It is located in the beautiful town of Alcántara in Cáceres. During the reign of the Catholic Kings, in the year 1505, the construction of this Conventual of San Benito was started to house the faithful of the order of Alcántara who maintained their headquarters here from the 16th to the 19th century. As these monks were soldiers, the convent served as a fortress and suffered attacks and with it the normal deterioration. With the disentailment the convent was sold to individuals who established their home here, even used as a sheepfold, warehouse ... the chapter house was used as an oil mill. In 1960 Hidroeléctrica bought it and restored it, but in the church it was decided to keep a crack in a wall visible as a reminder that the convent had also suffered damage from the earthquake in Lisboa in 1755.
The visit to the Conventual of San Benito begins in the vestibule or passage element that gives access to the rooms, is the eighteenth century, it is also the valuable tomb of Don Suero Martinez, you can also see a fragment of the original altarpiece of the church decorated with gold leaf and representing the Roman Bridge. From the vestibule you can access the Gothic cloister, which belongs to the first stage of construction of the convent. It has two floors, on the lower one, covered with ribbed vaults in whose keystones the coat of arms of the Catholic Kings, the Alcantara cross and the pear tree, originally from the coat of arms of the Order of Pereiro, are repeated. On the pavement you can see sepulchral tombstones belonging to different Alcantara friars, in some of which the names are still legible. The most characteristic feature of the cloister is the well, which instead of being in the centre, as is normal in monasteries, is attached to the wall. This is due to the fact that it is the fortress of the San Benito convent and, as it is the headquarters of a military order, it had to be prepared so that in the event of a siege, water would be available and could not be cut off or poisoned from outside; the cistern below stored the rainwater that was collected through the canalisation around the cloister.
If the visitor looks up to the tower where there are stairs that go up to the roof, that allowed them to watch the whole perimeter, he will realize that some impressive gargoyles placed on top seem not to lose detail of what happens in their environment. In each corner of the cloister there was an altar, the altar of the Resurrection is the only one that is preserved from the 16th century, each altar was dedicated to one of the stages of Jesus' life, the altar of the Crucifix, the of the Birth and the of the Descent. Going through the cloister you can access the church that was designed by the Catholic Kings as a cathedral, but it was never finished, most of the works were done in the time of Charles V, it is dedicated to the Inmaculada Concepción, it is of Renaissance style, with three apses; the central nave is presided by two coats of arms of Charles V and in the lateral ones are the chapels of the comendadores Diego Santillán and Nicolás de Ovando. The sacristy is located next to the chapel of Santillan, and behind a simple and beautiful gate is the chapel of the Comendador de Piedrabuena. The church was desacralized after the disentailment and was used by the people for their daily use. In the church there are still the wheels of a grain mill. Nowadays, studies and cultural events are held there.
The chapter house or Chapel of Villasayas, in it you can see two funeral arcosolios dedicated to its promoter and his nephew and a triumphal arch that served as an altar when used as a church until the completion of what would be the church of the convent and next to it a small space houses an exhibition on the reconstruction work that was done on the Roman Bridge of Alcantara in the mid-nineteenth century is the sacristy of Santibáñez. The chapel of the Lavatorio with the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs; the refectory, which although it has been completely restored, still has the pulpit stairs and the bench that runs around it, is now used for meetings and conferences. The area known as the Aztec courtyard is where the cells of the freires were, of which only the walls and windows remain. Declared a National Monument in 1914, the most representative, sign and almost emblem of the convent is the facade known as the Gallery of Carlos V, was the hostelry of kings, it housed Carlos the Emperador himself and later his son Felipe II. Touring around this beautiful venue and listening to the guide's stories take the visitor inside and make him feel part of a long and important historical stage.
In the first days of August, in a magical setting, the Gallery of Carlos V of the Conventual de San Benito de Alcántara, at night, in the grandstand that today occupies what was the conventual garden, the representations of the famous and traditional Classical Theatre Festival of Alcántara take place.
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The story goes that during the War of Independence the French evicted the monks from the convent and then plundered and pillaged it and what not, they destroyed it, but among the few books that were saved one of them attracted a lot of attention, it is not known if it was from a soldier or from the French general Junot himself. That book was no more or less than the convent's cookbook, a cookbook in which, over the centuries, generations of Alcantarine freyres had been compiling from the gastronomic tradition of the region. The fact is that the general gave it to his wife Laura Permon, Duchess of Abrantes, who was satisfactorily impressed by making many of these culinary recipes her own.
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The EX-207 road reaches Alcántara, linking it with Portugal and Piedras Albas on the one hand and with Villa del Rey, Brozas, Navas del Madroño, Arroyo de la Luz and Malpartida de Cáceres on the other. The local road CC-113 also reaches Alcántara, connecting it with Mata de Alcántara and Garrovillas de Alconétar. In addition Alcántara has a bus service that from Monday to Friday connects it with the capital Cáceres.
Although as in every town there are other possibilities of access, the most comfortable to travel with our vehicle starts from the Portugal square, next to the road that crosses Alcantara, passes under the Arch of the Concepcion to travel the Lanada street until a fork where we follow the street on the right that will take us without loss to the Conventual of San Benito where we can park our vehicle for the visit.
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