The origin of the Carmelite Order in Aracena is associated with a Monastery which used to be in the neighbourhood where the actual Church of Carmen is situated next to the Marketplace. Five monks founded the first monastery which eventually disappeared.
The Convent of Saint Catherine (Santa Catalina) was taken over by the church and located in what was a Jewish Synagogue in the 15th century and on the 21st of February 1536 the building was handed over by Cardinal Alonso Manrique. Pope Paul the Third, in a Papal document dated in Rome on the 8th of January 1543, confirmed and ratified the union of St. Catherine the Martir’s church of the city of Aracena to be the Convent of the Carmelite nuns. On the 23rd of January of the same year an official of the Carmelite Order confirmed the obligation of the nuns to be responsible for the upkeep of the building.
The Carmelite Order occupied the entire block which has now been separated into the actual Convent, houses and commercial premises.
In 1561, according to the records of the Notary – Fernando Sanchez de Ortega the nuns of St Catherine could celebrate the Holy Days of the Holy Sacrament in the streets of Aracena (religious processions)
In 1573, the brotherhood of St Antonio Abad was established in St Catherine’s church
From 1627 and endorsed by the Diocesan Archbishop Diego de Guzman resulted in a permission to take the Holy Images through the streets – although the procession was restricted to take place only within 40 metres of the church.
The Peninsular War (Guerra de Independencia) in 1810 brought disastrous consequences for the Convent and the Church as they were sacked by French troops in order to steal all of the religious treasure of Aracena.
In the early years of the 20th century the Marquis of Aracena was responsible for the restoration of the flooring of the church and also one of the side chapels. This resulted on the 16th of July 1924 in a new blessing of the temple.
The Spanish Civil War also resulted in the loss of various religious objects and artefacts.
The red brick doorway and the stairway at the entrance to the church are one of the most interesting architectural elements in the centre of Aracena. In the interior of the Convent are the beautiful cloisters and a well and the buttresses which support the one of the church walls which unit the streets – Julian Romero de la Osa and Jose Nogales. Also interesting is the interior and exterior of the bell tower. In the interior of the church the pointed arches are aligned in the opposite way from the normal – perpendicular to the high altar.
Mario Rodríguez García