To talk about San Juan de la Peña is to talk about one of the most beautiful and curious monasteries in Spain, due to its singular location, set in the crevice of a mountain.
During the Middle Ages it was the most important monastery in the Kingdom of Aragon. Proof of this is the great number of kings that are buried here in its Royal Pantheon, and also because of the special responsibility it was given, to guard the Holy Grail.
It is almost certain that the site has been used for religious rituals previous to Christianity, but the origin of the current temple is dedicated to the favour of a Saint. Here is another legend for you from El Camino de Santiago.
The Origin of San Juan de la Peña
A young man was hunting on horseback, focused on chasing his prey he was oblivious to the danger in which he will find himself only a few metres further. He looked in shock and panic when he realised that his horse had just stopped at the edge of a cliff from which he was about to fall. In this very instant, he commended himself to Saint John the Baptist who worked a miracle and avoided the tragedy.
The location of this incident was of great natural beauty, he was taken by its beauty and the sweet smell not known to this world, so he started wandering around until he found the entrance to a cave where the smell was more intense. He entered and after a few metres he found the incorrupt corpse of Juan de Atarés, a local hermit very popular there and who died in solitude praying while embracing a cross.
He was so shocked by the vision that he decided to follow the steps of the hermit and he abandoned his comfortable life of plenty to devote himself to God and contemplative life. Him and his brother made a home of the caves and there they lived to the end of their lives.
Another two brothers took their place afterwards, Benedicto and Marcelo, who founded the first community of monks in the monastery.
Water, stone and nature. Looking at the place and its great beauty, it is easy to understand that it has always been a special place since before the creation of the temple dedicated to Saint John.
Fotografía de cabecera: Kom bo – Flickr
Fotografía: Elemaki – Wikipedi