Calle Mayor, Caravaca de la Cruz.
The church and monastery of the Compañía de Jesús are renown for their size, occupying a substantial plot in the centre of the Town. Once an important religious centre, their main use today is as an exhibition centre and for cultural events. Before Semana Santa the church is used to display the pasos which parade in the Holy Week processions, an the church also takes centre stage during the May Fiestas , when the incredible mantels of the Wine horses are displayed here the night before they run up to the Castle.
Click for map, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, Caravaca de la Cruz.
This building was constructed for use by the Jesuits, initiated by Miguel de Reina, who first expressed his intention to finance the setting up of an establishment devoted to the education of the young in about 1563. Later, other townspeople joined his initiative, and managed to secure the collaboration of the "Concejo Municipal" (the town council of the time), which offered them the use of the Ermita de San Bartolomé and the land next door. Finally, on 30th August 1568, Francisco de Borja, a leading member of the Spanish nobility and great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, appointed Father Bartolomé de Bustamante in charge of erecting two buildings for the convent and the church.
Father Bartolomé was an experienced architect and a member of the Order, and was assisted in his work by the master builder Juan Lezcano, a fellow member. The official foundation date was 23rd February 1570.
Four years later, the first rector of the school, Father Diego de Salazar, requested a change of location due to the many inconveniences of the first establishment, not least among which was the lack of water to irrigate the small market garden alongside it.
In early 1592, the Jesuits received a licence from the Province of Toledo to move from the Ermita de San Bartolomé, which is believed to have been where the Clarissas monastery now stands.
The acquisition of a new site for the Jesuit foundation was made possible to a large extent by a series of donations and property transfers made by the order's benefactors in Caravaca, especially the inheritance received following the death of Alonso Torrecilla, which included his house and garden in the Calle Mayor, which was next to the stream known as Acequia Real or Hila de Pilar. This, together with other properties received, provided the space necessary for the new building.
Work began on the new Jesuit institution almost immediately, under the guidance of "a good foreman from Cartagena". Some researchers believe that the man in question was Pedro Monte de Isla, the senior builder of the diocese. Whether or not this was the case, the community moved to the new premises in July 1592, despite work on the building not yet being finished.
Building work continued for a long time. In 1614 the new patron of the Compañía de Jesús in the city was the Canon of Jaén Cathedral, Jerónimo Pacheco, and he gave the work fresh impetus with a much-needed injection of capital, but even so the buildings were still not finished when he died in 1620.
The second phase of construction work on the Colegio e Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús began between February and July of 1700. The building records tell us that the master builder in charge was José Vallés, from Lorca, and that he was helped by his son Felix, Diego de Mora, Manuel Serrano, Martín de Pareja and Agustín de Pareja, among others.
Work was declared complete on 23rd August 1734, and the official inauguration took place on 19th October of the same year.
When the Jesuits were expelled in 1767 the monastery soon went into decline, being practically abandoned.
Starting in 1789 the church was also home to a brotherhood, founded by agricultural workers, dedicated to the cult of San Isidro.
The church was finally sold on 27th February 1843 to Pedro Ignacio Ródenas, who turned it into an inn. It later became a fixed residence for the families who owned it, and some of the side chapels were converted into separate homes, or even garages for motor vehicles. In 2000, though, it was acquired by the Town Hall of Caravaca, who have restored the building. The monastery, meanwhile, has for a long time been used as residential and even commercial property, even housing the Casino for a long time: today, ownership is still in the hands of private individuals.
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