On the 15th February 1143, Estefanía de Armengol, daughter of Count Urgel and granddaughter of Count Ansúrez, founded the Monastery of Santa María de Valbuena, situated on the River Duero banks, specifically in the San Bernardo village, in the Valbuena de Duero district.
Cistercian monks occupied the monastery and a consensus exists assigning the monastery to the Cistercian Order from 1151, eliminating any doubt that it was founded as Benedictine. This date coincides with the arrival of Cistercian monks of Morimond heritage in Valbuena from Berdones.
Cistercian life was initiated and the monastery survived its first decades of prosperity thanks to donations from the founders themselves; Kings Alfonso VII, Sancho III and Alfonso VIII, as well as through receiving papal privileges granted by Urban III and Innocent III. These donations were an essential support, but the fertile Duero riverside and hard work by the monks and convert, resorted in the monastery staying in the golden age until the 13th century, an era in which the cultural and monastic decline started to become palpable.
It was not until the 15th century, when Brother Martín de Vargas conducted an austerity reform, did the monastery recover to its former splendour.
It was after the reform by Brother Martín, when Valbuena turned into the Congregation of Castile head office, ceasing to depend on Verdona, and therefore passing the responsibility onto Poblet. With this new spiritual and economic impulse throughout the whole of the 16th century, important constructive and decorative work was carried out.
Nevertheless, it would not be preceded by future generations, it was here when the decline began, giving rise to the confiscations of the early 19th century.
The prolonged decline in the Baroque era did not affect the great building activity. During the 17th and 18th centuries a number of reforms was made: Saint Peter’s Chapel, constructions around the Compass Courtyard, the cloisters, the monks’ dormitory etc… This building activity was completed through effort and work by the community, involving leading figures like, Brother Alonso de la Puente, Cristóbal de Portocarrero and Guzmán de Luna.
With the arrival of the 19th century, the monastery suffered its biggest decline. The confiscations instigated during the War of Independence of 1808, and the constitutional period, caused José I to abolish by decree the regular and monastic orders.
In 1814, at the end of the war the monks returned to the monastery, just six years after the Liberal Triennium orders were re-abolished. In this same period the monastery suffered heavy deterioration and farms were auctioned, and bought by Baron Carlos Kessel. After the restoration of Fernando VII, the monks returned to the monastery for a very short time, due to the seizure of Mendizábal in 1835, ending seven centuries of monastic life.
From this point the monastery and its surroundings were purchased as private property, first by Carlos Kessel who again recovered his land, and years later owned a large part of the building. During this period, the monastery turned into a livestock and agriculture research centre, which contributed to a progressive deterioration of different instances.
In 1836 the building and adjoining lands changed ownership and were passed onto Juan Pardo. The National Institute of Colonization purchased them in 1950, in order to carry out restorations and create a new village next to the monastery, serving as various uses for new settlers. The construction of new houses for settlers began in 1954. In this moment the monastic church became the parish of the new village, and started to depend on the archbishopric of Valladolid.
The archbishopric of Valladolid did not buy the rest of the buildings until the year of 1967. The intervention and restoration phase in the monastery began in 1961, where the main objective was to consolidate the masonry, substitute the whole roof and chip the plaster layer in the monumental area.
No repair work was carried out on the monastery until the end of the 20th century, with the aim that the monastery would host as the headquarters of the Foundation of “Las Edades del Hombre”.
This remodelling was carried out in three phases: the first lasted two years lead by architect Pablo Puente. The second and the third by Jesús I. San José and Juan José Fernández, adding value to the other rooms, including the old hospice and the Monastery´s Church.
Currently the Monastery is in the process of being reformed and restructured, to house the new addition of the Castilla Termal five star spa hotel chain.