Translated as the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation, the Convento de la Encarnación is a 17th-century convent that sits just steps away from Madrid’s Plaza de Oriente and other well-known city attractions, such as the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral.
Founded by Queen Margaret of Austria, wife of Phillip III, the convent was constructed at the instruction of the Queen in celebration of her husband’s order to expel remaining Moors from Spain. Given the royals’ need to visit it regularly – including the Queen herself – a passageway was created between the building and the nearby Real Alcázar (which was later replaced by today’s Royal Palace). Ultimately, the Queen passed away in 1611 before construction was ever completed.
The building boasts a cloister, a refurbished (due to an 18th-century fire) Baroque-style church with ceiling frescoes, a large collection of 17th-century art, and most notably, a reliquary. Most notable because this room is home to perhaps the city’s most important relic: an orb of St. Pantaleon’s blood, which is said to turn to liquid every July 27 (with superstitious implications should it do so any other time of the year).
Beyond the sacred orb, the sight is the source of a few other noteworthy anecdotes. Famous 19th-century composer Lorenzo Román Nielfa was a music professor there. Then, back in the early 17th century, it was at its gate that a hanged cat was discovered as a threat to Joseph Bonaparte who came to Madrid as king.
Often overlooked, the convent is host to quite an impressive history, making it a sight worth visiting. And while the monastery is owned by a private religious order, and is still active today, it is open to the public.