The first time we drove to the famed Roman ruins of Italica in Santiponce, a village just outside Seville, we saw what looked to be an old, run-down monastery. We didn’t really know what it was, so I asked a gas station attendant about it and he told us we could visit.
That was that, though, as we were headed back into the city and I more or less forgot about it until we returned to Italica when our family came to visit this year.
After eating too much food at Ventorrillo Canario – a restaurant across from the Italica entrance that I’ll always recommend – we decided to actually stop at the monastery this time around. And that monastery is the Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo.
It was founded by a very pious family back in the 14th century, and remained a monastery for most of the next 600 years. In the late 1970s, the monks left for good, and it sort of fell into ruin.
I only know that because I asked when it stopped being a monastery. And the people at the front desk told me, “It’s still a monastery. It’s just that the monks left in the 1970s.” Well, yeah. It’s not like they turned it into a roller rink. It was said with a smirk, so I took it kindly.
At some point, I believe the government took over, and renovations have slowly, but surely, been underway to bring the entire complex back to a proper state.
Much of the monastery and gardens are actually closed to the public due to their condition and the renovations, but we were still able to spend quite a bit of time walking around and checking out the architecture and a lot of historic items that are on display.
This included old, handwritten biblical texts and a gallery of old paintings.
What we really dug the most were all the mosaics and murals on the walls, many of them still fading and somewhat creepy. Some of them were possibly on a nightmarish level, depending on how easily you scare.
Many of them are very, very slowly being retouched and brought back to their original glory. I personally kind of think they should be preserved and nothing more. It’s just…so cool.
You can even see some of the lines in place on the walls, for where the old mosaics are being redone.
We were obviously, really interested in that. But come on – it’s so cool! Just think about when they were new and how they are now. The time and history it took to age them like that. One more for you, and it’s a real creeper.
We also possibly found John the Baptist’s body. No one ever says they have his body. But churches all across the world – or Europe, at least – claim to have his head. Kind of picky…nobody wants the body? Here he is, folks.
Just FYI. (Also, we’re joking.)
Anyway, the most finished parts of the monastery are a smaller courtyard and the main church. They’ve been redone and/or kept up quite well.
And, while you can’t go anywhere near the parts of the monastery that are still being heavily worked on – safety and integrity and all – you can stick your camera through the bars and get a photo. Yeah?
Looks pretty cool, all ruinous and such. But I’m sure it’ll be crazy pretty if and when they get it done.
It’s also important to look up when you’re in places like this. You always have to look up – you never know what you’ll find!
Besides that creepy grim reaper skeleton dude, there are also a lot of very interesting details up there.
Also, do you ever notice how there are random, bricked-up doors at old castles, monasteries, etc.? We always notice them and wonder why they were there, and why they aren’t any longer. And, they never look like they were sealed up 10, or 20, or even 50 years ago.
They always look like they were sealed up, like, hundreds of years ago. Who did what?! We want to know the mystery. The Mystery of the Sealed Doors. There’s your next novel title. Get to it.
Anyway, one more piece of art for you, floor to wall.
So yeah, it was quite an interesting visit, and we spent much more time in there than I thought we would. While I wouldn’t suggest it as a destination, per se, I think it’s a great visit.
If you’re heading to Italica anyway, you might as well stop by the monastery. It’s worth it for sure. Plus, you can spend your time here walking off all that scrumptious food you ate at Ventorrillo Canario. Aces!
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Have you ever been to the Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo, or Santiponce? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!