Closed on Mondays
* Ticket office closes and last entry to the Monastery one hour before
Limited capacity. Ask at the Monastery
Guided tours only
This convent has such a strong historical connection with the women of the Spanish Hapsburg dynasty that it is seen as the feminine equivalent to the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
It was founded by Juana of Austria (1535-1573), sister of Phillip II and princess of Portugal in 1559, to do this she bought the houses of the treasurer of Charles V, where the Emperor had stayed and where she herself had been born. The small chapel where the founder of the convent is buried is, according to tradition, the same place where she was born and is a beautiful example of the El Escorial style.
The building is a model Plateresque Castilian palace, with Genoese marble columns in the courtyards and rooms decorated with tiles and elaborate plasterwork in the Moorish tradition, but it also shows signs of early Renaissance influence.
The austerity of the barefoot Franciscan order merged here with the noble background of many of the nuns, resulting in quite luxurious works of sacred art.
Such significant history, artistic treasures and the perfect conservation of the complex enables the Las Descalzas convent to offer a unique insight into the Spanish Hapsburgs of the 16th and 17th century.
Princesses and infantas would usually spend various periods at the convent in the "Royal Chambers". Maria of Austria, Empress of the Holy Roman, live and died here and Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633), daughter of Phillip II, was educated here and later donated Rubens's famous Eucharist Tapestries to the convent. These tapestries were displayed in the church and the chaplains' cloisters during the Easter period and, especially, during the Good Friday procession; an exceptional liturgical ritual for which music was composed by the Chapel Master and personal chaplain to the Empress, Tomás Luis de Victoria.