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Huelgas de Burgos, Abbey of


Cistercian convent of the Blessed Virgin, burgos archdiocese, established and richly endowed on June 1, 1187, by Alfonso VIII of Castile as a burial place for his family. Huelgas became the head of the Cistercian convents in Castile and León, and in 1199 was affiliated with cÎteaux rather than with its own mother convent, that of Tulebras. It had civil jurisdiction over 64 villages. Not only was Huelgas exempt from episcopal jurisdiction but it exercised its own quasi-episcopal authority over convents, churches, and towns, conferring benefices, authorizing and restricting preaching, judging papal dispositions and matrimonial and civil cases, supervising charitable works and notaries, giving faculties to confessors, and even presiding over synods of abbesses of divers convents. Its abbesses were usually of royal blood, and many of the nuns were of the high nobility. In 1257 the number of noblewomen was restricted to 100. The abbey's spiritual jurisdiction was not granted by the pope but was based on immemorial custom. The bishops of Burgos and even the abbot of Cîteaux contested this jurisdiction, but Urban VIII confirmed it. In 1873 Huelgas, along with all other exempt jurisdictions in Spain, was suspended by Pius IX.

In 1590 the official term of the abbess, which had been perpetual, became triennial. Not all of the medieval building remains, but the architecture is noteworthy (Romanesque ogives, Mudéjar, ornate floral decorations). In 1808 the convent was looted by Napoleonic troops. Huelgas contains the Moorish banner captured at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, the cross of Rodrigo ximÉnez, many documents, and a codex of medieval songs. Alfonso XI, Henry II, and John I were crowned there, and in 1938 the Nationalist government was sworn in at Las Huelgas. The Cisterian convent of Las Huelgas in Valladolid, founded in 1282 by Maria de Molina, was modeled on that at Burgos.

Bibliography: a. rodrÍguez lÓpez, El real monasterio de las Huelgas de Burgos, 2 v. (Burgos 1907). m. gÓmez-moreno, El panteón real de las Huelgas de Burgos (Madrid 1946). l. de echeverrÍa, "En torno a la jurisdicción eclesiástica de la abadesa de las Huelgas," Revista española de derecho canónico 1 (1946) 219233. j. m. escrivÁ, La abadesa de Las Huelgas (Madrid 1944). Enciclopedia de la Religión Católica, ed. r. d. ferreres et al., 7 v. (Barcelona 195056) 4:254255.

[d. w. lomax]

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