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Las Huelgas Abbey: Detail, showing the north tower and part of the cloister
Architecture Library, Hesburgh Libraries
The Cistercian abbey of Las Huelgas was founded in 1187 by Alfonso VIII of Castile (reigned 1158-1214) and Queen Eleanor. Its site, next to the royal palace, was an unusual choice for a Cistercian foundation; and only aristocratic young women from the kingdom were admitted as nuns. The monastery was wealthy, and for many centuries the abbess played an important part in the economic and political life of Castile. The church is built of limestone and has a cruciform plan with a narrow, projecting transept and an aisled nave that served as the nuns' choir. The monastery houses the Museo de Ricas Telas, a showcase of medieval textiles taken from the many royal tombs in the convent.