La Carlina has a romantic history. What was once a humble farmhouse or cottage, surrounded by a vineyard, on the outskirts of Constantina, underwent a drastic change in the early 1950s, when it was bought by Léon Degrelle (1906-1994), a Belgian politician and soldier exiled to Spain after World War II, who built a palace here in 1952 for his personal use, in addition to various other buildings.
From the outset, the building stood out in the urban and natural landscape, being known as "The White Castle" and becoming one of the symbols of Constantina.
Degrelle furnished the house with major works of art - it is said that there was once a Zurbarán in its rooms - and had it surrounded with magnificent gardens, where there were as many as fourteen fountains decorated with arabesque tiles and Sevillian ceramics. The garden area had two entrances with large porches in neoclassical and Mudejar style and a wonderful mosaic of Roman inspiration with the map of Belgium, Degrelle's homeland.
After a succession of financial vicissitudes and changes of ownership, several adaptations have been necessary, such as works to renovate and transform the old palace into a monastic hostelry that lasted from 2004 to 2008. The architect, Luis Perez-Tennessa, has managed to retain the old features of the buildings and add new ones, for example the belfry that dominated the Plaza de la Carreteria is now part of the façade of the church. Some of the finest wooden doors have also been moved and placed in the most prominent places in the monastery, such as the refectory, and the former grille of the church choir is now used in La Carlina as the entrance to the front garden of the new monastery. The white tower and the garden with numerous palm trees and fountains that give it an Arabian look, have served as a basis for the new monastery.
The tower, one of the symbols of the town, has been restored. Its white walls rise elegantly in the setting of the Sierra Morena natural park with its hills of olive, oak, strawberry and chestnut trees, as if it were an exotic-looking keep. Two bells, called "Hope" and "Peace", call the faithful to prayer from the white tower. The garden has remained as the central cloister of the monastery. The hostelry has been built taking advantage of the unevenness of the terrain, so it is attached to the building but independent of it.
The church stands out for its simple beauty, brightness and spaciousness. The chancel is presided over by an image of the crucified Christ, a larger scale replica of the one created by Father Jerónimo José María Aguilar, while a lattice of organ pipes complements this truly innovative project. One of the most outstanding features is the stone altar, where the most important symbol in the history of this monastery, the relics of the Holy Martyrs from San Román (Medinacelli), have been placed in a silver reliquary protected by glass.