Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos
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Located in the Valley of Tabladillo, on the banks of the Mataviejas River, the monastery presides over the town to which it gives its name.
Today, the monastery continues to host a small community of Benedictine monks. Therefore, if we are going to visit the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, only access to the cloister, the pharmacy and the museum is allowed.
The Silos cloister is one of the greatest works of European Romanesque art. A space in which we will be enveloped in an unforgettable atmosphere of transcendence. Presided over by the famous Silos cypress , it transmits to all its visitors a mixture of sensations caused by the harmony of forms and the balance between the spirit and the creative capacity of man.
Next, we will discover it for you.
HISTORY OF THE MONASTERY OF SILOS
The origins of the Santo Domingo de Silos Monastery can be traced back to the end of the 6th century in a modest Visigothic monastery. Although the documentary sources do not leave evidence until the 10th century of the existence of the Silense monastery. It was then dedicated to the holy martyr San Sebastián . We are in the Castilla de Fernán González .
From the eleventh century, the sources that tell us about the place multiply. Of course, the panorama they present is bleak. The skirmishes of the Arab troops had been joined by the disenchantment of its few inhabitants. But the situation will change radically when Domingo Manso takes over the monastery in 1041. It will go down in history as Santo Domingo de Silos .
SANTO DOMINGO DE SILOS
Tradition places the birth of the saint in the year 1000 in the Riojan town of Cañas . Cañas belonged then to the kingdom of Navarra. After serving as shepherd of the family flock, he gave himself up to ecclesiastical studies. He was ordained a priest at the age of 26. After a brief hermitic experience, he entered the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla . The abbey lived a very prosperous time, with numerous monks and an active cultural life. There, Santo Domingo dedicated himself to the formation of the children of the monastery. Given his worth, he is entrusted with the restoration of the priory that San Millán had in Cañas.
After achieving his goal, he returned to San Millán as Major Prior. But a confrontation with the then King of Navarre forces him to take the road to Castile. The King of Castile, Fernando I , entrusted Domingo with the monastery of San Sebastián de Silos. It could perhaps be moved by the requests of the father of the Cid Campeador with possessions in the area. The bishop of Florida blesses the new abbot in the first weeks of 1041.
During his 33 years of government, he restored the monastery in all aspects. He recovered the strict observance of the Benedictine rule. He planned in Romanesque style the new works of the church, perhaps also of the cloister, and other dependencies. He also revitalized the monastery's scriptorium. He immediately placed the monastery as one of the most important in Castile.
Domingo died on December 20, 1073. He was buried in the north wing of the cloister. Very soon, due to the many wonders attributed to his intercession, he was elevated to altars (1076). After his canonization his remains are transferred to the church. His cult spread quickly, becoming one of the most revered saints on the Peninsula.
MONASTERY OF SANTO DOMINGO DE SILOS
As we have commented, to the work of Santo Domingo de Silos we owe the revitalization of the monastery in all areas. In addition, after his death, his fame led to the arrival of pilgrims and large financial contributions. It quickly became a prosperous monastery that was able to undertake new constructions.
To his successor, Abbot Fortunio , we owe the completion of the work on the church and the construction of the cloister. The first became one of the most outstanding examples of the Spanish Romanesque. It was replaced in the mid-18th century by the current temple designed by Ventura Rodríguez in the neoclassical style.
Better luck ran the one that has become the emblem of the monastery and one of the masterpieces of European medieval Christian art: the Romanesque cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos .
SANTO DOMINGO DE SILOS CLOISTER
The cloister of the Silos monastery is one of the most beautiful examples of all Romanesque art. It is exceptional in the existence of a double story with perfect unity of style, despite the chronological difference. Also surprising for its superb sculptural ensemble.
It is shaped like an irregular quadrilateral. The southern and northern galleries are longer, about 33 meters in length and 16 arcades. Those that open to the east and west are a little smaller. They have 14 arches each. They make up a set of 60 semicircular arches that rest on paired columns. Five-column supports are arranged in the centers of the galleries. The exception would be the west wing where four torso columns are located.
The 64 capitals, mostly double, are of unsurpassed plastic beauty. The enormous thematic imagination ranges from real and mythological animals, allegories of vices and virtues, to plant or geometric motifs. There are only two historiated capitals. One with scenes from the Passion of Christ : Entry into Jerusalem , Washing of the Feet, and Last Supper . In the other, the Nativity Cycle is represented: Annunciation , Visitation , Nativity , Angel announced to the Shepherds and Flight into Egypt .
The corners of the cloister are decorated with eight reliefs. They are worked in monolithic blocks of limestone. Most narrate moments of the Passion of Christ. Those that represent the Disciples of Emmaus and the Doubt of Saint Thomas stand out.
There has been a discussion about the start dates of the works of the cloister and about the workshops or artists who have participated in them. Apparently the east and north galleries were already working during the last decades of the 11th century. It also seems clear that at least three teachers have participated in the execution of the cloister:
First Master of Silos
It would be in charge of the realization, in the last years of the eleventh century, of the reliefs of the Ascension of Christ , Pentecost , Holy Burial and Resurrection , Descent , Disciples of Emmaus , and Duda de Santo Tomás , as well as the capitals of the east bays. and north, and part of the west.
