Former Monastery garden with almost 2,200 square meters of surface under an “umbrella” of palms and large central pergola offers an opportunity to balance apparently incompatible goals: Art and Entertainment, Food Lover’s Cuisine and Relaxing Rustic Ambiance – all gracefully veiled in the centuries’ long history of already famous for its vibrant life Barrio El Carmen.
To meet these goals the gastronomic section is thoughtfully scattered across the garden. The traditional Valencian cuisine with visible international accents and flavors is offered by large “Gastronomical Containers”, each specializing in different appetizers, snacks but also more complex meals as well as desserts. For example you will find “seafood” tapas in La Lonja (shrimp tortillitas, calamars, mussels, oysters, grilled sardines, more local red mullet and very Valencian esgarraet and prawns with an opportunity to “match” the fiesta with a glass of vermouth ), classic dishes in Casa de Comida (traditional rotisserie, patatas bravas, croquettes, salads,… ), trendy dishes representing the international cuisine in Street Food (pad-Thai, wok-grilled veggies, cochinita tacos, nachos, brochettes, fish chips…), selections of raw food like sushi, ceviche and poke bowls but also cakes, fresh juices and smoothies in Barra Calma and of course abundance of alcoholic and soft drinks in the central “not-to-miss” vividly-red cubic container: Mahou.
The varied (and changing) gastronomic offer should easily meet even higher expectations of gourmet visitors. Because it’s not only high quality, tasty food prepared at the premises, but also its colorful combinations and stylish forms. Well, probably nothing can be more reassuring for foodies than the fact that the chef of Convent Carmen’s food market – Mr. Miguel Ángel Mayor was awarded with Micheline star for his previous culinary achievements.
The former church and chapel, now deprived of all typical objects of religious devotion, art and ornamentation humbly exposes its Castilian architecture – Latin cross layout with a single nave, side chapels and dominating the central space dome. In a twist of history, the place that once upon the time was dedicated to religious chants in an expectation of future “Life after life” has been converted into the vibrant space committed to appreciate the joy of life in its earthly dimensions. It provides the space for various cultural activities like for example film screenings, musical and theatrical performances, concerts and so on… Actually, the imagination (similarly like in church’s previous “incarnation”) is the only limit of what to expect.
Part of the former Convent is adapted for conference rooms, workshops, lectures, discussion panels etc.. It is anticipated that a lot of these activities will be dedicated to the promotion of healthy lifestyle and food. One of the rooms is dedicated to expositions – currently presenting the history of the Monastery of San José and Santa Teresa. This particular exhibition is richly illustrated with pictures of religious paintings and art that once were part of the Monastery (original objects of art are now either in Valencian museums or were transferred to other churches and/or monasteries). Exhibition also shows historical pictures of the neighborhood (for example demolished in October 1868 Puerta Nueva and defensive walls), old pictures of still existing San José bridge (now only serving as pedestrian zone)….
It’s worth mentioning that in the next few years, the major part of the still abandoned Convent’s structure will be adapted for the luxury hotel that according to plans should offer about 50 rooms for future guests.
Summarizing – the Convent Carmen is a vibrant cultural and gastronomic space. Isolated by walls from the busy streets, surrounded by the nature you will find here an ideal place to experience the joy of life with friends and families. Scattered across the garden chairs, benches and tables but also large swings give you chance to find a secluded place (if needed). But – keep in mind that on weekends or days when major cultural activities take place (note an open-air stage for live-concerts in the garden), the Convent Carmen may be “overflowing”. In other words – do not count too much on the privacy…
On September 27, 2018 for the first time in its history, the Monastery of San José and Santa Teresa opened its doors to public. The complex was built in 1609-1628 for nuns of the newly founded Convent of Discalced Carmelites of Villanueva de la Jara. For almost 4 centuries the Monastery was fully sheltered from the outside world due to the strict rules of devoted to prayers Barefoot Carmelites.
