Oliba Path: hiking, Romanesque architecture and nature
Stage 1: Montserrat – Manresa – Vic:
The Oliba Path starts with this 86-kilometre section designed to be completed in three days (five half-day stages). It coincides with sections of the Way of Saint James. We begin at the Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, built on his orders, where we find a square and monument dedicated to his memory.
We enter Manresa along the Pont Vell (Old Bridge) and discover the Cave of Saint Ignatius and the Collegiate Basilica of Santa Maria, known as La Seu (The See), which was rebuilt during the time of the abbot (1003). After taking in the Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, we pass through Navarcles and cross the vineyards of the Pla de Bages area, where, time permitting, we can enjoy some wine tourism, before reaching Artés and the Monastery of Santa Maria of L'Estany.
In Vic, the mediaeval quarter, the Queralt Bridge or the ruined Montcada Castle, an interesting example of Romanesque architecture built over a Roman temple, are just some of the highlights. But if you really want to find out about the bishop’s life, the places to visit are Vic Cathedral and the Episcopal Museum, in front of which stands the sculpture of Oliba by the Catalan sculptor Domènec Fita.
Stage 2: Vic – Ripoll – Sant Joan de les Abadesses
This is the most demanding section of the Oliba Path. It’s divided into ten half-day stages, which makes it ideal for completing in five or six days. It crosses Folgueroles, the home town of poet Jacint Verdaguer, before reaching the well-known Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres.
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll and the Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses transport us to the golden age of Romanesque architecture, just after we complete one of the most spectacular transitions of the Catalan landscape, between the central region and the green of the Pyrenees, which becomes more intense as we head northwards.
Collsacabra and the Sau Reservoir, with its famous bell tower poking out of the water, the Montseny and Guilleries massifs, Montesquiu Castle and the Tavertet Cliffs are some of the magical places where nature and history meet on this stage of the route.
Stage 3: Sant Joan de les Abadesses – Les Basses de Puig-Sec
This section is 40 kilometres long and is designed to be completed in three half-day stages. It crosses Camprodon and Molló, two towns with a real mediaeval feel, before reaching Les Basses de Puigsec, a true gift of nature with the Canigó lookout point, right on the French border. Plans are afoot to lengthen the route by 50 kilometres, taking us first to the Monastery of Sant Miquel de Cuixà and then on to Tolgues, which is where Oliba held the First Peace and Truce of God Assembly.