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A handful of centuries-old monasteries and convents have found new life as luxurious hotels. Spartan living quarters once occupied by hard beds and bare walls have been restored into posh settings where plush bedding, gourmet cuisine, luxe spa treatments, Wi-Fi—even heated floors—provide lavish creature comforts.

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Yet the spiritual essence of these settings is not lost with modern-day renovations. These buildings carry storied histories that are part of the ancient stonework, painstakingly preserved, and echoing within candlelit corridors, often filled with religious artwork and the melody of Gregorian chants. (Sound ambience, even the piped-in variety, goes a long way in setting the mood.) These buildings are more than relics of the past, and indeed, staying in one of these hotels might inspire a gratitude-filled “Amen.” Below are some favorites, all bookable on Orbitz.

1. Antigua, Guatemala
Hotel de Casa Santo Domingo

Photo courtesy of Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santo Domingo

This 16th-century convent is now the place to stay if you’re well-heeled and visiting Antigua, a charming colonial town in the shadow of two volcanoes. The hotel boasts 130 rooms featuring wood-beamed ceilings, restored stone hearths, antique furniture and ancient oil paintings. Religious statuary and iconography are sprinkled throughout the serene setting, which also cradles several onsite museums that showcase religious art and Mayan artifacts.

2. Amalfi Coast, Italy
Monastero Santa Rosa

Photo courtesy of Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel and Spa

As if the Amalfi Coast couldn’t get much better. This heavenly hotel, once a monastery established by Dominican monks in the 13th century, boasts gorgeous tiered gardens, as well as a restaurant and infinity pool with panoramic views. The friars who once lived here cultivated medicinal herbs in the gardens for healing, a legacy highlighted in aromatherapy treatments at the award-winning spa. The monastic heritage is even preserved in its treatment rooms, which feature the original vaulted ceilings and rustic walls.

3. Prague, Czech Republic
The Augustine

Augustine, Prague, monasteries

In the heart of Prague, this luxury hotel comprises seven buildings surrounding the cloisters of the 13th-century St. Thomas Church and Monastery. Designers have transformed the 101 monastery cells into super-posh rooms, many of which feature vaulted ceilings and heated floors. (Monks of yore could have only dreamed of such a luxury.) The monastery’s brewery produces a lager that follows the monks’ ancient recipe, and the bar features “Archangel” cocktails.

4. Cusco, Peru
Belmond Hotel Monasterio

Belmond Hotel, Cusco, Peru, Macchu Pichu This is where you want to stay before and after visiting Machu Picchu. In the mountain town best known for being a launching pad to the famed archeological setting, this former monastery features 101 guest rooms where you’ll experience luxury and attentive pampering. (You can even request fresh oxygen pumped into your room, to help combat the effects of Cusco’s altitude.) Meticulous preservation efforts have saved the beamed and painted ceilings, tiled floors and hand-painted frescos that give this setting its mystical, magical charm. The hotel cloisters itself around a courtyard woven with walkways and flowerbeds, and a 300-year-old cedar tree in the middle.

5. Amares, Portugal
Pousada Mosteiro de Amares

Photo courtesy of Pousada Mosteiro de Amares

This former 12th-century Cistercian monastery sits in the wine region of northern Portugal. It boasts an award-winning restoration design by renowned architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, whom judges of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, say “has created spaces that are both consistent with their history and modern in conception.” The ancient stones house 32 guest rooms, with religious statues and 18th-century tiles dotting the grounds, along with a heated outdoor pool from which to enjoy sweeping mountain views. (For the ultimate “room with a view,” request suites 209 or 224, which have private balconies overlooking a national park.)

6. Quebec, Canada
Le Monastère des Augustines

Photo courtesy of Le Monastere des Augustines

This wellness retreat within the bustle of Old Quebec was once home to the Augustinian Sisters, who arrived here in the 17th century to open the first hospital north of Mexico. The property honors their legacy with an onsite museum and a host of healthy offerings for guests, which include classes (meditation, yoga, pilates), activities (scrapbooking,  knitting) and spa treatments (massages, reflexology). Two types of guest rooms are available: the “Authentic” rooms, restored in a monastic spirit, are former Augustinian cells; and the “Contemporary” rooms, which are modern with private bathrooms. Each morning breakfast is enjoyed in silence.

