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Cistercian Abbey (Daughter of Morimond) - Established nearby in 1152, and moved to the present location alongside the river Ebro, south of Saragossa,  after the site was given to them by King Alfonso II of Aragon in 1182.  The church was consecrated in 1238.  Being Cistercians they dammed the river and put up a monster water wheel to keep the good stuff flowing through the monastery and its gardens (hence the name). 


In 1836 / 7 the monastery was closed under the "Depriving Laws of Mendizábal", and its possessions were sold (except for the church and cloister buildings which remained the (unmaintained) property of government).  In reality the farming family who took over the land also used the church, refectory etc as shelter for animals and machinery and even a large boat.  Strangely, the water wheel also survived in working order until a few decades ago. 


What is there now is the result of a huge and very impressive ten year restoration program of the church and monk's buildings (the lay brothers' side has gone) by the government of Aragon.





Cistercian Abbeys of Spain and Portugal


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The road to Rueda does not fill one with much hope - poor land, abandoned farmhouses, unmaintained road surface for 30km or so, and then when the abbey does come into sight the beauty of what lies inside is not immediately evident either.  Nor does the restored church facade in the huge outer courtyard (below) offer much hope, because the one aesthetic mistake of the restoration work was to continue a high blank wall to the south of the facade where the lay brothers' buildings would have been, leaving the appearance of a prison security wall. 








Then when the abbey door was unlocked after a good lunch, and Dom P was left inside as the  only visitor (and with no monks to get in the way)

it was as good as it gets!!





The visible tower is built from bricks in Mudéjar style, lower down this sits on an earlier stone structure.





The south east corner of the cloisters including the lavatorium enclosure, and in the background the chimney of the warming room (below).













Chapter house entrance (above three photos) and inside (below).







Lots of croziers on the sepulchral slabs of the tombs of abbots in the chapter house.







Above: The single span high stone vaulted refectory is located traditionally on the south side of the cloister with a hand washing lavatorium structure outside.  The beautiful ambo is shown below .... just look at the quality of the capitals and the ambo support.   Incidentally, this photo is the right way round - a reversed image has infiltrated the Cistercians' web site!







Outside in what would have been the lay brother's area some medieval colonic irrigation / blow jobbing is underway, whilst below an imposing  medievally dressed angel sits on a column supported by a very Norman looking face.






Neck butting whatsits




A lady visitor ?




Resident tongue loller




The hotel part of the buildings occupies two sides of the outer courtyard, which would have been part of the palace structure of the commendatory abbots.   The room views on the other side of the arcade look out onto the main aqueduct wall - with the gap being where the great rueda was.


The hotel itself ("La Hospederia del Real Monasterio de Neustra Señora de Rueda") is almost new (2006) and a genuine  ****+,  beautifully designed and spaciously fitted out with nothing but the tasteful best - recommended without reservation.


And the restaurant is just as excellent as the rest, with the delightful waitress Sheyla who will give you a little glass of gespazio and a roll of spring whilst you try and choose amongst Aragonese specialities like duck’s gizzard and foie on a bed of borraja, and sweetened piggy with garlics and aromatic herbs.





Unforgiving landscape at Mequinenza on the way south to Catalonia



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