Royal Monastery of Santa María de Sigena

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Monastery of Santa María de Sigena
Native name
Spanish: Monasterio de Santa María de Sigena
The Romanesque Monastery of Santa María de Sigena
Type convent
Nearest city Villanueva de Sigena
Coordinates 41°42′34″N 0°01′10″W / 41.70944°N 0.01944°W / 41.70944; -0.01944Coordinates: 41°42′34″N 0°01′10″W / 41.70944°N 0.01944°W / 41.70944; -0.01944
Area Aragon
Formed 12th century
Founder Order of Saint John of Jerusalem
Built 1183-1208
Built for Kingdom of Aragon
Restored 1950s
Current use Sisterhood of Belén y de la Asunción de la Virgen
Architectural style(s) Romanesque
National monuments of Spain RI-51-0000241
Royal Monastery of Santa María de Sigena is located in Spain
Royal Monastery of Santa María de Sigena
Location of Monastery of Santa María de Sigena in Spain

Royal Monastery of Santa María de Sigena (Spanish: Real Monasterio de Santa María de Sigena) is a convent in Villanueva de Sigena, region of Aragon, Spain. Built between 1183 and 1208, the Romanesque church was founded by Queen Sancha of Castile, wife of Alfonso II of Aragon. Only daughters from the richest families of Aragon were permitted to enter the convent as nuns.

The General Archive of the Crown of Aragon, the official repository of royal documentation of the Crown since the reign of Alfonso II (12th century), was located in this monastery until the year 1301.

The convent church is based on the shape of the Latin cross. It has a single nave, a wide transept and three apse chapels. There are also elements from Cistercian and Mudéjar architecture such as in the roofs and windows. The main entrance portal features fourteen archivolts.


The convert was operated by the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. It flourished in the 14th century thanks to royal support but declined after the crown of Aragon merged with Castile. Several royal burials were made in the convent church, including Sancha of Castile, Queen of Aragon, who lived out her last years and died there after being marginalized by her son Pedro II of Aragon, who is also interred there along with two of his sisters.

The Master of Sigena (Maestro de Sigena) is an early 16th-century painter who painted a large altarpiece for the church between 1510 and 1521, panels from which are now exhibited at the Prado Museum in Madrid and the museum in Zaragoza.

In 1835, after the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal deprived it of most of its revenues, the convent was abandoned by its religious community, although some nuns later returned. The Romanesque convent was largely destroyed by fire in 1936 by anti-clerical Anarchist militiamen in the Spanish Civil War. Restoration of the convent began in the 1950s. The Romanesque cloister was restored in 1974. Artworks still in place include the royal tombs of Sancha and Peter of Castile, while the former abbess' throne was moved to the Lleida Museum.

In 1985 nuns from the Sisterhood of Belén y de la Asunción de la Virgen took over the convent.

Artefacts dispute[edit]

Although the Monastery of Sigena, the royal pantheon of Aragon, was declared a National Monument, later, in 1923, much of its artwork was taken to Catalonia. It began with the stripping of the unique Romanesque paintings (13th century) from the Chapter Hall during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

In April 2015 and July 2016, two Spanish courts ruled that The National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC) and the Generalitat of Catalunya had to return the murals and 97 works of art and objects stored or exhibited in the MNAC and in the Lleida Museum.

Even though it was mandatory to comply with the court rulings, only 51 pieces of the 97 from the monastery have been returned. An example are the Mural paintings from the Chapter Hall still remain in the MNAC.

A Social Platform ( was created in order achieve the return of the assets from the Monastery of Sigena. In December 2017, the Spanish government began removing the remaining artefacts from museums in Catalonia.[1]


  1. ^ "Spain orders removal of art work from Catalonia". BBC NEWS. 11 December 2017. .
  • Rincón García, Wifredo (2000). Tesoros de España 7: Monasterios. Espasa Calpe. ISBN 84-239-6671-2. 

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