Cascade Park

Cascade Park

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Renaissance Gem

I have written about León's Romanesque Basilica of San Isidro and its Gothic Cathedral.  Today I visited the city's third great architectural monument... this one dating from the Renaissance.

The Monastery of San Marcos was originally built in the 12th century as a shelter and hospital for pilgrims traveling the Route of St. James and as the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of Santiago.  (The knights were a military / religious order dedicated to protecting the pilgrims making the long journey across northern Spain.)  By the 1500s the building had fallen into disrepair, and in 1514 King Fernando el Católico (King Ferdinand, the husband of Queen Isabella) made a grant for the reconstruction of the monastery.  Work on the new building did not begin until the reign of their grandson, Carlos I (better known to us as the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V).  

The monastery is an example of the "plateresco" style of the Spanish Renaissance.  "Plateresco" means "in the style of a silversmith", and the architecture is characterized by elaborate sculptural decoration.

 Medallions of mythological and historical heroes adorn the facade.

 The scallop shell, the emblem of St. James, is a recurring motif.

Above the main entrance, St. James is shown slaying the Moors.

 In front of the monastery, a bronze statue portrays a weary pilgrim pausing to rest.

The church still functions as a place of worship, and a portion of the old monastery is today a museum.  The rest of the building is now a "parador"... one of the luxury hotels which the Spanish government has established in historic buildings across the country.


  1. I'm sure the restoration was at least partly funded by the "plata" found in Nueva España also, so the style is "platero" in more than one sense.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we think current-day Saudi Arabia is making all the same mistakes as Spain in her imperial glory.

    1. Yes, the reconstruction of the monastery came at just about the same time that mineral wealth began pouring in from the New World.