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Convent of Santo Domingo (Zaragoza)

It is said that the convent of Santo Domingo of the Order of Preaches was founded in Zaragoza in 1219 by King Jaime I, which granted them the exclusivity of fishing for sturgeon in the Ebro River, a privilege of the Kings of Aragon since the time of Alfonso I.

The progress of building was constantly maintained by donations in 1227, 1228 and 1230 to cover the basic construction, which may have been provisional. In 1250, it was noted that master builders of the Bellito family was working on the monastery, concretely on the church which was still under construction in 1260. These dates make the monastery the earliest Mudéjar religious work in Zaragoza, before San Pablo (1266), the Monastery of Santo Sepulcro (begun in 1276) and the corresponding part of the Cathedral (1313). In 1283, the church must have been finished, since it is certain that the Council of the city met there in that year. In 1291, the Bellito family continued working on the construction of the monastery.

The monastery was mainained with constant transformations and expansions over the centuries, particularly at the end of the 17th century, when the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style, of such size that it was the third largest in the city after el Pilar and the Cathedral.

The violent uprising of 1835 forced the monks to abandon the monastery. Two years later, in 1837 the Suppression of Mendizábal forced the Municipality to take charge of the monastic complex, which began a process of deterioration, beginning with the partial demolition of the church to make way for the widening of the Calle de la Democracia (the present C/ de Predicadores) and for its appropriation in 1871 for the Municipal Asylum. Its dependencies also served as the public granary and warehouses.

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In 1888, it was decided to install the preparatory Military Academy there, when everything remaining of the convent was demolished except for the Refectory, which was integrated into the new building, and the dormitory, which had already been incorporated as a chapel in the contiguous Casa del Amparo, constructed in 1870. That building, of which only the facades remain facing the Plaza de Santo Domingo, later housed the Museum of Fine Arts, the Consistory House and Municipal Schools, until the construction of the IES “Luis Buñuel” Institute, now the Community Social Center with the same name.

Of this extensive complex of Monastic buildings, only the refectory has come down to us, which is presently the Centro de Documentación del Agua y del Medio Ambiente, the cellars or storage vaults situated below this, and part of the dormitory integrated into the chapel of the Casa del Amparo.

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The exterior aspect of the refectory is almost completely the product of the reforms carried out by Ricardo Magdalena at the end of the 19th century. The southern wall still retains traces of the principal cloister. On the northern principal façade between the buttresses, narrow, elongated windows with pointed arches with oculi above them can be seen; these also appear to date from Magdalena’s reforms, as well as the square structure attached to the center of the façade, which is the present access to the interior.

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On the lower part are openings of different sizes with rounded arches that serve as illumination to the southern part of the cellars.

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