the monks were expelled and parts of the monastery’s stonework was used to construct a bridge. A restoration program began in the 20th century and the monks once again took up residence.
Once inside the main entrance take a stroll in the shade of the beautiful cloister, encompassed by 36 semicircular arches around a small garden of lemon and orange trees. Notice the hundreds of memorial stones laid into the walkway. They are inscribed with the names of monks who spent their lives here. Tour the chapels and rooms that lead off the cloister to view the numerous pieces of religious art that adorn the walls.
One of the monastery highlights is the main chapel’s retablo, a huge altarpiece nearly five stories high. This large work of art has been sumptuously decorated with statues and reliefs depicting scenes of the life of Jesus Christ, and is gilded in gold. Observe the numerous frescoes, carvings and statues embellishing the walls and ceilings. They include a figure of El Gran Capitan, an important Spanish general who fought in the Conquest of Granada.
The extravagant décor is a stark contrast to the simplicity of the rest of the monastery. El Capitan's wife, the Duchess of Sesa, funded much of the construction costs in exchange for using the chapel as a family vault.
San Jerónimo Monastery is a few minutes’ walk or short bus ride from the city center. If you are driving, you can pay to park in the nearby Gran Capitan parking garage. The monastery is open daily and there is an admission charge.