It is certainly the most representative monastery of the Cistercian Route and a historical and architectural treasure.
It is certainly the most representative monastery of the Cistercian Route and a historical and architectural treasure. A community of more than 30 monks still lives in it, which gives it authenticity when one tries to envisage the particularities of the monastic life. In 1992, it was declared a World Heritage Site.
The building that can be seen today dates back to the 14th century, although the monastery was founded in the 12th century (1129) by order of Ramon Berenguer IV,Count of Barcelona. Its facilities hosted the mausoleums of the Catalan kings Alfons el Cast, Jaime I, Pere el Cerimoniós or Martí l’Humà.
The heart of the spiritual life of the monastery is the church, called Santa Maria. It consists of a basilic floor plan that has three naves with a transept, an apse with ambulatory for the passage of pilgrims, a spectacular, pointed or ogival arch and a set of accompanying chapels with a radial structure. Built along the same style lines, the refectory is a room where the monks gather during meals.
Between the refectory and the church one can find the cloister, a Gothic style square structure (12th-13th century), simple and harmonious, which serves as a distribution point for the common quarters. The east wing of the cloister hosts the chapter house, a place where the monks gather to carry out the chapter, that is, the reminder of the rules of the adopted congregation standard, and to discuss matters concerning the internal organisation of the monastery.
The areas that form the entire monastery are surrounded by three rows of concentric walls, which are oriented towards a set of doorways, each one giving access to different areas of the monastery.
Two of these doorways stand out: the Daurada doorway (15th century), which guards the entrance to places such as the Sant Jordi chapel, the accommodation area or the Hospital de los Pobres, and the Baroque doorway (17th century), giving access to the basilica.
Valuable works of sacred art are also preserved in the monastery. Most of these are exhibited in its own museum, located in the Palacio Real or the Palacio del Rey Martí, built in Gothic style. The museum also exhibits altarpieces, carvings and other types of works.
The collection of documents that can be found in the library is also a heritage, this being the place where one can find anything from codices of the period to the personal archive of the president in exile of the Regional Government, Josep Tarradellas.
Since the community that resides in the monastery is still active, it can be very enlightening to have a walk by the domestic quarters that remain open to visitors, such as the refectory, the dormitories or the winery.