In 2007, due to significant drop of number of nuns, the Monastery was closed. After removal of all objects of religious and historical value, the church was desacralized and then the whole complex was sold to the private business. About 10 years later, due to the initiative of the family Bordeaux-Andreu and dedication of the team of well-recognized Valencian professionals including: Mr. Paco Jurado (architect), Francesc Rifé (design) and Miguel Ángel Mayor (gastronomy), the old Monastery came back to life, but this time under the new name: “Convent Carmen”. The main idea behind the project was to create a sort of “Melting Pot” where in an ambiance of an open space and nature enhanced by unconventional settings and good culinary offer public can take part in cultural events, art exhibitions, music, lectures and in general leisure with family and friends.
Address: Convent Carmen
Plaza Portal Nou, 6, 46003 València (main entrance to the Garden from the Calle Blanquerías).
Open: 12:00 – 00:00 (midnight) Wednesday-Thursday and Sunday
12:00 – 1:00 am Friday & Saturday.
Monastery of San Jose – History
The Convent Carmen reflects the crossroad of Valencian religious past and its commercial future. Located in El Carmen, it makes the vital connection between barrio’s historical past and an opening towards the future reflected by the unorthodox approach to the culture. It’s true that visiting these days the Convent Carmen, you will mostly find the “future” expressed by avant-garde arrangements of space, variety of offered cultural activities and trendy cuisine. It may be however more difficult to reach to the past that still seems to be hanging in the surrounding atmosphere.
It all started in 1571, when the Archbishop of Valencia- San Juan de Ribera, impressed by works of Teresa de Jesus (founder of the Convent of Discalced Carmelites), invited her to establish the Monastery in his patriarchy. It took however several years for the project to materialize. After the death of Mother Teresa (1515-1582), the Convent of Barefoot Carmelites was founded by her close collaborator Friar Ambrosio de San Bonito (1510 -1594). Shortly after, in October 1588 first nuns of the new convent arrived in Valencia. But it still took several years (1609-1628) till their Monastery was built along the Guadalaviar (Turia) River, next to the Puerta Nueva (Portal Nou).
Architecturally, the Monastery is an example of the classical Castilian style that is attributed to the influence of Fr. Ambrosio. While he was born in Italy, most of his life as the secular theologian he spent in Madrid at the service of the Spanish King Philip 2nd where his expertise in mathematics and engineering as well as doctorate in Law and Theology were highly valued.
From the original structure of the Monastery only the church survived in its close to original form (the cloister and all supporting structures like rooms for nuns, refectory etc… were demolished in 1965 due to huge damage inflicted by the catastrophic flooding). The church has classic Latin cross layout, three-sections nave with 2 chapels on each side and high choir above the entrance. The nave is covered by a barrel vaults with the central section crowned by the dome. This almost perfect symmetry is offset by the sacristy on the left side.
The exterior façade topped with triangular pediment shows simplicity reflecting the austerity and coming with it, concealment of any striking architectural details. The small belfry on the top of the roof with two bays (instead of separate side bell-tower typical for Valencia) is another example of classic Castilian architectural trends of the epoque.
The Monastery underwent major renovations in the second half of the 18th century. The original high altar from masonry was replaced by the new one, floors received ceramic tiles, the choir a window (hence some asymmetry seen on the frontal façade). The new altarpiece contained works by José Esteve Bonet (Holy Family in the central niche, Eliseo (Elisha) and San Alberto in side panels as well as two angels and in the upper part of the altar – Transverberation (piercing through) of Santa Teresa as the central motif with the statues of Saint Bartholomew and Saint John the Evangelist on the sides).
During the renovation, the pilasters received capitals and walls with vaults the ornamentation in the forms of leaves, rosettes, shells and cones – seemingly in an attempt to bring some mild elements of trendy at those times baroque.
