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Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas de San Ildefonso

Convent of Trinitarias Descalzas, Madrid

The Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas de San Ildefonso, with its simple and austere architecture, was founded in 1609 but moved to its current site at number 18 Calle Lope de Vega in 1612. The buildings were renovated in 1639, when a new church and cloister were planned, but the war with Portugal prevented the current set of buildings from being completed until 1698, first by the architect Marcos López, and finally by José de Arroyo.

The walled complex was declared a national monument in 1921, and underwent restoration in two periods, 1869 and 1939, by the Real Acadmemia Española. The baroque alter piece is dedicated to San Ildefonso, a seventh century archbishop who became the patron saint of Toledo.

Miguel de Cervantes, Spain's greatest writer and author of the classic Don Quixote, was originally buried in the church, but his remains were later lost. He died in 1616, and his body was carried to the Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas where his daughter lived as a nun, and where his wife is also buried. It's certain the great man is buried somewhere within the walls but no-one is quite sure where.

Cervantes lived and wrote in Madrid for part of his difficult life, and his creation, Don Quixote, remains a larger-than-life figure not only in Spain but around the world. He has even given rise to words such as "quixotic" describing something chivalrous and idealistic. The convent has become such a focal point of pilgrimage for devotees of Cervantes that it is often known as "Las Trinitarias de Cervantes".

Cervantes lived in Calle de las Huertas, running parallel to the Calle Lope de Vega where the convent is situated. Las Huertas district is known as the "barrio de las letras" (the neighbourhood of letters) due to several famous writers having lived here (Cervantes, Quevedo, Gongora). It is full of jazz cafes, pubs and restaurants and has an arty or literary atmosphere, evoking the Golden Age of Spanish literature as well as more recent trends. The district was also home to other renowned Spanish literary figures such as Lope de la Vega, whose daughter, like Cervantes' daughter, became a nun in the Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas.

The Huertas district is enclosed within the following streets: Atocha, San Sebastian, Plaza del Angel, Calle del Prado, Plaza de Las Cortes, Duque de Medinaceli, Plaza Jesus, Calle Jesus, Huertas and the Paseo del Prado. It is a short walk from here to the lively Plaza de Santa Ana square with its taverns, ale houses and restaurants. And in the other direction you can find the major Paseo de la Castellana avenue, on the other side of which is the Prado Museum.

The nuns in the convent live within a closed order, and the church is only open during Mass, which is at 9.30am on weekdays, 7.30pm on Saturdays and 10.00am and 12.00am on Sundays. The nearest metro station is Anton Martín, and close by are Madrid's main museums and art galleries. Madrid's beautiful public park in the centre of the city, the Buen Retiro Park, is also close by.

Photo courtesy of alejandro blanco on Flickr




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