Spain // Aragón //

San Juan de la Peña

The Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, set amid protected natural parkland 21km south of Jaca, is one of the most stunning sacred buildings in Aragón, if not in Spain. Tucked protectively under the overhang of a massive boulder, it’s built right into a rocky mountain: from certain angles, it’s hard to tell where man-made structure ends and nature begins. Dating from the ninth century, the monastery is named after a hermit who lived in solitude atop the towering cliff (peña). The monastery features a Romanesque church with twelfth-century murals and the Gothic San Victorián chapel, but the real standout is the elegant twelfth-century cloister, shaded by the bulging rock face that looms over it. The cloister has ornate capitals, some fully ringed by saints and apostles, depicting different scenes from the Bible.

In 1675, a fire in the monastery forced the monks to leave and build a newer one, which sits further up the hill. The Monasterio Nuevo (same hours as old monastery) features a helpful visitors’ centre and two interpretation centres, which chronicle the history of the monastery and the eventful lives of the Aragón’s kings and queens.

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