Five jewels of Romanesque architecture set in nature

Following in the footsteps of Bishop and Abbot Oliba, one thousand years after his appointment as Bishop of Vic, has encouraged us to discover more jewels of Romanesque architecture in the surroundings of Barcelona. And there are always more secrets to discover. If we had a protractor, the city of Vic where Oliba served as bishop would be in the centre of the route just a few kilometres from the circle where Romanesque architecture blends in with stunning natural areas.

Sant Martí del Brull

The stone chapels in Montseny Natural Park, listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1978, are an ever-present reminder of the Middle Ages. The Romanesque Church of Sant Martí del Brull has a single nave with a pointed barrel-vaulted roof. Following a 16th-century renovation, its murals remained hidden until 1909; they’ve been on display in the Episcopal Museum of Vic since 1935. Meanwhile, the bell tower dates from 1791. Staying in the park, we come to the impressive Montsoriu Castle, which was the administrative centre of the feudal lordship of the Viscounts of Cabrera. The castle dates from the 10th century or even earlier, standing at what was then the natural gateway through which the Moors could push into the county of Girona from the lands they occupied. Right next door we have the pre-Romanesque Chapel of Sant Pere, where part of the altar and mural paintings are preserved. The chapel we see today is in the Gothic style.

Church of Sant Pere Desplà

In the Arbúcies Valley, with spectacular views of the Guilleries and Montseny massifs, we come to the Church of Sant Pere Desplà, a very well-preserved 12th-century Romanesque building. Small and set amid intense greenery, it’s an oasis of calm and history. Its gates are on the south façade and some wall sections of the pre-Romanesque church that originally occupied the site have been preserved.

Montesquiu Castle

The Lords of Besora (descendants of the rulers of the Viscounty of Besora) inhabited very special castle which is known today as the Montesquiu Castle Park. Perched high up amid steep mountains, nature has crept all the way into the castle itself, which in all likelihood was built on the site of an ancient defence tower overlooking the Ter River. The oak and red pines forests lend rich colour and charm to the surroundings of the ruined Besora Castle and of the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria. Close to the castle we find the Chapel of Sant Moí, a small building dating from the end of the 10th century, with a rectangular floor plan and walls built in a very rudimentary fashion. Both the chapel and the attached farmhouse form part of Montesquiu Castle.

Sant Pere de Casserres

The Natural Area of Les Guilleries-Savassona, located to the south of the Sau Reservoir, is one of the shining examples of how Romanesque architecture blended with nature in Catalonia. The Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, standing in the middle of the Oliba Path, towers over the Ter River at a key defensive site. The construction of the monastery was ordered by Viscountess Ermetruit in 1006, by which time Bishop and Abbot Oliba had already begun to leave his mark on the Catalan culture of peace and dialogue. The monastery stands out at the end of a peninsula completely surrounded by water, formed by a meander of the Ter River. This building housed small communities of monks between the 10th and 14th centuries, approximately. We can imagine how life might have been for the monks at the monastery by visiting the refectory, kitchen, cellar and chapter house.

Sant Feliuet de Savassona

This bucolic route comes to an end in Sant Feliuet de Savassona, perched on a huge rock that affords wonderful views of the Vic Plain and the surrounding mountains. Built in the 10th century, this single-nave building preserves the rectangular apse of the pre-Romanesque period. Remains of previous civilisations have been found in the surrounding area, including some interesting anthropomorphic tombs and water storage pits. Just nearby, we find the Church of Sant Pere de Savassona. Its nave was raised in the 17th century. Last of all, in the municipal district of Tavèrnoles, barely two kilometres from the Church of Sant Pere de Savassona, we find the Romanesque Church of Sant Esteve, a fine example of Lombard Romanesque architecture.

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