Monasterios de la Encarnacion de las Descalzas Reales

Madrid for kids

The Monasterio de las Descalzes Reales used to be the Palace of the Royal Treasurer until he sold it 1555 to King Felipe II's sister, Juana of Austria.  She turned it into a Franciscan convent
The nuns became known as the 'Barefoot Royals' because they came from aristocratic families.  Relics are like souveniers, they are the 'mortal' remains of a saint or a fragment of something they wore or used.  A famous relic is the Shroud of Turin (the cloth used to wrap Jesus' body which is believed to have the imprint of his face). From around the 4th century small pieces of bone, blood or cloth were distributed to churches to be placed near the altar.  They were believed to be filled with the spiritual force of the saint.

This is the reliquary, but you will rarely see it.  At the other convent the tour takes you though its reliquaryRelics became an obsession for many and if church had an outstanding relic, pilgrims would come, a sure boon for a town, all those 'tourists'.  The Monasterio de la Encarnacion was founded in 1611 by Margarita de Austria, wife of Felipe III, for daughters of nobility.It was the church for the old Alcazar and a picture gallery linked the two.  It was burnt along with the Alcazar.

There is amazing art here, but the reliquary is really fantastic, with over 700 saints remains and a phial that contains Saint Pantaleone's dried blood.  It is said that on 27th July, every year, the blood miraculously liquifies.  If it doesn't it is a bad omen for Madrid.  The convents are still in use so remember to be nice and quiet, it's like being in a church.


St.  Pantaleon Martyr, died about 305.  According to legend he was the son of a rich pagan, Eustorgius of Nicomedia, and had been instructed in Christianity by his Christian mother, Eubula.  Afterwards he became estranged from Christianity.  He studied medicine and became physician to the Emperor Maximinianus.

He was won back to Christianity by the priest Hermolaus.  Upon the death of his father he came into possession of a large fortune.  Envious colleagues denounced him to the emperor during the Diocletian persecution.  The emperor wished to save him and sought to persuade him to apostasy.  Pantaleon, however, openly confessed his faith, and as proof that Christ is the true God, he healed a paralytic.  Notwithstanding this, he was condemned to death by the emperor, who regarded the miracle as an exhibition of magic.  According to legend, Pantaleon's flesh was first burned with torches; upon this Christ appeared to all in the form of Hermolaus to strengthen and heal Pantaleon.  The torches were extinguished.  After this, when a bath of liquid lead was prepared, Christ in the same form stepped into the cauldron with him, the fire went out and the lead became cold.  He was now thrown into the sea, but the stone with which he was loaded floated.  He was thrown to the wild beasts but these fawned upon him and could not be forced away until he had blessed them.  He was bound on the wheel, but the ropes snapped, and the wheel broke.  An attempt was made to behead him, but the sword bent, and the executioners were converted.  Pantaleon implored heaven to forgive them, for which reason he also received the name of Panteleemon (the all-compassionate).  It was not until he himself desired it that it was possible to behead him.
Pantaleon is venerated in the East as a great martyr and wonderworker.  In the Middle Ages he came to be regarded as the patron saint of physicians and midwives, and became one of the fourteen guardian martyrs.  From early times a phial containing some of his blood has been preserved at Constantinople.  On the feast day of the saint the blood is said to become fluid and to bubble.  Relics of the saint are to be found at St.  Denis at Paris; his head is venerated at Lyons.  His feast day is 27 July, also 28 July, and 18 February. Extraced from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11447a.htm

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