Big benefactor of these works was the family of Diego Verdes-Montenegro who’s two daughters were members of the convent. No wonder, that many members of the family Verdes-Montenegro were buried in the church’s chapel of Santa Teresa.
Of many precious objects of art in Monastery it may be worth to mention several 17th century paintings like: “Prophet Elias with Angel”, “Saint Joseph giving the cross to the Child”, “Transverberation of Saint Therese”, “Apparition of the Virgin and Child to San Juan de la Cruz”, “The death of San José” (by Florencio Guilló), “El Lavatorio” (scene with Jesus in a gesture of humility kneels down to wash Peter’s feet), “Dolorosa” (Virgin Mary with arrows piercing Her Heart), “Triptico” (Oil on the board presenting Sacred Family with St. Michael and St. Raphael on the sides), “Nazareno” (Christ with the cross on his back), “Holy Family in the carpenter workshop” and “Encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman” (paintings attributed to the Valencian School of Espinosa), “ Levitating Santa Teresa” (17th century copy of an engraving from 1613 by Collaert and Galle in Antverp from the series of “Life of Virgin Teresa de Jesu), “Elisha” (Scene with Prophet Elijah and the Chariot of Fire) and “St. Albert of Jerusalem” (part of the original altarpiece) – both attributed to the circle of Vergara),
Out of collection of sculptures (unfortunately most of them disappeared from the public view) it may be worth to mention “Pieta and Four Children” (silver work by Verdara), few carvings of Virgin Mary, Santa Teresa de Jesu and St. John (all work of Esteve).
We must also mention ceramics as since Arab’s times, Valencia was the center of decorative art on ceramic tiles. The Monastery of San Jose and Santa Teresa was not an exception – ceramic panels depicting biblical and contemporary religious scenes from the life of Carmelite Convent covered Monastery’s walls. Most notable were 17th century “St. John de la Cruz” as well as “Santa Teresa and San Angel de Sicilia” (both in strikingly vivid yet limited to yellow, blue and white colors represent Valencian Renaissance). The 18th century contributed with famous at those times ceramics of Manises, especially visible in the Chapel of the family Verde-Montenegro decorated with tiles displaying heraldic shields. Also, from Manises’ tiles was a rococo altar in the garden depicting a hermit and a shepherd with the landscape in the background.
The flooding of “biblical” proportion that struck Valencia on October 13-14, 1957 badly affected the Monastery. Damage caused by the water rising about 2 meters above the street level added to those imposed earlier by fire and civil war and left the monastery in the state of sorry. The reconstruction works started in February 1961 and extended into late 70’s. First, after demolition of old structures, the new living quarters for nuns have been built. Subsequently, church’s renovation works were carried out bringing back its original neoclassical style. Also, plaster ornaments attached to walls and vault as well as lines outlining church’s structure were gilded with 22-carat gold plates. Damaged objects of religious arts (paintings, furniture, ceramic tiles panels, pottery etc…) were renovated, some by the nuns themselves. Under the priory of Mother Maria Dolores, nuns also fully remodeled the garden. While some areas were dedicated for legumes and fruit trees, the remaining part with palm trees, small mountain and grotto (symbolizing the one from Lourdes) took the form we can still see and appreciate as the part of Convent Carmen center today. The works culminated in 1979 when on October 19, the bishop Msg. Jesús Pla Gandía concelebrated the mass dedicating the church to San José and Santa Teresa.
It was probably hard to predict at that time, that the days of the Monastery are numbered. Slowly deserted by nuns due to decreasing number of vocations and rising costs, the church was desacralized, existing objects of religious art and decorative ceramic panels followed nuns to other monasteries or were stored in the local Museum of Bellas Artes. In 2007, the Monastery complex was sold to private industry. After years of abandonment it was resold once again, this time to be converted into a vibrant Gastronomic and Cultural Center under the name “Convent Carmen”.
Source: Information and pictures – “El Convento De San José de Valencia y su Patrimonio Artístico” by Dolores García Hinarejos