It is located in the village to which it gives its name, on the banks of the river Jalón, in the southeast of the province of Soria. In 1142 a community of Cistercian monks from the French abbey of Berdoues settled in Cantabos. This monastery, the origin of the Monastery of Santa María de Huerta and one of the first Cistercian foundations in Spain, was located in a place where water was scarce and so it was decided to move it to the lands near the river Jalón. From 1151, work was carried out on the transfer to Huerta, which took place in 1162. However, it was Alfonso VIII in 1179 who laid the foundation stone of the monastery; under his reign the Cistercian Order took on a great boom, and its first elected abbot, Martín de Finojosa, was responsible for organising the new Cistercian house and giving impetus to its construction and settlement. The Monastery of Santa María de Huerta, located on the border of the kingdoms of Castilla and Aragón, was endowed with privileges, lands and exemptions by both kingdoms.
The monastery suffered from the war between the Pedros, the Cruel and the Ceremonioso, in the second half of the 14th century, beginning a period of decadence that lasted until the end of the 15th century when it joined the reformed Cistercian Congregation of Castilla, which gave it a long period of prosperity, managing to recover a more than flourishing estate that in the 16th century allowed work to be undertaken to extend the monastery under the patronage of Carlos V and Felipe II. The eighteenth century with its political ups and downs, as well as various weather events, floods ... brought to the monastery a new era of decline that continued in the nineteenth century with the War of Independence and later the Disentailment of Mendizábal, with the exclaustration, led to the closure and abandonment of the monastery, in 1846 was sold at public auction. On the death in 1930 of the Marquis of Cerralbo, whose work and eagerness to save the monastery from total ruin, and who was declared a national monument in 1882, the Cistercian monks who came from the Abbey of Cóbreces in Cantabria, fulfilling the will of the deceased, returned to occupy and care for it.
A monumental door, dating from the 16th century and extended in the 18th century, opened on the canvases of the medieval walls that surrounded the Monastery of Santa María de Huerta and which provided the monks with protection and, above all, the isolation they needed in their daily lives of prayer and work, welcomes the visitor who, on passing through it, can admire the front of the church with its beautiful façade and the immense rose window of more than eight metres in diameter which, together with the Gothic refectory, have become the saint and sign of the Monastery of Santa María de Huerta. The church, which began to be built in the 12th century and was completed around the 14th century, houses the Romanesque tombs and urns of the Finojosa family and is presided over by a magnificent 18th century Baroque altarpiece. The visit to the monastic complex and rooms begins in the 17th century Herrerian cloister, with two floors, and in the middle, the statues of San Martín de Finojosa and Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada. The oldest parts of the monastery that can be visited are the convert's refectory and the cilla or warehouse, both from the 12th century.
The Gothic cloister with its first floor from the 13th century and the upper floor in the Plateresque style built in the 16th century. Walking through this cloister you can admire the remains of the chapter house, and the royal staircase, the kitchen and its famous refectory or monks' dining room whose construction began in 1215, a masterpiece of Cistercian art and quite possibly the most famous room in the Monastery of Santa María de Huerta. This room is almost comparable in height to the church, with its six-sided vaults and large windows and a beautiful arched staircase, open in the wall, which gives access to the pulpit from which the monk on duty read the biblical passages while the rest of the community ate in silence. This beautiful place, where the stones are in harmony with the spirituality, silence and harmony, does not leave the visitor unmoved, who can also enjoy a landscape and environment as spectacular as the Sabinares del Jalón through the long distance footpath GR 86 that links Santa María de Huerta with other towns such as Montuenga de Soria, Iruecha, Judes and Layna. Hiking along roads, paths, ravines and tracks, brings you closer to places of great cultural, environmental and scenic value.
The so-called white monks, the Cistercian Order, have their origin in the year 1098 when St. Robert and twenty-one other monks chose the isolated and unknown place of French Burgundy, called Citeaux, to begin the literal observance of the Rule of St. Benedict and founding a monastery there. The Cistercian name, the Cister, is therefore a Castilianization of the Citeauciennes or inhabitants of Citeaux.
The lay brothers were taken in by the monks to look after the gardens and the farms, which were usually a little further away from the monastery.
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According to oral history the image of the Virgin, which is venerated in the monastery of Santa María de Huerta, the Virgen de las Navas, is the one carried by Archbishop Ximénez de Rada in the famous battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.
Santa María de Huerta is located next to the A-2 highway that connects Madrid with Zaragoza, the CL-116 road connects it with Almazán. Santa María de Huerta has a bus service that connects it with Soria and Almazán at different times and from Monday to Saturday. In Santa María de Huerta there are daily trains that connect it with Madrid and Zaragoza.
On the old N-II as it passes through Santa María de Huerta we find the signposted turn-off that goes into the town and after crossing the railway line leads us to the car park set up a short distance from the monastery, where we can park our vehicle and then walk the distance to it.
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