With every step, you travel further back into the campus’s history where you can appreciate the heritage of the past, juxtaposed with endless possibilities for the future.
From the cave of Santo Domingo to the Aula Magna and the main cloister, there are a thousand stories to be told at every turn at the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real.
With every step, you travel further back into the campus’s history where you can appreciate the heritage of the past, juxtaposed with endless possibilities for the future. Beautifully preserved structures from centuries gone by are complemented by modern spaces adapted for IE University, making this a unique and inspiring learning space.
Dr. Miguel Larrañaga, Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and Humanities Center Professor, spoke with us about the three main historical periods of the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, which at the end of 2018 will celebrate its 800th birthday.
Since 1218 – Founded by Santo Domingo de Guzman
The convent was founded by Santo Domingo de Guzman in 1218 as a community for the friars of the Dominican religious order. Nearing the end of the 15th century, the community lived in a state of poverty up until the Dominicans began to acquire more economic power and, thus, more resources to rebuild the convent.
The Time of Prosperity (From the 15th to the 19th Century)
By the end of the 15th century, the Dominicans had become a very powerful religious order, providing them with the means to demolish the old convent and begin constructing a new one from the ground-up. It was during this time that the main cloister and the church were built, which currently serve as the Aula Magna and the main entrance. This reconstruction took place during the time of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, with whom the Dominicans had developed strong ties. The architecture follows a late gothic style, which corresponds with the trends of that period.
During this time of prosperity, the Dominicans sought growth. As a result, they built two new cloisters next to the main one in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, due to space limitations, the friars were forced to move the façade and entrance of the church and build the stairs stone-by-stone. As a result, the door is directly aligned with the entrance stairs (which is now the main entrance of the university), but not with the roof of the church (currently the Aula Magna). Today, these cloisters are used as classrooms and administrative offices.
A Period of Change (Since the 19th Century)
A social and economic reform dominated half of the 19th century, during which the ownership of buildings of all religious orders was passed on to the state. Later, the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real became an orphanage and a home for the elderly. It was during this time that a residence for the children of the orphanage was built, using a different style than that of the convent. This building currently serves as the student residence.
The “Sala Capitular” was originally used by the friars as a place for prayer and meetings, but during its time as an orphanage was transformed into a kitchen. As a result, its ceiling is now covered in black from the smoke. Were it to be properly cleaned, however, this ancient structure’s magnificent golden details and polychrome works of art would be uncovered.
Santa Cruz la Real was later restructured by SEK University for its use, and then in 2006 became the campus for IE University.
Today, as you walk through the campus corridors, if you pay attention to the details you will find symbols for the Catholic Monarchs present on the walls throughout the convent, along with their initials, “Y” for Isabel and “F” for Fernando. Monthly masses are held in the cave of Santo Domingo, which is still owned by the Dominicans, and the archeology room preserves most of the antique structures. As seen above, the stork’s nest is a current symbol of the university.
The campus hosts students from more than 130 nationalities and maintains a lively atmosphere due to its daily classes, events, and extracurricular activities. IE University proudly preserves the rich heritage of the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real and seeks to continue the preservation of its value for future generations.