Cañas Abbey, a jewel of Gothic style, is among the first female monasteries of the Cistercian Order in Spain. It was founded in the twelfth century and built largely along the 13th, under the impulse of their Abbess Urraca López de Haro, daughter of the true founders of the Abbey, the count Lope Diaz de Haro and his wife, lords of Vizcaya and a family of enormous power in the region throughout the medieval period.
Doña Urraca is buried in the old chapter, and her carved stone tomb, from the thirteenth century, which represents her funeral procession, is one of the treasures of the convent. The portal stands out as well. It’s richly decorated with vine leaves and other floral motifs, among which we can see the head of a man, face down, drinking the juice of a bunch of grapes placed upon him. A curious seven-hundred-years-old testimony about wine culture in the region.
The church is an excellent example of Gothic style, and has a lovely central apse with six large windows covered with sheets of alabaster, which flood the temple with white light. At the opposite extreme you can see a Renaissance altarpiece from the sixteenth century, another jewel of the abbey, with rich paintings by Andrés de Melgar and Guillén de Hollanda.
You should also visit the cloister; the old granary or warehouse, that now houses a small museum of religious art, and some relics which include, among other curiosities, several skulls attributed to some of the eleven thousand virgins who, according to legend, were martyred together with Santa Ursula.
The abbey is still inhabited by a small community of Cistercian nuns. It was declared a national monument in 1943.