El Palancar Monastery
The world’s smallest convent
El Palancar Monastery is located in the town of Pedroso de Acim, very close to the Sierra de Cañaveral mountains and the Jerte and Alagón Valleys.
It was founded by Brother Pedro de Alcántara in 1557. Being familiar with his story makes it easier to understand this monument. Humble in nature, Brother Pedro de Alcántara studied at the University of Salamanca, where he came into contact with Saint Francis of Assisi. His closeness to the people and humility turned him into a much-loved figure among those who knew him.
The construction of the monastery began around a small house in Pedroso de Acim. The architectural ensemble and its interior are characterised by their simplicity. It used to only comprise a few cells with wooden beds where the friars would sleep. The rest of the monastery was also dominated by austerity: the chapel was only decorated with a few mosaics, while the cloister only contained some wooden columns and an inner courtyard.
The monastery captures the attention of everyone who visits it. They say Saint Teresa was surprised to see that Brother Pedro de Alcántara slept sitting up with his head resting on a beam sticking out of the wall. As the monk’s height was nearly 6’3”, this must have been an impressive sight.
Juan de Santa María defined the monastery as ‘a place that was 32 feet long and 28 feet wide, with a chapel so small that if someone else went in besides the priest and acolyte helping him, the entire space would be filled’.
Although the original structure remains, the present door distorts its size, making you think it is larger than it actually is. Today, visitors can also see a cross marking one of the Brother Pedro’s favourite spots, where he spent much of his time praying.
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