It is situated on the banks of the river Cúa in the town of Carracedo del Monasterio, in the heart of the region of El Bierzo, between Ponferrada and Villafranca del Bierzo and a few kilometres from its neighbour Cacabelos. The Monastery of Santa María de Carracedo, originally Benedictine and under the name of San Salvador de Carracedo, was founded by Bermudo II El Gotoso in 990 and numerous monks from other convents who fled from the troops and attacks of Almanzor arrived here, although this monastery was not saved either and was almost destroyed. It was rebuilt in the 12th century under the auspices of Doña Sancha, sister of Alfonso VII of León. At this time, due to the great periods of Doña Sancha in the monastery and within its enclosure, the so-called Queen's Palace was built. Little by little it prospered and acquired great economic, religious and political power, becoming a great monastery that ruled other Benedictine convents in the lands of León, Galicia, Asturias and Zamora.
In the 13th century it was taken under the Cistercian Order and changed its title from San Salvador to Santa María la Real. The 14th century brought for the monastery a true religious, moral and economic decadence that was solved in the year 1505 with its adhesion to the Cistercian Congregation of Castilla, living again a brilliant resurgence and undertaking numerous reforms, finishing them in the 18th century with the construction of the present church where the old Cistercian was located. The War of Independence, with the invasion of the French and the different ecclesiastical disentailments were the cause of its total abandonment, until in 1990 it was partially restored, but before that in 1928 it was declared National Monument.
When the visitor goes to the entrance of this grandiose monastery, because of its size and because of what it keeps inside, he does not know that he is going to discover on his way some rooms that are going to transport him to other times and that with what they are going to show him, they are going to set his imagination in motion in order to complete and be able to recreate the scenes, in other times lived here. A collection of periods and architectural styles parade before your eyes at every step, from the Romanesque transition of the primitive church, to the Gothic Queen's viewpoint, or the Renaissance cloister, refectory and sacristy, ending in the baroque and neoclassical of the current church.
Bordering the so-called Third Courtyard, built between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, you enter the Reglar Cloister from which a staircase, Renaissance style, invites you to access the most striking experience of the visit, the three rooms of the Royal Palace of the thirteenth century. The Queen's Viewpoint is one of the best known images of the monastery, because of its artistic gallery of three arches, which can be reached today by a functional staircase from the outside. From the viewpoint one enters the Queen's Kitchen, which is a large quadrangular room where four slender columns with arches support a central vault and where its windows and oculi show an impressive fireplace in a corner of the room. Passing through a door with a tympanum where the dead Virgin surrounded by the apostles is represented, one enters what was the archive, but which in its origins could have been the abbot's oratory. From and around the Renaissance Reglar Cloister, you can access the sixteenth-century sacristy, the Chapterhouse, the parlour and a passage leading to the orchard. On the walls of the Chapterhouse are niches with abbots' tombs.
The Refectory, which dates back to the end of the 12th century, and the storage area and kitchen, are today the room-museum, or interpretation centre of the Monastery. It should not be forgotten, either, that its outbuildings housed a hostelry, a hospital and a prison. A stroll through the remains of the cloister of the inn leads to the 18th century church and neoclassical façade, built on the remains of the primitive Romanesque-Proto-Gothic temple. In an inscription on the door of the church, one can read how on 29 August 1810 the first democratic representatives of the Leonese were elected to the Cortes de Cádiz in the Monastery of Carracedo. Furthermore, if you want to enjoy and immerse yourself even more in the environment offered by the monastery, you can attend a Medieval Festival every first weekend in August, a festival that has been declared of provincial tourist interest, with a market, parade, theatres, a medieval dinner, a medieval night...
The Infanta Doña Sancha, sister of the emperor Alfonso VII of León, is traditionally remembered by the locals as Queen Doña Sancha. Although she did not possess this title, she did govern in El Bierzo from the palace of Villabuena with the charge of governor and in the name of her brother, as a true "berciana" queen. Alfonso himself ordered that she be called queen and that everyone have her as such.
The Western Schism of the year 1378 to 1417 also had its influence in Santa María de Carracedo because two abbots were named, each one following one of the two opposing popes.
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Carracedo is a great book, a true paradise for lovers of the Marks of Stonework and Cryptograms, there are identified a total of 844 signs, with 126 different types, and are located outside the church, medieval tower and outbuildings of the monastery. A true crossword puzzle for the intrepid visitor to try to discover
We can reach Carracedo del Monasterio from the A-6, more specifically in the stretch between Ponferrada and Villafranca del Bierzo we will find the access to this town, which communicates directly with the road LE-158/7 that will take us to the town. Also following this same road but in the opposite direction we can arrive from Cacabelos. The closest bus services to Carracedo del Monasterio are through the nearby town of Cacabelos that cover the line Ponferrada-Cacabelos from Monday to Saturday at different times.
The access to the enclosure of the Monastery of Santa María de Carracedo will be in full road LE-158/7, without needing to enter the locality.
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Bonito y místico lugar, muy propicio para la ensoñación
8:05 h.28 km.
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