Monastery of Sant Cugat

The Royal Monastery of Sant Cugat is a Romanesque jewel that’s highly appreciated by enthusiasts of mediaeval architecture, who single out its magnificent cloister for special praise. Nevertheless, this monastery largely remains an undiscovered treasure, so here’s a list of six curiosities, just to give you a taste of all the surprises that await you in this amazing monastic complex!

1. Older than you think

Yes, the cloister was built in the 12th century. However, the origins of the Monastery of Sant Cugat actually date back much further, to the 9th century, when a small enclosure with a square floor plan was built over a palaeo-Christian temple which, according to experts, already existed in the 5th century!

2. With running water

Faithful to the principle of “pray and work” the Benedictine monks were always well supplied. And after they built a three-kilometre aqueduct to connect the Mina dels Monjos water source to the monastery, they had a plentiful water supply as well. Would you like to see it? Head to the Can Cornellera Stream, where a section of this 14th-century construction remains standing: the Can Vernet Bridge.

3. 144 unique capitals

The monastery’s crowning glory is the Romanesque cloister, a masterpiece by the sculptor Arnau Cadell. Possessed of boundless imagination, the artist and master builder had the cloister’s 144 capitals decorated with all manner of figures and scenes, including biblical references, mediaeval customs, mythological beasts and images of the day-to-day life of monks. And not a single one is repeated!

4. A monastery open to the world or closed to enemies?

Fully fortified! The complex of monastic buildings was very well protected by walls and towers built in the 14th century. The entrance to the complex was at the tower of the Portal Major (Great Gate), where the Tourist Office is housed today, and where you can see the remains of a machicolation that served to protect it from potential enemies. Equally impressive are the monastery walls, especially those facing the Abbot’s Palace, with towers, loopholes and merlons.

5. An oversized rose window

The architectural complex of the monastery includes a beautiful church which embodies the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. The three vaulted naves, the tall columns, the Gothic reredos of All Saints, and the jewel in the crown, namely the rose window: with a diameter of over eight metres, it’s every bit as impressive as the one in Barcelona Cathedral.

6. The legend of the monastery cockerel

Before you leave the basilica, make sure you locate the ancient weather vane of the monastery, an iron cockerel behind which a chilling legend lies. Do you dare to discover it? Sign up to one of the guided tours organised by the Monastery Museum!

More information:

Monastery of Sant Cugat
Tourist Board of Sant Cugat
Tourist Board of Vallès Occidental