Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll
One of the best examples of Romanesque Catalan architecture
A Catalan Romanesque masterpiece
The monastery’s portal is one of the world’s best examples of religious art and a symbol of Catalan Romanesque art.
A monastery with a hazardous life
Ripoll was Catalonia’s main religious centre until the 14th century and is still home to one of its most important monasteries. Its portico is the most outstanding example of peninsular Romanesque art, not only because of its artistic quality, but also because of its importance as a metaphoric element with respect to the founding of Catalonia. Santa Maria de Ripoll was founded in 880 by Wilfred the Hairy, the last count of Barcelona to be appointed by the Frankish kings.
The origins of the monastery date back to a tumultuous period of Catalonia’s history, the fragmentation of the Carolingian empire into counties. Wilfred founded the County of Barcelona and the dynasty of kings of the Crown of Aragon, which until 1410 ruled over a vast territory that extended from Aragon across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece.
Under the order of Saint Benedict, the Monastery of Ripoll soon became the centre of religious life in Catalonia and was home to an important scriptorium , which is why it was expanded over the years, especially in the period when Oliba was its abbot. However, due to the Black Death in 1348, the monastery suffered a strong reduction of income, causing the start of its downfall. Political conflicts regarding the appointment of abbots, an earthquake in 1428, French invasions in the 17th century, the outbreak of the Carlist Wars in 1833 and an attack launched by a group of soldiers in 1835 practically reduced the monastery to ashes.
As it came to be considered a symbol of the origins of Catalonia in the early 19th-century Catalan Renaissance, Elies Rogent was commissioned to restore the monastery and protect its portico, a masterpiece from the 12th century that had miraculously survived to become the most monumental example of Catalan religious art. The portico, which is in the form of a triumphal arch, includes more than 100 independent scenes that can be interpreted on a political level and is an excellent example of Romanesque art related to the Toulouse School. Apart from the cloister, built from the 12th to the 16th centuries, it is the only original element that has been preserved.
Points of interest