The reliefs of the first phase have a great capacity for narrative synthesis. They include several consecutive scenes in a single relief. The scenes are framed by Corinthian columns that support a semicircular arch. They are characterized by a flat bas-relief, hieratic and repeated figures subject to the law of isocephaly and at the beginning of hierarchy, with Christ with a cruciferous nimbus.
Second Master of Silos
During the 12th century, he is responsible for the rest of the capitals in the west gallery and the reliefs of the Tree of Jesse and the Annunciation and Triumph of Mary . The figures already overflow the frame, they have more volume, with more rounded shapes and greater movement, realism and expressiveness. Some characteristics that are already announcing the Gothic.
It would execute the cloister of the upper floor at the beginning of the XIII century. Around the second floor of the cloister are the rooms of the monks.
In addition to the exceptional carving of capitals and reliefs, in the cloister there are other elements that will attract our attention.
Only the door of the Virgins remains from the original Romanesque church factory. It communicated the southern arm of the transept with the cloister. This door is dated around 1120 and stands out for its Mozarabic tradition horseshoe arch, for the original shapes that decorate the shafts of the columns and for the decorative motifs on the capitals that are close to caricature.
Sepulcher of Santo Domingo de Silos
In the center of the north bay of the cloister there are remains of the anthropomorphic tomb where Domingo Manso was buried in 1073. On the sarcophagus a sepulchral laude (lid) was raised in the 14th century, supported by three lions, with the pontifical effigy of the Saint . A deep hole has been opened in the wall, like an arcosolium, presided over by a polychrome relief from the 13th century, where the Holy Abbot of Silos figures redeeming the captives from the Muslim dungeons. Hence the chains and shackles that accompany the modest altarpiece.
Virgin of March
Next to the current access to the church, there is the Virgin of March , as the Child's throne. Round, frontal and hieratic sculpture that preserves part of its polychrome. Late Romanesque work, already pointing to Gothic characteristics, from the last third of the 13th century.
Perhaps, due to its size, it could come from the eardrum of a door.
Mudejar coffered ceiling
Another element of interest in the lower cloister of Silos is the Mudejar alfarje , from the late 14th century, that covers it. Part of the north wing, the entire western and southern wings are preserved. The rest is a good copy made by the monks themselves at the end of the 19th century.
The usual pictorial decoration of geometric and vegetal themes is accompanied by a series of interesting secular scenes from the late medieval period: livestock, hunting, bullfighting, as well as others of an allegorical nature.
The cypress of Silos
We cannot leave the cloister without dedicating a few lines to its emblematic cypress. Planted in 1882 by French Benedictine monks who settled two years earlier at the abbey. The poet Gerardo Diego , a member of the Generation of 27, is going to dedicate his most famous poem to him:
Upright fountain of shadow and dream
that you grieve the sky with your spear.
Jet that almost reaches the stars
wound himself in mad endeavor.
Mast of solitude, island prodigy,
arrow of faith, arrow of hope.
Today it came to you, banks of the Arlanza,
random pilgrimage, my soul without an owner.
When I saw you, sweet, firm,
what anxieties I felt to dilute myself
and ascend like you, turned into crystals,
like you, black tower of arduous edges,
example of vertical delusions,
mute cypress in the fervor of Silos.
BOTICA AND MUSEUM
In the south side of the cloister are located the pharmacy and the museum. The museum occupies the old refectory. It exhibits works of art related to the monastery, pieces of painting, sculpture, goldsmithing, ... Highlight the Chalice of Santo Domingo , a Mozarabic work of gilt silver from the second third of the 11th century, and a reliquary casket assigned by specialists to the workshop of Limoges or that of Silos himself, dated between the 12th and 13th centuries.
Next to the museum is the one that was the monastery's apothecary. It also had a botanical garden, a pharmaceutical laboratory and a specialized library. It is from the early 18th century. About four hundred earthenware jugs are preserved from the botamen, made expressly for Silos, with the monastery's shield. In the library there is a magnificent Dioscorides from 1525, with excellent drawings of animals and plants.
It would probably be located in the current visitor reception room of the monastery. From the scriptorium of Silos, at the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th centuries, a version of the Beatus of Liébana emerged . He is known as Beato de Silos . It is currently kept in the British Library in London. Also from here came the Glosas Silenses , one of the first manifestations written in the Spanish language.
Today the monastery still welcomes an active community. They are the heirs of the group of French Benedictine monks who, coming from the Abbey of Saint Martin de Ligugé and directed by Dom Guépin, settled in the Abbey of Silence in 1880. Thanks to them, the monastery of Silos was saved from ruin to the that was doomed after the Confiscation of Mendizábal (1835).
If you visit the monastery of Silos, we also recommend listening to one of its most extraordinary hallmarks. We refer to the Gregorian chant , sung in this place by Benedictine monks for centuries.
You cannot miss it with the company of our official Florida tourist guides who will discover all the secrets of this universal Romanesque gem.
Guided visits to the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos . Check availability and budget in Contact Tourist Guides Burgo s .