Monastery of Santa Maria De Veruela

Veruela, the Oldest Cistercian Monastery in Aragon, Spain

Veruela is situated in a small valley formed by the River Huecha, which has its source very close to the monastery, and is sheltered by the mythical mount Moncayo. The oldest surviving document which mentions the founding of the monastery dates back to 1 145 when the ground at Veruela was donated for the construction of a Cistercian monastery. This religious order was founded in France in 1098 by Roberto de Molesmes who wished to re-establish the original austerity of the fifth century Benedictine order. Molesmes later retired to Citeaux, near Dijon, . Shortly afterwards, Saint Bernard founded Claraval, taking on a monumental spreading and doctrinal task. In Aragon, great orders were established, notably Veruela (1145 or 1146), Rueda (1153) and Piedra (1194), all of which are found in the province of Zaragoza. These religious orders fomented new cultural, spiritual and religious values and brought economic and political advantages. The roturadores (plowmen), as the Cistercian monks were known, due to their economic and agricultural influence, organised their abbeys into real hubs of activity, by ploughing uncultivated land or territorial borders thus regenerating depopulated or sparsely populated areas, both of which are typical of the Veruela region. Controlled water resource management was necessary and thus the Verolense monks set up a wide-ranging network of irrigation channels, weirs and windmills around the Huecha river basin.

The construction of the monastery must have been sufficiently advanced for the community to move there in 1171. Work on the church continued for another two hundred and fifty years. The end result is sparten, with few sculptured ornaments – in keeping with the doctrine of Saint Bernard – However, the cathedral style proportions and craftsmanship demonstrate the extensive financial \resources of the monastery. High returns maintained a large and undiminishing monk community and alll, veel-for continual improvements and extensions to the monastery. Thus, between 1472 and 1617, the Verolense abbots were appointed by the king and no longer by the Cistercian order. Great abbots from this period were Hernando de Aragon (1535 – 1539), grandson of Ferdinand the Catholic, who later became the Archbishop of Zaragoza, and his good friend and successor, Lope Marco (1539 – 1560).

Under the governance of the Cistercian Brotherhood of the Crown of Aragon, created in 1617, the abbots held office for a period of four years until the event of the abolition of monastic orders when church land was sold off. This political change coincided with one of the largest expansion programmes of the monastery, the construction of the new monastery (XVII-XVIII) incorporating individual cells for the monks (around sixty-five cells).

The Becquer family in Veruela

The selling off of land under Mendizabal in 1835 led to the abandonment of the Monastery of Veruela which had been in irreversible decline since the beginning of the century. The Madrid Central Commission for Artistic Monuments (Cornision central de Monumentos Artisticos de Madrid) insisted on the conservation of the monastery, saving it from destruction. Since then it has been the destination for countless romantics, amongst others, the Becquer brothers Between April 1877 and 1973, the jesuits took up residence here, and used the building for training purposes It was declared a national monument in 1919 and became a listed building in 1928. In 1976 the Spanish Directorate General for Fine Arts granted the Provincial Council of Zaragoza permission to preserve and renovate the building Several hundred million pesetas was invested over a sustained period of more than twenty years. In 1998 Veruela became the property of the Provincial Council of Zaragoza which continues to oversee the restoration works and has initiated a cultural development programme.

Following the selling off of the land in 1835, Veruela became a summer retreat for determined travellers who went to study rocks or enjoy the natural beauty spots at Moncayo where according to a saying dating back to 1861   All ailments are cured by the air in Veruela        The poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer and his brother, the painter Valeriano enjoyed an extended stay in Veruela with their families between December 1863 and July 1864. During this perod, Gustavo Adolfo wrote a series of nine letters known collectively as Desde mi celda (From my cell), written for Madrid’s daily newspaper El Contemporaneo (published between May and October 1864) and Valeriano, who returned to Veruela in August 1865, produced various drawings and water colours, notably Expedicion de Veruela (Columbia University, New York). The poet was already familiar with the area as his wife came from Noviercas in the Sorian area of Moncayo and the Moncayo landscape inspired many of his most famous works such as El monte de las animas (1861), El gnomo and La corza blanca ( 1863)

As a result of their stay in the monastery of Veruela, the two brothers prepared a series of articles on Veruela and its people, written by Gustavo Adolfo and illustrated by Valeriano Becquer s articles published between 1865 and 1869 and his brother Valeriano’s paintings show their interest in anthropology.


History of San Sebastian

King Sancho El Sabio of Navarra’s need for a clear route out to sea for his kingdom led him, to grant the Fuero (or privilege of self-governance) to San Sebastian in 1180, including a series of laws which we can assume to be the official foundation of the town. Maritime trade began to join forces with the traditional activities of cod and whale fishing.

