San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries (La Rioja), Spain

The birthplace of the Spanish

By UNESCO World Heritage

Inscription on the World Heritage List (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The Suso and Yuso monasteries in San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja, Spain) were declared World Heritage sites in 1997 on the basis of criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi).
The property is exceptional testimony to the introduction and continuous survival of Christian monasticism, from the 6th century to the present day. It is also of outstanding associative significance as the birthplace of the modern written and spoken Spanish language.
The surrounding landscape is truly stunning and together the two monasteries, Suso, ‘the upper one’, and Yuso, ‘the lower one’, are a hugely important and remarkable monumental site.

Outstanding Universal Value (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The monasteries bear exceptional testimony to the introduction of the Christian monastic tradition in the 6th century and its sustained survival to the present day. They are also of paramount significance as the location of the first written appearances of the Spanish language. No other romance language paralleling the extension and importance of Spanish can be associated to such a singular and specific monument and its natural setting.

Suso and Saint Millán (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The story of the Suso monastery starts with Saint Millán, who lived as a religious recluse in caves at the site of today’s monastery, where he was buried in the year 574.

The beginning of a community (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

After Millán’s death, a community of Christian elders began to form around his tomb. This led to a more communal way of life that was less isolated and more organised. Each religious hermit lived in their own cave and gathered once a week in a new construction, the monastery. This was a novel occurrence for Spain.

Different stages of construction San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The changes in religion over the different stages of its construction go hand in hand with its various transformations. This crossing of diverse cultures is now plain to see. In the building that appears to be attached to the rock and its caves, the church with two naves and five sections, there are architectural elements from the early Visigoth building from the 6th century and the Mozarab portico from the 10th century.

Birthplace of the Spanish language (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

In cultural terms, Suso was extraordinary from its beginning, due to its flamboyant scriptorium, which produced a rich and wonderful collection of manuscripts and codices, making it one of the leading, if not the most prominent scriptoria in Spain in the Middle Ages. This was the setting that gave rise to the earliest known appearance of written words in the Spanish language.

Yuso monastery (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The Yuso monastery is unusual due to its vastness. It is the result of architectural work spanning several centuries (established in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries) and the combination of various unopposing styles.

An extensive collection of paintings (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The monastery is home to numerous works of art, with an extensive collection of paintings in the museum alone. These date mainly from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and include twenty-two by Juan de Rizi (considered Spain’s best cloister painter).

Yuso sacristy (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The sacristy is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Spain, with its impressive collection of 17th century Flemish copper decorating the caisson, and the ostentatious frescoes that adorn its ceiling painted in the 18th century.

Wrought-iron work (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The quality of the wrought-iron entrance into the choir is evident and dates back to 1676.

Monastery’s sculptures (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The monastery’s sculptures are also impressive, a good selection of which are found in the Rococo retrochoir which contains eight carvings of the finest of Spain’s imagery.

Outstanding wood-carving example (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The church is also home to one of the monastery’s authentic treasures: a walnut pulpit, which appears to date from the 16th century and is one of the best examples of wood-carving in Spain.

Romanesque chest bearing the relics of San Millán (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

Another of the monastery’s assets is its valuable gold and ivory chests, made in the latter half of the 11th century and one-of-a-kind in Europe. They contain the relics of Saint Millán.

The Library and the Archives (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

Of particular interest is the complex formed by the Library and the Archives, which can be considered to be among the finest found in Spanish monasteries. The medieval archives mainly contain two collections of charters (the Gallican and the Papal Bulls) and some three hundred original documents.

The Library (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The Library is still furnished exactly as it was at the end of the 18th century. Its real value and interest lies not in its breadth, with over ten thousand items, but in the rare copies that it contains.

San Millán monasteries of Suso and Yuso (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The San Millán monasteries of Suso and Yuso are a fine example of World Heritage sites which perfectly combine religion, tourism and culture, allowing religious life to continue uninterrupted from the 6th century to the present day. The first monastic community established in Spain was at Suso and this is where you can still find the oldest altar in the country, on which St Millán celebrated the Eucharist.
This spiritual task is still performed today at Yuso by the religious order of the Augustinian Recollects.

Cradle of the Spanish language (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

With a cultural life that started in the Middle Ages and was particularly prolific and flourishing in the 10th and 11th centuries, San Millán is considered the cradle of the Spanish language. Out of its scriptorium came the first, the most extensive and the greatest written texts in a language that was no longer Latin but a Romance language. They were telling of the enormous store of knowledge that these San Millán monks had in the Middle Ages. Known as the glosses of Millán, they were gleaned from a series of annotations written between the lines or in the margins of medieval Latin codices, in Latin, Romance and Basque. The most prominent are Aemilianensis 60 and Aemilianensis 46.

‘Gloss 89’ (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

‘Gloss 89’, from the Codex Aemilianensis 60: the first Spanish text.
The Hispanic Romance language makes its first linguistic appearance in this text as the earliest record fully expressing the romance language of Iberia in the High Middle Ages. This was the first text that purposefully displayed the lexicon, grammar and sounds of the language which evolved into a universal language - Spanish.

The scriptorium at San Millán (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The scriptorium not only produced the first clear graphical appearance of the Spanish language, but also wrote some of the most detailed encyclopaedias that we know of from the early Middle Ages (10th and 11th centuries) in Iberia and Europe. It also gave rise to some of the most learned literature of the entire Middle Ages, written by Gonzalo de Berceo, the first Spanish poet of note.

San Millán de la Cogolla Foundation (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

The work in supporting culture has not ceased. More than a thousand years on, the formats, resources, methods and knowledge have changed, but the intellectual drive that compelled these monks’ minds remains. They sought out knowledge and dissemination. Their work has been picked up and continued by the San Millán de la Cogolla Foundation and its International Research Centre into the Spanish Language (Cilengua), an undeniable point of reference in the study of Spanish.

In the origins of Spanish (1997) by San Millán Yuso and Suso MonasteriesUNESCO World Heritage

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by San Millán de la Cogolla Foundation:
www.fsanmillan.es

More on the San Millan Yuso and Suso Monasteries and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/805

Photos:
San Millán de la Cogolla Foundation
JPEG Estudio

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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