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  • Writer's pictureJerome Lim

Caught between a rock and a hard place

The Monastery of San Juan de la Peña.

Wedged in between a huge rock overhang and the base of a huge cliff face in the remote foothills of the Aragonese Pyrenees, the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña is quite a remarkable sight. Its relative isolation, along with the security its construction offered, made the monastery one of several places of safekeeping for the Holy Grail during the Moorish invasion and subsequent occupation of Huesca.

The Room of Councils.

Legend (one of several actually) has it that the monastery's site was that of a hermitage established in the eight century. The site was also said to have been used as a refuge during the moorish invasion, when the first monastery was established. What is found today are the structures of the eleventh and thirteenth centuries and includes a pre-Romanesque church decorated by twelfth century frescos, an upper church from 1094 and a Gothic chapel.

The entrance to the pre-Romanesque church.
12th century frescos in the pre-Romanesque church.

More information on the monastery, which lies some 24 km southwest of the city of Jaca, can be found at:


More photographs

The Romanesque upper church.
The Romanesque upper church.
The Holy Grail replica in the upper church.

Romanesque exterior cloisters - seen from the church.

Chapel of San Voto.
Chapel of San Voto.
The Gothic chapel of San Victorian.
A view from the Gothic chapel.
The cloisters.
A replica of the Holy Grail of Huesca.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of Huesca was one of several that had claims to having been the highly coveted relic that was used in the Last Supper.

Legend had it that the chalice was brought over to Huesca by a Roman soldier in the third century AD. The grail, which remained in the monastery after the reconquest of Huesca, would come into the hands of Aragonese King Martino V who took it to Zaragoza. A replica was then made. It is a replica of the replica -- which was destroyed in a fire, that now sits in the monastery. The grail removed by Martino V now sits in the Cathedral in Valencia.


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