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Convent of Las Huelgas (Burgos)

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The Convent of Las Huelgas is one of the most famous and important convents in Spain. Since its establisment it became a social centre of great influence that lasted until the second half of the 19 C. The abbesses were all-powerful until then. The Convent was built in the 12 C commissioned by King Alfonso VIII and his Queen Leonor. They wanted a place that could house a Royal Pantheon and a retreat for women from the aristocracy and royalty.

The Pope Clemente III assisted the King in his purpose. From the very beginning, Las Huelgas was favoured by the protection of Popes and Kings. In the Convent were crowned Alfonso XI and his son Enrique de Trastamara and were knighted Fernando III, Alfonso XI, Pedro I and Juan II. At the same time AlfonsoVIII´s dream came true, since the temple contains many royal sepulchres.

The monastic monument is designed as a fortress, with a tower-fortification and an atrium that gives access to the temple, called doorway of Knights. The atrium leads to an exterior church and adjacent funerary chapels (San Martín and San Juan), and from there continues to the San Fernando Cloisters and other rooms. Next to this area stands an enclosure that opens to the gatehouse and the monastic lodgings, as well as other buildings.

The Church, built in the Gothic style, has a large chancel with five apses, a remarkable transept and three naves. At the central nave stands the nuns´choir. To the south of the church rises the cloister built during the reign of Fernando III the Saint. It is a Gothic work with pointed barrel vaults. On some sections are the remains of the original delicate plaster motifs including ornamental bows, arabic foliage, cufic inscriptions, castles, peacocks and griffons. This cloister contains some chapels for the nun´s devotion and leads to the galleries sorrounding a patio. The pointed archs suspended above the galleries used to rest on columns before they were covered by walls in the 17 C, when the high cloister was built.

The Chapter room contains some trophies from the battle of Navas de Tolosa, and the Museum of Fine Fabrics. The museum displays a collection of valuable pieces of fabric, other objects and sacred ornaments, which were removed from Medieval sepulchres included in the church.