Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes – A Toledo Church Dedicated to Saint John of the Kings
Situated on the western side of the city, overlooking the Tagus River and the Puente de San Martin (San Martin Bridge) is the Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes (Monastery of St John of the Kings). San Juan de Los Reyes was commissioned by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand II to commemorate their victory over the army of Alfonso V of Portugal at the Battle of Toro in 1476. The church was dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, of whom the Queen was a devout admirer.
It is believed that the Catholic Monarchs had originally intended for San Juan de Los Reyes to be their pantheon. This plan changed after the conquest of Granada in 1492 and they were instead buried in the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) of Granada Cathedral.
San Juan de los Reyes is a fine example of the Gothic-Flemish style of architecture. Juan Guas, who worked on Toledo’s cathedral, was the architect who designed the ground floor of this monastery. Construction began in 1477 and he worked on this level of the San Juan de Los Reyes right up until his death in 1492. Shortly after the construction of the level was completed.
The building was completed in the sixteenth century, during the reign of Carlos 1 (Charles) of Spain. The chancel is decorated with an altar from the former Santa Cruz Hospital and its cloister has a small garden.
An interesting feature of the exterior can be seen on the north-facing walls. If you’re wondering what the chains and manacles are, these were hung up in 1494 as votive offerings. The chains refer to the prisoners freed during the long Granada campaign and are intended as a symbol of the triumph of the Christians.
Devastation of San Juan de los Reyes
San Juan de Los Reyes was badly damaged when Napoleon’s troops occupied Toledo in 1809. A devastating fire destroyed part of the cloisters and one of the domes of the church. Ecclesiastical assets were seized and pillaged and the Franciscan monks had to leave the monastery.
Restoration work began in 1883 and was not completed until 1967. It was not until 1954 before the Fransiscan Order returned to the monastery, which was a much smaller structure built specifically to house the fraternity.
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
Calle San Juan de los Reyes
2 – 45002 Toledo
Map of Toledo: