S. María la Real de Sijena
Community ID
Alternate Names
Sigena, Sixena
Villanueva de Sigena
Corporate Status
Date Founded
Religious Order
Foundation Information

Founded by Sancha of Leon-Castile (d. 1208), queen of Aragon, during the reign of her husband Alfonso II of Aragon (r. 1162-1196). In addition to the Rule of Saint Augustine, Sancha had Ricardo, Bishop of Huesca, write a customary for the house in 1188. The customary is known as Sancha's rule.

Notable Heads

Sancha de Abiego (1190-1192), Beatriz de Cabrera (1193-1196), Maria de Estopañóa (1198-1202), Ozenda de Lizana (1203-1224), Sancha Jimenez de Urrea (1126-1237), Oria Jimenez de Luesia (1238-1252), Urraca de Entenza (1254-1259), Toda Ortiz de Lizana (1259-1266), Elisenda de Querol (1268-1281), Ines de Benavente (1281-1291), Teresa Jimenez de Urrea (1292-1321), infanta Blanca de Aragon y Anjou (1321-1348)


Protected by kings, nobles, and popes. It was the most powerful Hospitaller monastery for women in Aragon and Catalonia, arguably in the peninsula. Enjoyed the patronage of kings, although after the thirteenth century Aragonese nobles were the primary benefactors. Sancha, her son Pedro II (r. 1196-1213), and her daughters Dulce and Leonor were all buried at the site.

Social Characteristics

Daughters of royalty and nobles.

Relative Wealth

Extremely wealthy

Architecture & Archaeology

The monastery was built in a single campaign under Sancha of Leon-Castile. The style is Romanesque, although a broad pointed vault is the primary building technique for the entirety of the monastery. The chapter house had Sicilian-Byzantine style frescoes painted in the last quarter of the twelfth century. Blanca of Aragon and Anjou added a prioral palace in the fourteenth century. See Instituto de Estudios Sijenenses “Miguel Servet”/Michael Servetus Institute: A Reference Center for Servetian Studies, "Architecture," "Murals".

State Of Medieval Structure

The monastery buildings were destroyed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. The church, refectory, and chapter house were the least damaged. Reconstruction was slow and in November 1985 the remains of the monastery were given to the Nuns of the Order of Bethlehem and the Assumption of the Virgin (b. 1950). The church, refectory, and chapter house have been restored. The fourteenth century palace is presently in use by the nuns as their dormitory. The remainder of the structure is slowly being reconstructed, although it is at a standstill at present. The chapter house frescoes are at the Museu Nacional d'Art Catalan

Eileen McKiernan-Gonzàlez; Marie Kelleher
Date Started