Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña

Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña

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The Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña is located a dozen kilometers from the city of Florida . It is located in an enclave of great beauty. Hidden in a valley and surrounded by moors, not far from the Arlanzón River. The surroundings and the exterior are of great monumentality, beauty and tranquility.

San Pedro de Cardeña is known, among other reasons, for its connection with the Cid Campeador . Bonding, as we will see, more legendary than real.

It is currently inhabited by a small community of monks of the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance . It is also known as the Trappist Order . As Cistercians, they follow the Rule of Saint Benedict and are therefore part of the Benedictine community.

Declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 1931.

Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña


The absence of documentation makes it difficult to specify the origin of the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. According to some sources, its more remote origins, although somewhat legendary, must be found in a first abbey from the Visigoth period. Benedictine historians have traditionally considered this monastery as the first of the order founded in Spain.

Possibly it would be founded at the end of the IX century. The first document that refers to the monastery is from the year 902. It reflects the donation made to the monastery by Count Gonzalo Téllez and his wife Lambra .

In the year 934 one of the most tragic events with the greatest repercussion of the monastery takes place. At the height of the Caliphate of Córdoba, the Arab troops of Abderramán III destroyed the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña and killed its 200 monks. Those known as Mártires de Cardeña were canonized in 1603.

The monastery was immediately repopulated and favored by the Castilian counts Fernán González and Garcí Fernández . It soon renewed its power and economic wealth, becoming one of the most powerful and influential monasteries in all of Castile. That economic boom was translated into artistic and cultural splendor.

Little by little it lost importance. From the thirteenth century he was part of the Benedictine Congregation of the province of Toledo. In 1502 he joined the Observant Congregation of San Benito de Valladolid until 1835. That year, with the Confiscation of Mendizábal, monastic life was abandoned until 1942.

During that more than a century without monks, the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña had different uses. It even served as a concentration camp for prisoners from the Civil War.

Finally, in 1942, the current Cistercian monks of strict observance arrived from the Palencia monastery of San Isidro de Dueñas.


Today little remains of the original factory of the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. The only artistic remains that are preserved from the count's era are part of the so-called Torre del Cid or Torre de doña Jimena . The monastery has undergone numerous interventions, so various styles coexist in it.


The access façade to the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña is dominated by a large vertical baroque-style cloth in colored stone. It is one of the last architectural works carried out in the monastery. 1739 is the date inscribed on it, which may well be the end of it. It stands out with the decorative austerity of the rest of the facade.

The protagonist is the famous statue of the Cid, mounted on horseback with armor and non-medieval garb, throwing himself at Muslims. The representation can be confused with a typical Santiagos Matamoros print . It recalls a similar one from the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza that, on this occasion, recreates another Castilian character: Count Fernán González.

Main cover. San Pedro de Cardeña


The current church was built in the 15th century in the Gothic style. It has three naves with two sections plus side chapels, a transept and a chevet with a deep apse. It is a voluminous and monumental building that surprises with its great height.

The current Gothic temple replaces a previous one from the Romanesque period. This style would include the one known as Torre del Cid . It is the most outstanding element of the architectural complex of the monastery and, also, the oldest. Built at the end of the 10th century or in the first half of the 11th, it is attached to the abbey church. This tower, apparently, is built free from the primitive Romanesque temple. It would not be destroyed together with the church when the new Gothic temple was built, but was integrated as a whole. The tower is a robust and austere four-section bell tower, with loopholes and Romanesque windows from various periods. The lower bays are still very early Romanesque, almost pre-Romanesque.

Torre del Cid. San Pedro de Cardeña

Some chapels were added to the church in later moments. Among them, the baroque chapel of San Sisebuto or del Cid.


The Chapel of San Sisebuto or del Cid is, without a doubt, the most famous and visited of the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. Baroque in style, it was built in 1735.

In the center stand the sarcophagi of the Cid and his wife Doña Jimena. Sculpted at the end of the 13th century by order of Alfonso X the Wise . They still have small remains of polychrome. An inscription reminds us that "Here lies buried the Great Rodrigo Díaz, undefeated warrior, and more famous than Mars in triumphs . " Although currently in the tomb of the Cid, only some of his bones rest. Today the remains of the Cid and his wife are found, for the most part, under the dome of the Florida Cathedral .

Chapel of the Cid. San Pedro de Cardeña

The walls of this chapel are decorated with 26 coats of arms. They correspond to several famous people. Among them, some counts of Castile, knights of arms, the Cid's children and relatives. Apparently, the remains of some of them rest in the chapel itself.

On both sides of the baroque altarpiece that presides over the chapel, there are two canvases with a Cidian theme (2001). They are the work of the Burgos painter Cándido Pérez and represent Doña Jimena's La Despedida del Cid and La Jura de Santa Gadea.


The Cloister of the Martyrs is perhaps the most interesting space in the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. It is one of the few Romanesque elements preserved in the abbey. Although only his southern panda corresponds to this style.

Cloister of the Martyrs. San Pedro de Cardeña

The Romanesque group, from the 12th century, consists of 14 semicircular arches on a continuous podium and columns decorated with Corinthian capitals. The most striking thing is the alternation of the white and red colors of the voussoirs of the arch. This alternation of color is inevitably reminiscent of the arches of the Mosque of Córdoba.

Currently you cannot access the cloister. It can be admired from inside the chapter house and always through glass. Still worth your visit.

Also very remarkable is the spiral staircase, without a central axis, which communicates with the monastery archive. It is a magnificent stonework from the 16th century, made by a qualified anonymous master.

Spiral staircase. San Pedro de Cardeña


The monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña is known, among many other things, for its relationship with the figure of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the Cid Campeador . According to the Cantar del Mio Cid , it was the place of shelter and residence for the Cid family during his exile. Doña Jimena , the Cid's wife, and her daughters, Doña Elvira and Doña Sol - whose real names were María and Cristina - were left in Cardeña in the care of their abbot, San Sisebuto . This event is not proven by historical sources. Quite the contrary. Neither during his first exile (1081), nor during the second (1088) does Rodrigo's family seem to remain in Cardeña.

The link between the Cid and the Cardeña Monastery was more intense after his death than in life. The monastery has been the burial place of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and his wife for a long time.

The history of the corpse of the Cid is as hazardous as his life. Died in Valencia, his body was exhumed by Jimena shortly before the Almoravid conquest of the city, in 1102. From Valencia the body was transferred to San Pedro de Cardeña.

He was buried in different places of the monastery until his final location in the Capilla del Cid. There he rested for centuries with his wife until during the French occupation the remains were desecrated. The French themselves build a funerary monument on the Paseo del Espolón in the city of Florida. In 1826, the remains would be returned to the monastery until the Mendizábal Confiscation, when they would finally leave.

But not only the Cid was buried in San Pedro de Cardeña. Tradition says that his horse Babieca was also buried in the vicinity of it. A monolith next to the entrance remembers this fact.


The Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña had an excellent scriptorium from which authentic masterpieces would emerge, especially during the 10th to 13th centuries. Such was its activity that it became a focus for the dissemination of the Benedictine texts par excellence. Unfortunately, most of these works have either been lost or have been fragmented, not currently being deposited in the monastery library.

Among the most prominent are the one known as the Burgos Bible (1175) and the Beato de Cardeña (1185). Both codex have been qualified by specialists as the most beautiful of the Spanish Romanesque.

Finally, the Romanesque cellar of the monastery is worth mentioning. Valdebegón wine continues to age from this winery today. Also recently, the first Trappist beer in Spain has been made: Cardeña .

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