The monastery, a space for women´s freedom and development

Recumbent Statue of Madam Constanza of Castille

This recumbent statue represents the long-lived and powerful Madam Constanza of Castille, prioress of the disappeared Monastery of Santo Domingo el Real in Madrid. It is attached to the alabaster tomb she had built and which was installed in the chorus of said monastery at the time of her death in 1478. Madam Constanza was the cousin of Catalina of Lancaster and the granddaughter of King Pedro the Cruel. She is wearing the Dominican order habit, and holds a rosary and the rule of the order. Moreover, by her own special request, she is represented holding a book between her hands.

This book may be related to a manuscript kept at the National Library under the name Devocionario, which she herself wrote around the year 1465. This influential sister, proud of her lineage and skilled at effective, coarsely realistic prose, joins a growing catalogue of late medieval female writers. Many of them were nuns whose aptitudes were favored by their monastic setting in which they enjoyed access to the arts and encountered a supportive female community in which they could discuss their works and elude male controls far more prevalent outside the cloister. These women from the late medieval period questioned, through their writings and deeds, the educational and behavioral model imposed on women.