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San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

San Millán de Suso
State Party  Spain
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, vi
Reference 805
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1997  (21st Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

San Millán de la Cogolla is a sparsely populated municipality in La Rioja, (Spain). It takes its name from a 6th-century saint (Saint Emilianus or San Millán) who lived here, and from the shape of the surrounding mountains (the word cogolla means "cowl"). The village is famous for its twin monasteries, Yuso and Suso, which were declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. There were 303 inhabitants registered in 2007, the population having fallen significantly during the twentieth century. The area is Spanish-speaking but some of the local place-names are of Basque origin, and there is evidence that Basque was spoken locally a thousand years ago (see Glosas Emilianenses).

Jews were living here as early as at Nájera, and they suffered greatly in the civil war between Pedro of Castile and Henry II of Castile. On October 15, 1369, at the request of the directors of the small aljama of San Millán, whose cause was advocated by "certain Jews who were received at court," Henry II of Castile ordered that "the Christian men and women and the Moorish men and women" should immediately discharge all their debts to the Jews, "that the last-named might be able to pay their taxes the more promptly." On September 10, 1371, however, the king released the abbot and all the monks of San Millán from whatever debts they had contracted with the Jews since the Battle of Nájera.[1]

History of the Monasteries of San Millán

Yuso Monastery is at the bottom of the valley
Gothic inside of the Yuso Monastery

Suso is the older of the two monasteries, and one of its claims to fame is as the site where phrases in the Spanish and Basque languages were written for the first time - the codex in question was subsequently preserved in the monastery library at Yuso before being moved to its current location in Madrid. The phrases in Spanish and Basque are glosses on a Latin text and are known as the Glosas Emilianenses. There is some debate as to whether the Spanish words are written in an early form of Castilian or in a related dialect. In either case, San Millán's importance as a cradle of the Spanish language is reinforced by the proximity of the village of Berceo which is associated with Gonzalo de Berceo, the first Spanish poet known by name.

Interior coutyard of San Millán de Yuso Monastery
Interior archs in the Suso Monastery

There is a continuous history of Christianity at San Millán since the time of the saint. The scriptorium remained active during the period of Muslim rule; and over the centuries, the religious community has overcome various vicissitudes which affected the monasteries (for example being sacked by the Black Prince). However the type of monastic life has evolved - the original monks living at Suso were hermits, but Yuso developed as a Benedictine community As the UNESCO evaluation noted, San Millán shows the transformation from an eremetic to a cenobitic community in material terms.[2]

Suso monastery has been uninhabited since the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal. Yuso monastery is now an Augustinian community.

Part of Yuso monastery has been converted into a hotel. Today San Millán attracts pilgrims on the Way of St James (even though it lies somewhat off the line of the official route between Nájera and Burgos).[3][4]


Online references

  1. ^ [ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=215&letter=S&search=san%20millan]
  2. ^ [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/805 Entry on the World Heritage website.
  3. ^ route map
  4. ^ *(Spanish) Cervantes Centre

External links

Coordinates: 42°20′N 2°52′W / 42.333°N 2.867°W / 42.333; -2.867

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