Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas

Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas (47)

Before becoming a monastery, this building was used by the Almohades in the 7th century, as a place filled with pottery ovens, to take advantage of the abundance of clay in the area, which they extracted from caves. In fact, legend has it that in 1248 an image of the Virgin Mary appeared in one of these caves, and that is why the Ermita de Santa María de las Cuevas [Our Lady of the Caves Hermitage] was built on this site.

Later, in the 15th century, the Carthusians built this enormous complex of buildings that we see today. You will be interested to know that Christopher Columbus himself lived and worked here, and his body was buried in the crypt of the Santa Ana [Saint Anne] chapel in the monastery until 1538.

The Carthusians, who lived here until the middle of the 19th century, were responsible for creating much of the key artwork of the Sevillian School, given that some of the pieces by artists such as Murillo, Zurbarán, Martínez Montañés and Pedro Roldán were commissioned by them. 

During the Napoleonic invasion of 1810, the Carthusians were expelled and the monastery was invaded by the French and transformed into barracks. The monks who fled to Portugal returned in 1812 and remained until 1836.

Abandoned and deteriorating, the monastery was purchased by an English merchant, Charles Pickman, in 1839, who set up a china and porcelain factory in the convent in 1841, which over the years would transform the entire complex. Even today, you can see five of the ten ovens that were built. The factory continued doing business until 1982, and the china and porcelain made there is still valued the worldwide.

Tremendous restoration and rebuilding efforts began in 1986. Since 1997, a large part of the site has been occupied by the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, whose permanent collection boasts some of the finest works by 20th and 21st century Andalusian artists. The centre hosts a series of travelling painting, photography, installation and performance exhibitions by world-renowned artists.

A visit to the monastery will allow you to see some interesting and valuable works of art, although many have been transferred to the Cathedral or the Museo de Bellas Artes.  

From the chained door, where you enter the cloister, among the many places that you can visit, we suggest the Chapel of Santa Catalina [Saint Catherine], adorned with tiles, the Mudejar-style church with a single nave, richly decorated with baroque ornamentation on pilasters and cornices, the Santa Ana Chapel, with the crypt that held the remains of Christopher Columbus from 1509 to 1536, or the part that was the centre of the monk’s lives, the beautiful 15th century cloister.

Finally, keep in mind that in 1964 the monastery was declared a National Monument.

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