28013, Madrid, Plaza Descalzas RealesFind on map
Contact phone: +34 914 54 88 00
Telephone: +34 932 200 608 Mo-Su.
Urgent calls: +34 638 841 638
Fax: +34 93 272 64 15
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The Convent of Las Descalzas Reales
The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the "Monastery of Barefoot Royals", resides in the former palace of King Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal. Their daughter, Joanna of Austria, founded this convent of nuns of the Poor Clare order in 1559. Throughout the remainder of the 16th century and into the 17th century, the convent attracted young widowed or spinster noblewomen. The demographics of the convent slowly changed over time, and by the 20th century, all of the sisters were in poverty. The convent maintained the riches of its past, but it was forbidden to auction any of the items off or spend any of the money it received from the dowries. The state intervened when it saw that the sisters were poor, and the pope granted a special dispensation to open the convent as a museum in 1960. Among the priceless art masterpieces are Titian's Caesar's Money, tapestries woven to designs by Rubens, and works by Hans de Beken and Brueghel the Elder. The original architect of the church was Antonio Sillero. The facade was designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo in 1559; who also helped in the roofing of the church. Parts of the altar, choir, and sacristy, were designed by Juan Gómez de Mora in 1612. Gaspar Becerra in 1562 completed the main retablo of the altar, which was considered his master work. Unfortunately, this retablo was destroyed by fire in 1862, along with many of the paintings and frescoes by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz.