Real Monasterio de la Encarnación

Real Monasterio de la Encarnación, Madrid

In central Madrid, just to the north of the Plaza de Oriente and within easy reach of the city's monuments and museums, is the baroque Real Monasterio de la Encarnación. It has been open to the public since the 1980s, and is especially well known for its reliquary, which contains Madrid's most famous relic.

The relic in question is a container with the blood of St. Pantaleón which turns to liquid each year on July 27th. If it should turn to liquid at any other time of year, there is a belief that the country will be in danger. The reliquary also contains around 700 other items of note from Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

St. Pantaleón was from Nicodemia (now northern Turkey) and was brought up a Christian by his mother, St. Eubula, but lapsed and went to study medicine under a physician known as Euphrosinos. He was reconverted to Christianity by Saint Hermolaus, bishop of Nicodemia who taught him that faith is stronger than medicine, a doctrine which was to have a powerful influence on the direction of European medicine until the 16th century.

Pantaleón gave away his inherited wealth to the poor in Nicodemia and was highly thought of there for a number of miracles he performed. He eventually, however, fell victim to the Diocletian persecutions in the early 4th century, and he was condemned to death, but each gruesome attempt to execute him was doomed to failure by miraculous apparitions. Eventually he was executed, it is said, because he himself wished it to happen. He is venerated as one of the 14 Holy Helpers.

The Real Monasterio de la Encarnación was founded in 1611 by Margaret of Austria, and designed by the architects Juan Gómez de Mora and Fray Alberto de la Madre de Dios. It was renovated in 1761 by Ventura Rodríguez.

At one time, the monastery buildings were connected by a corridor to the Alcázar, the building which preceded the current Royal Palace.

A guided tour takes place in Spanish and takes around 20 minutes. It goes through a number of rooms and galleries containing paintings and sculptures, including works by Vicente Carducho, Juan Van der Hammen, Gregorio Fernández and Pedro de Mena.

The tour has the following times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 10.30am to 12.45pm, nad 4.00pm to 5.45pm; Friday 10.30am to 12.45pm, Sunday and holidays 11.00am to 1.45pm. It is closed on Mondays. The nearest metro station is Opera, and buses 3, 25, 39 and 148 can also take you there.

The church is located at Plaza de la Encarnación, 1. Entrance is free with the Madrid Card.