Monasteries outside Leon

We were based in Léon and wanted a day out of the city so visited several remarkable monasteries. It was a wonderful day trip of c. 90 kms on easy roads. I have written about the monasteries in separate posts but I thought it would be interesting to draw them together, and anyway I don’t really want to leave Léon!

Santa Maria de Sandoval is just outside Mansilla de las Mulas, one of the stops on the Camino de Santiago, and was established in 1167 as a Cistercian Monastery. 

Santa Maria de Sandoval

Santa Maria de Sandoval

The ground floor of the first cloister

The Romanesque Apse next to the second cloister

In the unassuming village of Gradefes we found the Convent of Santa Maria la Real. It was founded in 1171 in the early expansion of the Cistercian Order. It is a calm and beautiful environment, and felt very ‘feminine’ – it was another place we were reluctant to leave.

The doorway into the church

The Apse of the Convent of Santa Maria de Gradefes

I was completely taken by surprise when we stopped outside San Miguel de Escalada. The first church on the site was consecrated in c.951 and we stepped into a building which reminded me of the Mosque in Cordoba.

The interior of San Miguel de Eslonza

Visigothic motifs? In San Miguel de Eslonza

San Miguel de Escalada

And quite by chance we found the rather sad ruins of San Pedro de Eslonza which was founded in 912 and became the second most important Benedictine establishment in Léon, after Sahagun. After religious establishments were taken over by the state in the 1830s the artefacts were sold and the buildings were systematically looted. Fortunately, perhaps, the facade was ‘rescued’ and moved to Léon to face the Church of San Juan and San Pedro Renueva. 

San Pedro de Eslonza

The facade of 1711 in its original position (

San Juan and San Pedro Renueva in Leon

If you have a day to spare in Léon do consider this round trip – just check opening times before setting out!