Iglesia de San Nicolás El Real de Villafranca

Point of interest en Villafranca del Bierzo

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Iglesia de San Nicolás El Real de Villafranca

Church of Saint Nicholas of Villafranca, image from Wikimedia Commons

Church of Saint Nicholas of Villafranca, image from Wikimedia Commons

Villafranca del Bierzo is closely linked to the Camino de Santiago, since its foundation with a monastery of Cluniac monks. This link with religion is still evident several centuries later, when the church-convent of San Nicolás was built. In the heart of the old town of Villafranca del Bierzo, we find the spectacular architectural complex.

The architecture of the church of Saint Nicholas

This church was built in the first half of the 17th century, and was founded by the Jesuits. That is why the church does not have the well-known Latin cross floor plan, but instead has a single nave with interconnected side chapels, the so-called Jesuit model. It is inspired by the Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Antigua in Monforte de Lemos, which in turn has a clear influence from the Escorial.

These influences determine its architectural style, which is Herrerian. It also has elements more typical of the Baroque, such as the split pediment, but in general its style falls within the Spanish Renaissance trend. Something typical of the Herrerian is the scarcity of decorative elements, which can be seen both outside and inside. Compared to other baroque buildings of the time, the ornamentation of the church of San Nicolás is scarce.

The history of the architectural complex

The Jesuits left the church and the convent in 1767, but classes in theology studies continued. In 1822 it was the headquarters of the Provincial Council of the Bierzo province, and later it was sold and became a school of the Paúles Fathers.

For a century, until 1983, it functioned as a school, but from then on classes were abandoned to include a Natural Sciences Museum inside. In addition, the convent was used as a hostel for pilgrims who finish the stage of the French Way that leaves from Ponferrada.

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