At 1,200 metres above sea level, the San Juan de la Peña Monastery is hidden on the edge of a forest, at the foot of an enormous rock. The architecture of this partly-troglodyte monument is unique in the Pyrenees. Founded in 920, this little monastery later became a royal pantheon for the King of Aragon and his nobles. Today it is an unmissable stop on the road for the pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela.
Despite the ravages of time, this surprising monastery has preserved a superb cloister. The entrance is through a Mozarabic door on which there is a Latin inscription warning the visitor that: “When you go through this door, the door of Heaven opens to any of the faithful who try to keep the commandments of God conscientiously”. And the place really does look like you might expect paradise to look. Clinging to the cliff that provides a roof as protective as it is unusual, suspended over the valley, it displays a perfect harmony between Man and Nature and invites the traveller on a dream-like journey. So you’ll take some time to sit in the shade of the sculptured columns to dream and let life pass you by.
You can discover San Juan de la Peña in the following itineraries:
There are in fact two monasteries: the lower one is the old monastery (11th - 12th centuries), higher up and 1.5 kms away is the new monastery, baroque in style, and from the 17th century, it also houses an historical interpretation centre.