There are 2 monasteries in the town of San Millán de la Cogolla, in the La Rioja region of northern Spain. They are celebrated and protected as a UNESCO heritage site due to their place in Spain’s Christian and linguistic history; not only have monks worshipped on the site for over 1400 years but handwritten texts made in their ancient libraries suggest that Basque and Castilian, Spain’s principal language were written down here first.
The first surviving monastery, dating from the 6th century is known as Suso, meaning ‘upper’, due to its location in the Rioja hills. Its original monastic buildings were created in caves in the hills, but it expanded with new buildings in the 7th, 10th and 11th centuries, some of which still survive today. A second, larger monastery was built at San Millán de la Cogolla in the 11th century and became known as ‘Yuso’ or ‘lower’ monastery as it was built below, but in sight of the original Suso monastery. Its appearance today comes mostly from King Garcia Sanchez of Najer’s commission for a new church, made in 1503.
The town and monasteries take their name from a saint who lived in the area, and who founded the Suso monastery. As it lies only a few kilometers from the pilgrim route, it is often a stopping place for travelers making their way to Santiago de Compostela.