Las Huelgas is a Cistercian Convent which dates from 1187. It stands on the outskirts of Burgos, on the edge of the Parque El Parral. It is the most important establishment of its kind in Spain. Visits to Las Huelgas are controlled and guided and no photography is allowed inside the buildings.
A brief history of Las Huelgas
The convent was founded by Pope Clement III and Alfonso VIII of Castile who stipulated that it should be a Cistercian organisation. It was also stipulated that the convent should be the burial place of the royal family.
Alfonso VIII was born in Soria in 1155 – we would be visiting the town later in the trip. He married Leonor, the daughter of Henry II and Elranor of Aquitaine. During his life he fought against the Moorish occupation of Spain and was successful in regaining some of the country.
There are some wonderful photographs of the interior of the convent (how was this possible?) here.
A hospital developed in association with the convent. It was managed by a group of lay brothers, to care for pilgrims on the camino, but the organisation was suppressed in the late 1500s.
The entrance into the convent is through a pointed archway off a cobbled road in a quiet residential area.
There are two cloisters in the convent. The first dates from the end of the 12th century and the second, the Cloister of San Fernando, from a century later. In the later cloister the arches are Mudejar with decorated columns.
Museum of textiles
The convent houses an important collection of Mediaeval textiles, some of which are displayed in a large hall. This is the Museo de Ricas Telas which opened in 1987. The items include the tent covering of the Caliph Al Nasir, seized in battle in 1212. The other items are textiles and clothes found in royal tombs.
The convent of Las Huelgas is worth visiting, but the guided visit takes an hour and the guide speaks fast and in Spanish.