Proximity to France and its position on the Road to Santiago route not only encouraged the development of this little coastal town, but also turned it into a key strategic point during times of war; for this reason it became a garrison town during the 12th century. Although it suffered numerous sieges over the course of centuries, the inhabitants always managed to save the city from its enemies; at least, until 1719, when the first capitulation of the town took place, falling into the hands of France for two years. In 1794, the city surrendered again to the French attackers until 1813, when it was liberated by Anglo-Portuguese soldiers. However, this battle sparked off the worst tire in the history of the town, leaving only a few houses standing, and forcing the citizens to reconstruct it almost from scratch, thus creating the Old Town that we know today.

Happier times were to follow, when Queen Isabel II, whose doctors recommended sea bathing to alleviate her skin afflictions, made summering in San Sebastian fashionable. This was back in 1845, and from then on her presence attracted the Court and numerous members of the aristocracy during the summer months. The city started to become famous Fototeca Kutxa.

Although theories abound as to earlier origins, the first written evidence of San Sebastian dates back to 1014, arising from the donation to Leire of the Monastery of San Sebastian, located in El Antiguo Quarter, by Sancho el Mayor, King of Navarre.

and needed space to grow and expand. The walls were demolished in 1864, and the urban development that took place gave rise to the Ensanche Cortazar, the current town centre. San Sebastian reclaimed land from the Urumea river and the marshes were turned into new neighbourhoods, giving birth to a new, more serviceable city.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, San Sebastian experienced a strong population surge and began a period known as the “Belle Epoque”, becoming the preferred tourist destination of the European upper classes. Queen Maria Cristina installed the court in the Miramar Palace during the summer months and luxury hotels, casinos and theatres flourished in response… During the First World War, moneyed Europeans took refuge from the conflict in San Sebastian. Much of the French influence which is noticeable in the town can be attributed to these visitors.

Not quite such happy times followed with the prohibition of gambling in 1925 and the Spanish Civil War in 1936, in spite of which the city continued to be a favourite amongst the upper classes. The following years of heavy industrialisation gave rise to a dark period to which several errors in urbanisation can be attributed. However, during the second half of the 20th century, San Sebastian consolidated its economic, cultural and tourist potential, encouraging new projects and, at the same time, preserving its natural and historical heritage, becoming, in the process, the magnificent combination of modernity and tradition that we know today.


San Sebastian (Donostia), Spain

San Sebastian is a city where the sea converses with the mountains, history with modernity, culture with humankind, and flavours with textures. It’s a big open-air contemporary museum, with the best of exhibition halls – La Concha Bay, which hugs the Cantabrian Sea in its outstretched arms: a gesture reminiscent of the friendly welcome with which its people greet visitors.

In San Sebastian (Donostia in the Basque tongue) you get a taste of the sea and of culture; but its best taste, the one which has made it world-famous with names as international as those of Arzak, Berasategui and Subijana, is that of its food. The world capital of the “pintxo”, San Sebastian is the Spanish city with the highest number of Michelin stars per square metre. Gastronomy is an art and a pleasure that can be tasted in the city’s many bars and restaurants, where the freshly-cooked food will make your mouth water.                                         

San Sebastian throbs with an intense cultural life that goes far beyond its international festivals such as the International Film Festival and Jazzaldia – International Jazz Festival, and has motivated the City to enter the European Capital of Culture 2016 programme. San Sebastian is a city that’s constantly reinventing itself, with ceaseless cultural activity that extends into all spheres of creativity, from contemporary art to urban culture. The diverse museums and the urban sculptures alone are a good excuse for visiting it.


Burgos Cathedral, a Gothic Masterpiece

The city of Burgos was founded in 884.  It has played a major role in the military and political history of Spain.  It was the capital of the united kingdoms of Castile and Leon from 1073, until losing that title to Valladolid after the fall of Granada in 1492.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Burgos grew from trade, most notably wool.  The wealth generated from the wool trade has financed much of the rich treasures and architecture that can be seen in Burgos today.

 

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Founded in 1221 by Bishop Don Mauricio, Burgos Cathedral is Spain’s third largest church.  It was begun under the reign of Fernando III.  The Latin cross architectural plan measures 82 metres long.  Over three centuries, the construction of the cathedral was carried out in stages.  Many of Europe’s greatest artists and architects were employed for the task.

The style of Burgos Cathedral is mostly Gothic, showing influence from the greate gothic churches of Germany and France.  The nave and cloister were built first, while the intricate crocketed spires and richly decorated side chapels were constructed later.  Built on a sloping hill, the architects had to incorporate stairways inside and out to accommodate the terrain.

The magnificent star-ribbed central dome was begun in 1539.  It rises on four grand pillars.  It is decorated with the images of prophets and saints.  The tomb of the legendary figure of Spain, El Cid, is located directly below the dome.