It had been a wonderful day visiting extraordinary monasteries in the countryside around Léon and 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.
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.
This Benedictine monastery was apparently 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, who 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 then in the 1830s monastic properties throughout Spain were expropriated by the state under legislation promoted by Mendizabal, the then Prime Minister. The effects of the legislation 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.
The site is closed and renovation of sorts is underway, but so much has been lost in the last century is is heartbreaking. Judging from the 1908 photograph by Gómez Moreno (above) the photograph of the cloister (below) must have been earlier, in the 19C.I had noticed on the signboard that the main facade of the monastery, in Baroque style, had been transferred to a church in Leon and so we went to look for it. In the period between 1947-53 Bishop Almarcha moved the facade to a new church, San Juan y San Pedro de Renueva in León. The facade had been created by Fray Pedro Martínez de Cardeña, a Benedictine architect, in 1711.
I found this a rather sad story, particularly when I read more about the monastery some weeks later.