The Church & Cloisters of San Jerónimo el Real

The Church of San Jerónimo el Real, Madrid

The church you can see today in the Calle Moreto is what remains of the monastery of San Jerónimo el Real. The Iglesia Parroquial de San Jerónimo el Real (Parish Church of Royal St. Jerome) was founded in Madrid in 1503 during the time of Queen Isabella I, and is popularly known as "Los Jerónimos."

It was originally built in a style known as Isabelline Gothic, but has undergone a series of additions and changes over the centuries so that it now displays a mixture of architectural styles. For some time it was the official Royal Church.

From 1528 to 1833 the monastery was the site of the investiture of the Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne. The monks were expelled in 1808 during the War of Independence, and the church was closed temporarily in 1836 following the Decree Exclaustration, when it was used for a time as the headquarters of the artillery.

During the late 19th century, it underwent two main periods of restoration, the first ending in 1859 with Pascual y Colomer's addition of the towers, and in 1879 with restoration as a parish church by Enrique María Repullés y Vargas. The impressive stairway leading to the entrance was constructed in 1906 for the wedding of King Alfonso XIII, and King Juan Carlos I was proclaimed King in the church in 1975.

The renaissance-style cloister, originally built in the 16th century, was replaced a century later by one in Baroque style, by Fray Lorenzo de San Nicolás. This is the cloister which survived sufficiently to be included in the recent extension to the Museo del Prado. The cloister was dismantled and removed stone by stone to be incorporated into the museum's new extension.

A total of 2,820 stones were removed and carefully documented and catalogued before being taken for restoration in studios in Alcalá de Henares. The stones of the cloister were then replaced in almost exactly their original position and enclosed with a concrete skin, to make it an integral part of the Prado extension.

The church itself is an impressive sight next to the Prado Museum. It also contains its share of art treasures, including works by Carducho and José Méndez and Juan de Mena's Cristo de la Buena Muerte.

It is open from 8.30am to 1.30pm, and again from 5.30pm to 8.00pm daily. The nearest metro station is Retiro, and it is also a short walk from Madrid's other main museums and galleries, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Ritz and Palace hotels are close by.