Monastery of Santa María la Real de Nájera

Founded in 1032 by King García el de Nájera as Marian temple, convent and royal pantheon, the Monastery of Santa María la Real was declared National Monument in 1889. It was originally built in the Romanesque style, but in the 1st quarter of the 15th century it was restored in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. The irregular structure is the result of the different phases of construction, being the most outstanding elements the church and the cloister.

It has belonged to different Religious Orders; in 1079 Alfonso VI of Castilla donated it to the Cluniac monks. In 1487 the Pope handed it over as a commandery to Rodrigo de Borja, who later became Pope Alenjandro VI. This means that from this year to 1513, Santa María was an independent abbey. Since the late 19th century, after the deterioration and despoiling it suffered because of the expropiation, the Monastery has been governed by a Franciscan community.

The original church was built between 1044 and 1056 in the Romanesque style and it was rebuilt throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. It has 3 naves with 5 parts of different height, a transept and a triple absidal end. The vaults have ribs and tercerons in the east side , transept aisle and the last section of the epistle nave. A triforium stands above the transept and the east side, which, on the exterior have six defensive round towers as buttresses.

One of the most beautiful elements is the choir, with outstanding choir stalls, one of the best in Spanish Art History. They were created in the Flamboyant Gothic style around 1495. Below stands the Royal Pantheon dominated by the statues of the founder kings, where can be admired, among other sepulchres, the sarcophagus of Doña Blanca de Navarra. At the center of the pantheon, dug into the rock, is the entrance to the cave where, as Legend tells, King García discovered the image of the Virgin.

The Cloister of Los Caballeros, tomb of many noblemen, is one of the many treasures of La Rioja Architecture. The Chapel of Veracruz, built by Queen Doña Mencía López de Haro of Portugal, houses her sepulchre and her brothers´ , as well as Garcilaso de la Vega´s, the great poet.