7. Tuscany, Italy
Castle Monastero

Castle Monastero, Italy, monasteries

History is baked into the stone walls of this Tuscan retreat, which lies on the edge of a ravine not far from Chianti’s southernmost wine town, Castelnuovo Berardenga. Originally a monastery dating back to the 11th century, over the years it saw rebirth as a castle, then a country residence for nobles. Enjoy pampering at the onsite spa and upscale restaurant, which boasts a menu designed by celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay.

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8. Loire Valley, France
Fontevraud L’Hôtel

Photo courtesy of Fontevraud LHotel

Stay within the Fontevraud Royal Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest monastic sites remaining from the Middle Ages. (It’s also the burial site of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine.) The hotel is located within the priory of this historic monument, with 54 guest rooms. Guests are allowed to visit the abbey 24/7, which can make for a truly intimate and special experience after the tour buses depart.

9. Cartagena, Colombia
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena

Sofitel Legend, Turkey, monasteries

This upscale hotel used to shelter the Cloister of the Poor Clare Sisters in the 17th century. It now welcomes travelers from around the world with its 123 rooms, full-service spa and palm-shaded pool. Historical elements such as crypts, water wells, confessionals, hidden windows, paintings and more were preserved in the massive renovation—much to the delight of guests.

10. Evora, Portugal
Convento do Espinheiro, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa

Photo courtesy of Convento do Espinheiro

Legend says that this former 15th-century convent and church was founded after the apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared over a thorn bush. (“Espinheiro” means “thorn.”) Today it’s a luxury hotel with 92 rooms, also wildly popular for its guided tours and wine tastings.

11. Florence, Italy
Belmond Villa San Michele

Photo courtesy of Belmond Villa San Michele

What views! This former 15th-century Franciscan monastery offers a jaw-dropping panorama of Florence and the surrounding countryside. The facade of the property is attributed to Michelangelo—yes, that Michelangelo—which dramatically greets everyone upon arrival. Once inside, priceless artwork and meticulous architectural preservation efforts, including that of its 45 guest rooms, will transport you back to the Renaissance era.

12. Santo Estevo de Rivas de Sil, Spain
Parador de Santa Estevo

Santo Estovo, Spain, monasteries

The Santa Estevo Monastery is believed to have its origins in the 6th century. Home to 77 guest rooms, the building boasts beautiful stone archways, carved window frames and three magnificent cloisters—one Romanesque, one Gothic and a third Renaissance—where you can enjoy religious music in the evening hours. Want to explore more monasteries? The hotel is convenient to the Ruta del Románico (Route of the Romanesque), which will take you to churches and monasteries dating from the late 12th and 13th centuries.

13. Cappadocia, Turkey
Argos

Photo courtesy of Argos In Cappadocia

Staying at this hotel is like spending the night in a luxurious cave. It occupies a medieval monastery that was carved into the volcanic landscape. The property is a complex of six mansions, re-opened after nearly 15 years of careful restorations that transformed the caves (where Christians once hid to escape Roman persecution) into 51 rooms and suites. The updated, designer-inspired digs hold a legacy some 2,000 years old. Oh, if those cave walls could talk …

14. Rome, Italy
VOI Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel

VOI Donna, Italy, monasteries

Originally a 17th-century convent, this boutique hotel is a baroque treasure in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. A tranquil Italian garden resides in the central cloister, a true oasis amidst the bustle of the Eternal City. Woody Allen fans may also recognize the setting—scenes from “To Rome With Love” were filmed at the hotel.

15. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Hotel El Convento

El Convento, monasteries, Puerto Rico, Caribbean

This is a renowned landmark from the Conquistador days. With origins as a 17th-century Carmelite convent, it’s been operating as a hotel since 1962. The Spanish Colonial architectural gem offers 58 rooms adorned with exposed wooden beams, handcrafted tiles, carved chairs and antique chests.

16. Amalfi Coast, Italy
NH Collection Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi

Photo courtesy of NH Collection Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi

Can we live here, please? Suspended between sea and sky on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, this 13th-century monastery has been transformed into a sophisticated hotel bathed in whites, cremes and beiges. It houses an Arab-Norman cloister, and many of its 53 rooms retain features from the original monastery.

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Tagged: Feature, Top 10 Lists

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.

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