25 de March de 2024

The Monastery of Santa Paula: A historical heritage site in Seville

The art and spirituality of the Monastery of Santa Paula in Seville

Monastery Of Santa Paula Seville Monastery Of Santa Paula Seville

The monastery is the little jewel of the crown

The Monastery of Santa Paula in Seville is an important monumental complex that houses a great cultural heritage, with a church that is a true manual of art history and a small museum that houses works of great value.

The Monastery of Santa Paula: A hidden treasure in the heart of Seville

Calle Sta. Paula, 11, 41003, Seville

In the heart of the La Macarena neighborhood, not far from the Basilica and other churches of Seville, stands the slender bell tower of the Monastery of Santa Paula. Its aerial image, the melody of its bells, and its colorful tiles earned it the nickname "the prince of the bell towers," given by Sor María Cristina de la Cruz Arteaga, prioress of the monastery from 1944 until her death in 1984 and currently in the process of canonization. To speak of its origins, we must go back to the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. It was Pope Sixtus IV who granted the foundation of the Convent of Santa Paula de Sevilla in a lead bull on January 27, 1474. The founder, Ana de Santillán, thus saw her aspirations fulfilled after retiring to a beaterio at the age of 18, awaiting the foundation of a monastery of nuns of the Order of San Jerónimo in her own homes.

Born in 1424 in Seville, Doña Ana was the daughter of Fernando de Santillán, one of the conquerors of the city along with San Fernando. After marrying Don Pedro Ortiz Núñez de Guzmán, she had a daughter, but soon became a widow and a few years later also lost her descendant. Appointed prioress for life by the aforementioned bull, Doña Ana signed her letter of profession and received the habit of the order along with other companions. At that time, the church occupied the current chapter room. It would not be until a few years later, thanks to the help of Doña Isabel Enríquez, granddaughter of Enrique III of Castile and of Fernando de Portugal, that the current church would be built.

Doña Isabel had married the Constable of Portugal and Marquis of Montemayor, Don Juan de Braganza. A few years after her move to Seville, her husband died in the war of Granada. By then, Doña Isabel already frequented the Monastery of Santa Paula, and decided to build the church and the choirs that would house the pantheon of her husband and her own. Almost a century passed before two of the most important sculptors, Alonso Cano and Martínez Montañés, arrived to enrich its walls. These artists were some of those who have contributed to enlarging the monastery.

As happens with most of the monumental complexes of the convents of Seville, the Monastery of Santa Paula houses a great heritage treasure since its foundation in 1473 by papal bull of Pope Sixtus IV, which has been developed and increased over time. Undoubtedly, the most important part of this heritage complex is the church. Starting with its beautiful 1504 façade, in which the style of the Catholic Monarchs is combined with modular brickwork, a Gothic door surrounded by a frame, and the introduction of flat tile, a technique imported from Italy by Niculoso Pizarro. The façade has grotesque motifs typical of the time and a series of tondos, the first and main one by Luca della Robbia and the rest by Pedro Millán, the first sculptor known of the Sevillian school.

Once this beautiful façade has been admired, we enter the church. Like many of the convent churches of Seville, with the exception of Santa Inés, it has a very simple plan: a rectangular plan called a box plan. One third at the feet is separated from the rest of the nave by a double grille that divides the nave from the high choir and the low choir. In the head is the main chapel, covered by a beautiful coffered ceiling by Diego López de Arenas from 1623, one of the fundamental works of this Sevillian technique. Meanwhile, the main chapel, due to the constructive moment of the last third of the 15th century, is covered by a Gothic vault.

The Monastery of Santa Paula: An Essential Visit in Seville

The Monastery of Santa Paula in Seville is an exceptional testimony to the architecture, art, and spirituality of the era of the Catholic Monarchs, with an impressive church and a small museum that house works of great value.

In this monastic church, we can study the evolution of the altarpiece from the first third of the 17th century to the first third of the 18th century. We begin with Alonso Cano and the altarpiece of St. John the Evangelist, continue with Felipe de Rivas and the altarpiece of St. John the Baptist, and then Gaspar Dionisio and the rest of the family who complete the altarpieces of the nave. The main altarpiece, however, corresponds to another constructive moment. It is from 1730, by José Fernando de Medinilla, and introduces elements of the 18th century, such as columns replaced by estipites and decoration that dominates over the architecture.

Regarding sculpture, we have images from the primitive main altarpiece that were incorporated into the new main altarpiece, such as the image of Saint Paula, the patron saint of the monastery, a work by Andrés Ocampo from the end of the 16th century. We also have two fundamental pieces: St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, works by Juan Martínez Montañés, the sculptor who gave a definitive impulse to the Sevillian school within a proto-Baroque naturalism. Another fundamental piece within the sculpture is the Christ of Coral, from the beginning of the 16th century, attributed to Pedro Millán, one of the first pieces of the Sevillian sculptural school that was being forged at that time.

Therefore, we can say that the church itself is a true manual of art history, where we can study the evolution of Sevillian art from the end of the 15th century, the constructive moment of the church that is in the Gothic style, to the 18th century, with the fundamental contribution of the main altarpiece. Once we have admired this wonderful set of the convent church, which is an authentic catechesis of how the artistic mentality has evolved according to devotion over time, we can also visit and admire part of the conventual treasure in a small museum.

This museum, distributed in three rooms, was a pioneering initiative of the nuns of Santa Paula, thanks to the great innovative spirit of Mother Cristina de la Cruz de Arteaga, prioress of that monastery, doctor in Philosophy and Letters and, therefore, with great cultural sensitivity. She saw in the creation of this small convent museum a way to bring culture closer to the people, showing it to those interested. In it, movable pieces that have enriched the conventual heritage over time are exhibited, such as a St. Jerome of the school of Ribera, small fans throughout the halls, liturgical objects such as pluvial capes, custodies, and chalices, and the most characteristic and rich enclosure, the high choir.

From the high choir, we can access it and have a different vision of the church, the vision that the nun has. In it, a magnificent Nativity scene in an anacina stands out, which is an authentic catechesis of the history of salvation, since it is represented from Adam and Eve to the birth of Christ. Another piece that stands out is a beautiful St. Joseph, who on his pedestal has a carpentry reproduced, with the Virgin with her labors and the Child Jesus helping St. Joseph.

Official Website Convent of Santa Paula

We encourage everyone to visit this Monastery of Santa Paula, to enjoy, contemplate, and learn from the magnificent cultural and religious heritage that has accumulated over time. You will see how, as soon as you enter through the door leading to the conventual courtyard, be it the museum or the church, you must completely change your mindset in the face of all the traffic and continuous noise from the outside, and you will find an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that catches your attention. And if that is complemented with the acquisition of the different pastry products made by the nuns, then you will have a complete visit and can learn about that religious heritage and its evolution over time.

Monastery of Santa Paula Hours

The Monastery of Santa Paula is open from Monday to Sunday, Mornings: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Afternoons: 5:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.