The Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada is about 10 kms away from the Convent of Santa Maria la Real in Gradefes and it is another magical and surprising church in countryside which feels very remote.
History of the Monastery of San Miguel
San Miguel de Escalada is built on the site of an earlier Visigothic temple which was dedicated to St Michael. San Miguel was consecrated in c.951. A group of monks from Cordoba wanted to escape religious intolerance in that city and founded this monastery. After that, the community had a mixed history, as this article explains. Like many other religious institutions the monastery was abandoned in 1836 when the state expropriated church lands and today only the church remains. The building is a mix of Mozarabic (or Pre-Romanesque) and Romanesque architecture and absolutely exquisite. As always, one visit doesn’t begin to uncover all the delights, but sadly it isn’t always possible to return.
Inside the church
As you step through the arches of the porch and into the church you are in another era, another culture. The light in the church is soft and filters through alabaster windows. It reminded me more of the Mosque in Cordoba than a Christian Church.
Inside the church there is very little decoration. There are carved stone ‘gates’ to the small side chapel and I believe these are Visigothic motifs, perhaps from the original temple? The capitals of the columns are very simple. The capitals of the pillars in the porch seem to be more elaborate.
The exterior of the church
The porch was an ‘overflow’ for the church congregation but apparently also gave shelter to coffins before a funeral, rather like the lych gates in England. I saw several of these porches in the north of Spain.
Behind the church are foundations – perhaps the remains of the monastery buildings?
The buildings today are the 10C Pre-Romanesque church and the older and taller building which includes a tower from the end of the 11C. This section stands to one side of the early church. Underneath the tower is a chapel which was not open. The separation is a little clearer in the photograph below.