There are no El Grecos in this early Renaissance monastery, but the cloisters work their own kind of magic. Fernando and Isabel had the convent built to mark their 1476 victory over the Portuguese and originally intended to be buried here—until the symbolic importance of being buried in Granada trumped that plan. It is the epitome of a Franciscan retreat: the cloister’s jungle-like central garden is filled with birdsong, and the high-vaulted Renaissance arches flood the arcades with reflected light. The convent was not finished until 1504, when it was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and turned over to the Franciscans. Heavily damaged during Napoleon’s invasion, it stood vacant until the late 19th century, when restoration began. In 1954, the state returned the property to the Franciscans and it has been a working friary ever since. Located at the western edge of the old city, midway between the San Martín bridge and the Cambrón gate, it’s worth seeking out for the serenity of the courtyard and for the exquisitely graceful stone carvings on the columns of the lower cloister.
- Frommer's Staff