Monastery and monarchy: the foundation and patronage of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas and Santa María la Real de Sigena




McKiernan González, Eileen Patricia

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Power, piety, and remembrance came together in the artistic patronage of two Iberian queens at the end of the twelfth century. In their endeavors to create lasting institutions that would preserve the memory of their respective dynasties, Leonor Plantagenet, Queen of Castilla, and Sancha of León-Castilla, Queen of Aragón, intentionally supported unique architectural developments in their kingdoms. The monastic foundations of Las Huelgas in Castilla and Sigena in Aragón signal the distinct architectural style to be followed by contemporary architects in each kingdom: Castilla became the flagship of the Gothic style on the peninsula; Aragón, the last bastion of the Romanesque. The queens’ choices as patrons reveal not only their desire to make associations with their natal lands, but also an acute understanding of their realms’ particular political and religious situations. The distinct path each took in affiliating their monastery with foreign orders – the Cistercian and Hospitaller respectively – the location of the monastery, the legal constructions, and the choice of architectural style of the institutions reveal a keen awareness of where power lay in their lands. The queens’ establishment of dynastic necropolises at women's foundations affirmed the role of women in the economy of prayer associated with the dead and claimed a greater role for women of the royal house in remembrance. Through their manipulation of these institutions, the monasteries survived, thrived, and maintained a strong royal association into the twentieth century.