The origin of the monastery dates from the thirteenth century, when a shepherd from Cáceres called Gil Cordero, discovered on the bank of the Guadalupe River a statue of the Virgin who had apparently been hidden by the inhabitants of the region to preserve the invading Moors in 714. A chapel was first built on the site of this discovery.
King Alfonso XI, who frequently visited the chapel, came here to invoke Santa Maria de Guadalupe on the eve of the Battle of Tarifa (or “Battle of Rio Salado”), during the Reconquista. After winning this battle, which he attributed the victory to the intervention of the Virgin, he made the chapel a royal shrine and began a major program of construction. In 1389, the Jeronimos monks made the monastery their main residence. The monastery is associated with the “New World” where “Our Lady of Guadalupe” is revered in the Mexican Basilica of Guadalupe and other places.
It is in this place of the Extremadura that Columbus made his first pilgrimage after his discovery of America in 1492 and it was in this place that he came to thank for this discovery. In his homage, he will baptize on his second trip to Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Estremadura the island known today as Guadeloupe.
Even after the monks had founded the famous Escorial Monastery, closer to Madrid, Santa Maria de Guadelupe retained the royal protection. It remained the largest cloister in Spain until the secularization of monasteries in 1835.
In the twentieth century, the monastery was revived by the Franciscan order and Pope Pius XII made the place a “papal basilica minor” in 1955.