On the banks of the river Gaià, we find the Monastery of Santes Creus, which was the center of one of the most extensive and influential monastic domains in the Kingdom of Aragon. With an architecture that is solid, serious and austere, the abbey reflects the canonical model of Cistercian monasteries (along with Vallbona de les Monges and Poblet). To visit Santes Creus is to relive a time when purity and distance from the world of was made specific in a place well-grounded on the earth. Founded in 1160, the highpoint for Santes Creus was between the 13th and 14th centuries, due to its close relationship with the nobility and the royal family. The kings, Pere el Gran and Jaume II el Just and his wife, Blanca of Anjou, were patrons of the monastery and chose to be buried here, in two Gothic mausoleums at the side of the high altar. The study and restoration of the Royal Tombs, in 2010, allowed the remains of Pere el Gran and Blanca of Anjou to be uncovered, the only remains of the Kings and Queens of the Crown of Aragon, to have survived intact. The ground plan of the monastery organized the spaces according to the needs of the community. The church, which opened for worship in 1225, is an example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic. Despite providing a sensation of lightness and grandeur, it is a solid and austere temple. It contrasts with the splendor of the cloister, dating from the 14th century, the first of the Gothic style of the Crown of Aragon.
The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes stands on one of the peaks of the Serra de Rodes, a mountain range right by the sea in the north of Alt Empordà. It is one of the many testimonials of Catalan Romanesque architecture, but it may also be one of the most architecturally sophisticated. From the 11th to the 14th century it was the main spiritual centre of the county of Empúries and its splendor can be seen in the large dimensions of the monastic complex. This comprises the church, the bell tower, the cloister, the sacristies, the conventional rooms for everyday living and the Palau de l’Abat (the Abbot's Palace). The monastery is built in terraces in order to adapt to the terrain and the various buildings are arranged around the cloister and the church, built between the 10th and 11th centuries. In these two buildings you can see an exceptional example of Romanesque sculpture: the columns (original) and the capitals that crown them tell us about the classical influence that has marked this unique church. On the outside, the ‘portalada’, designed by the Mestre de Cabestany, showed different scenes from the life of Christ carved in white marble. The scarce fragments that remain, give us a sample of their extraordinary quality, probably one of the best of its time. From the monastery you can enjoy one of the best views of Cap de Creus. Shortly before reaching it, you will see the ruins of the medieval village of Santa Creu de Rodes, the most notable of these being the Church of Santa Helena de Rodes.
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