The Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza

posted in: Europe, Home, Leon, Spain | 2

It had been a wonderful day visiting extraordinary monasteries in the countryside around Léon. As we were driving back I noticed a sign showing an historical site. In a spur of the moment decision I pulled off the road to find the ruined Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza.

Countryside around Leon
Countryside around Leon
The runined Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza
Information board at the Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza
The ruined Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza
The ruined Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza today

In 1908 Gómez Moreno photographed these monuments in Leon and produced his ‘Monumental Catalogue of Spain: Province of Léon’. The photograph below is of the Monastery in 1908.

San Pedro de Eslonza in 1908
San Pedro de Eslonza in 1908 (

The history of San Pedro de Eslonza

San Pedro was a Benedictine monastery and once the second-most important establishment in Léon, after the monastery at Sahagún. It was founded in 912 by King García I of León, but was destroyed during the Moorish invasion by Al-Mansur in 988. Rebuilding started in 1099, supported by Urraca, daughter of Ferdinand I of León and Castile. She continued to support the monastery financially when in 1109 she became queen of Galicia, León and Castile.

The monastery continued, with rebuilding in 16C-18C. But in the 1830s monastic properties throughout Spain were expropriated by the state under legislation promoted by Mendizabal, the Prime Minister. The effect on the religious houses, and the artistic heritage of Spain were disastrous. This particular monastery, which must have been magnificent, fell rapidly into disrepair through neglect and looting. The final insult came when the Baroque facade was removed to Léon (1947-59) to face the Church of San Juan and San Pedro Renueva. 

San Pedro de Eslonza today

The ruins of San Pedro de Eslonza
Ruined San Pedro de Eslonza
The ruins of San Pedro de Eslonza
San Pedro de Eslonza
Renovation work at San Pedro de Eslonza

The public cannot access the site today. It seems that the local authority is trying to rescue the remains of the Monastery. But so much has been lost in the last century it is heartbreaking. Judging from the 1908 photograph by Gómez Moreno (above) the photograph of the cloister (below) must have been earlier, in the 19C.

A photograph of the Cloister, date unknown (

San Pedro Renueva

I read on the information board that the main Baroque facade of the monastery had been transferred to a church in Leon. In the period between 1947-53 Bishop Almarcha moved the facade to a new church,  San Juan y San Pedro de Renueva in León. Fray Pedro Martínez de Cardeña, a Benedictine architect, created the facade in 1711.

The facade of 1711 in its original position (
The Church of San Juan & San Pedro Renueva in Leon

I found this a rather sad story, particularly when I read more about the monastery some weeks later.

Further information
The Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza
San Pedro de Eslonza – the sacking of a Monastery

2 Responses

  1. Candy Blackham

    Thank you. I am not sure if I should be sad that the building was so vandalised, or pleased that something should be retained. It is difficult to decide which buildings to preserve and which not, particularly if they are no longer in regular use.

  2. wanderessence1025

    What a surprise find, Candy. I love how you show the ruins and then the photographs of the monastery in its heyday, along with the description of how it came to ruin. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and story. 🙂

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