Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Monasterys of Girona

            The entire province of Girona spreads from mountains to sea, along the eastern end of the Pyrenees. It has two monasteries of great historical importance, that of Monestir de Santa Maria and Sant Joan de les Abadesses. The first is located in the town of Ripoll, which is thought to be the “Cradle of Catalonia.” The monastery was founded in 879 and was the power base of Wilfred the Hairy founder of the House of Barcelona. In the later 12th century the west portal was decorated with some of the best Romanesque carvings in Spain. Luckily, these carvings as well as the cloisters have survived, though they are the only parts of the monastery that did. The second important monastery of the area is that of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, founded in 885 it was a gift from Count Guifre to his daughter who then became the first abbess. The monastery contains very little decoration except a wooden calvary, a sculpted representation of the crucifixion. Known as The Descent from the Cross, it was made in 1150 though it looks very modern. Interesting about this piece is that one of the thieves depicted on the side of Jesus was burnt during the Civil War but it has been replaced with a replica so skillfully crafted that it is hard to detect a difference between it and the original carving. There is a museum near the monastery that has the calvary on display as well as several Baroque and Renaissance altarpieces.

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