The Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe (Spanish: Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a Roman Catholic monastic establishment in Guadalupe, Cáceres, a province of the Extremadura autonomous community of Spain. It was one of the most important monasteries in the country for more than four centuries. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993.
The monastery had its origins in the late 13th century, when a shepherd from Cáceres, named Gil Cordero, discovered on the bank of the Guadalupe River a statue of the Blessed Virgin, which had been apparently hidden by local inhabitants from Moorish invaders in 714. On the site of his discovery a chapel was built, dedicated under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. King Alfonso XI, who visited the chapel more than once, invoked Santa Maria de Guadalupe in the Battle of Rio Salado. After gaining the victory, he ascribed it to the Madonna's intercession, declared the church at Guadalupe a royal sanctuary and undertook an extensive rebuilding program.
In 1389, the Hieronymite monks took over the monastery and made it their principal house. Construction works continued under the auspices of the order's first prior, and in 1474 Henry IV of Castile was entombed in Guadalupe, next to his mother. The monastery is rich in associations with the New World, where Our Lady of Guadalupe is highly revered in the Mexican Basilica of Guadalupe and elsewhere. It was here, in Extremadura, that Christopher Columbus made his first pilgrimage after discovering America in 1492 and it was here that he first thanked heaven for his discovery.
The monastery, whose architecture evolved throughout many centuries, is still dominated by the templo mayor, or the main church, built by Alfonso XI and his immediate successors in the 14th and 15th centuries. The square chapel of Santa Catalina is also of the 15th century; it is known for a cluster of ornate 17th-century tombs. The 16th-century reliquaries chapel connects Santa Catalina with the baroque sacristy (1638-47), lavishly decorated and boasting a series of paintings by Zurbarán.
Behind the basilica is Camarin de la Virgen, an octagonal baroque structure (1687-96) with the impressive stuccoed Chamber of the Virgin and nine paintings by Luca Giordano. The jewel of this profusely ornamented hall is a throne containing the statue of the Madonna which gave the monastery its name. Other notable structures include the Mudéjar cloister (1389-1405), with the magnificent Plateresque portal; the late Gothic cloister from 1531-33, and the new church, commissioned by one of Columbus's descendants in 1730. Regrettably, the palace of Isabella I of Castile (1487-91) was pulled down in 1856.