This 15th-century monastery is an elaborate and imposing structure, designed to display the power and might of Spain’s Catholic monarchs.
Standing conspicuously in what was once Toledo’s Jewish quarter, the San Juan de los Monastery serves as a symbol for the triumph of Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. Don’t miss the monastery’s spectacular two-story cloisters, which surround a charming garden complete with orange trees.
Upon entry, pick up an explanatory leaflet to find out more about the complex. Building began on the monastery under orders of the then reigning Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, in celebration of their victory over the Portuguese at Toro. Though the monarchs originally intended that this would be their final resting place, this never came to be. They were, in fact, later entombed in Granada’s cathedral instead.
The church was damaged during Napoleon’s invasion, but has undergone restoration. Enter today and you’ll find it in good condition. Inside the nave, look for symbols that were intended to reinforce the power and might of the monarchs who had it built. The royal coat of arms, for instance, can be seen in several spots across the main chapel, including in the sanctuary.
The undoubted highlight of the complex is the two-story cloister, which is set around an attractive courtyard garden. Admire the intricate details of the cloisters, which feature both Gothic and Mudéjar-style elements, including gargoyles, ornate pinnacles and columns adorned with animal and floral motifs and sculptures of biblical figures. The bottom cloister has a ribbed vaulted ceiling, while the upper cloister has a wooden coffered ceiling.
After strolling around the cloisters, exit into the courtyard garden. Although the garden isn’t big, it is lush and charming and features fruit-laden trees and rose bushes. The monastery is still active and visitors may encounter Franciscan monks on the grounds.
Find San Juan de los Reyes Monastery in the Cigarrales district of Toledo. The monastery is open to visitors daily. Opening hours are reduced in winter. A small fee is required to enter; however, children under the age of 11 get in free. For extra background information, pick up an audio guide inside the monastery.