Huesca thematic

Number 57. February 2003. Spanish language  Principal menu

Monastery of San Juan de la Peña

symbol of the kingdom of Aragón

      The monastery of San Juan de la Peña in the province of Huesca, has for Aragón a similar meaning to the one of Covadonga in Asturias. From the Pyrenean, reconquers winds also blew. A surprising cave, in the middle of a spectacular landscape, almost inaccessible, served to give a new turn to history.
      Their origins ride between the tradition and the legend. The more disclosed version says that the foundation of the monastery must to a fortuitous fact, when a man fron Zaragoza, called Voto, was hunting and he got rid from a sure death when throwing their horse from the high of a rocky reef; the horseman miraculously saved his life thanks to the intercession of San Juan, to that he had invoked at so delicate moment. One affirms after, in the existing cave under the immense rock, he found a small church dedicated to San Juan Baptist and the corpse of a hermit call Juan de Atarés. His impression was so, that Voto, to his return of the hunting, convinced to his brother Félix so that he settled with him in that grotto, doing both life of hermits. Once made this decision, they verified with joy that other many people followed their example.
     One second tradition maintains that several hundreds of Christians raised a strength with intention to resist the Muslim invasion of the VllI century; but documentation does not exist that to confir this fact, nor that the mentioned strength outside destroyed - as also it is said by the troops of the Emir of Cordova.
      The first documentary data of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña date from century X. At this time a small community of monks was based in the paradisiaco place. Still it is possible to contemplate to part of his old dependencies in the mozarabic church and the contiguous room. The mentioned monks fled in year 999, when suffering the attack of the Muslim leader Muhammad ibn Amir al-Mansur, to which the chronicles of the time denominate Almanzor, and was in 1025 when Sancho el Mayor of Navarre founded a new center on the primitive one, which represents the official birth of the own monastery of San Juan de la Peña, that should survive like so until 1835.
      From the first moment received the special attention of Sancho el Mayor and, time later, of the first Aragonese kings, who turned the monastery at one of the most outstanding religious centers of the kingdom. It is to also indicate that San Juan de la Peña was scene for the exposition and development of the policy in Europe, in the religious aspect, of the first Aragonese monarchs. The 21 of April of 1028 the rule of San Benito was introduced, by whom was to govern itself the monastic life, and 43 years later, the 22 of March of 1071, in this monastery was used for the first time in Spain the Roman rite for the liturgy in substitution of the Hispanic-Visigothic or Mozarabic that governed until then in the churches.

      By the same time the cluniacense reform was adopted, call thus to come from the French abbey of Cluny, where received body as opposed to a reaction in front of the wealth accumulated by the benedictine houses, to the time that took place a loss and relaxation in the fulfillment of the rules. Recovered the old ideals of poverty, abstention and obedience, humility and penance, the centers that were put under the cluniacense discipline were left exentos of all civil and episcopal jurisdiction to depend directly on Santa Sede. San Juan de la Peña, whose in front abbot Aquilino put itself, it had an outstanding paper in all the ecclesiastical reform of the kingdom, and it's possible to indicate that in the same year of 1071 the Pope Alexander II took under his special protection this monastery and confirmed its possessions and privileges, and similar help documents granted successive Popes.

 Impressive lodging of the Monastery

      Pantheon of kings, by decision of Ramiro I, Sancho Ramírez and Pedro I, who fulfilled the promise to every year pass in this monastery the Cuaresma and they chose like grave of they themselves and their relatives. San Juan de la Peña is, consequently, the cradle of the kingdom of Aragón, and as so it received innumerable real privileges.
      Only the conquests conducted by Alfonso I moved the center of the political power towards the valley of the Ebro. Soon, the succession of Ramiro II by Ramón Berenguer IV, count of Barcelona, supposed the coming of a new dynasty that no longer felt so closely bound to this monastery of mountains of the Upper Aragon. In fact, there are two monasteries: low and the upper. Nor what to say has it is in the low one in where is unscathed the testimony of centuries X, XI and XII. In 1889, indeed the monastery under (the primitive one) is declared National Monument. Since then, successive works of consolidation and restoration have been made, tending to still on maintain so extraordinary inheritance of the past, that still radiates its inextinguishable light as cradle of the kingdom of Aragón.


* Monasteries of Spain. Salvat Editorial

* Gathered of diverse sources for M. Tomé

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