This weekend we have made a rural getaway to one of the most charming places in Catalonia. The Vall de Boí It is located in the region of l'Alta Ribagorça and is a place of mountain of exceptional beauty and that keeps one of the most impressive sets of Romanesque architecture. If you want to know what to do in one Romanesque getaway in the Vall de Boí, here are some keys.
Visit the Romanesque complex of the Vall de Boí
One of the attractions of the Vall de Boí is that it concentrates many Romanesque churches in a few square kilometers. This was due to the lords of Erill, who during the eleventh century wanted to leave a mark of their power by building precious churches in their territories. The churches that are part of the Romanesque complex are those of Sant Climent and Santa Maria in Taüll, that of Sant Joan in Boí, that of Santa Eulàlia in Erill la Vall, that of Sant Feliu in Barruera, the Nativitat and the hermitage of Sant Quirc in Durro, Santa Maria in Card and the Assumpció from Cocktail.
Church of Sant Feliu in Barruera
It was the eleventh century and the lords of Erill began to promote the construction of Romanesque churches in Lombard style. At that time, temples were not only religious centers, but also a place of encounter and protection of the community. The interiors of the churches were decorated with murals made with the fresco technique, consisting of plastering the wall and applying the drawings while the plaster was still fresh.
In addition to their decorative function, the murals served to explain the sermon to some faithful who were mostly illiterate. Therefore, in church frescoes we can find passages from the Bible, biblical animators and many representative drawings of good and evil.
Frescoes of the church of Sant Joan in Boí
The period of splendor of the area ended and the churches ended up falling into oblivion. But at the end of the 19th century, a cultural movement in Catalonia called «la Renaixença» put everything medieval and Romanesque into fashion, and the first museums and exhibitions with Romanesque and Gothic pieces began to be created. One of the people who played a leading role in the conservation of the Romanesque heritage of Catalonia was the architect and art historian Josep Puig i Cadafalch (creator of the house of les Punxes and Casa Amatller). In 1907 he led an archaeological-legal mission that rediscovered the churches and murals of the Vall de Boí.
Church of the Nativitat in Durro
At that time, heritage protection laws were not as developed and some foreign fortunes were buying fresh and even entire churches in the area. For example, the cloister of Sant Miquel de Cuixà located in New York or the frescoes of Santa Maria de Mur that were torn off and sold to the Boston museum.
Replica of the sizes in Santa Eulàlia in Eric la Vall
To avoid this, a very controversial decision was made: extract the remaining frescoes and transfer them to a museum in Barcelona. For this, the «Strappo» technique was used, which consists of putting a layer of soluble natural glue on the paints and sticking a cotton cloth to it. Then, when it dries, it starts and the paint sticks to the fabric. Currently, the frescoes of the Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí are preserved in the National Museum of Art of Catalonia (MNAC).
Finally, the definitive step for the protection of the architectural complex of the area was given with the recognition in 2000 as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Church of Sant Climent in Taüll
The first church we went to see is the most famous: Sant Climent de Taüll. In his apse the famous one was painted almost a thousand years ago Pantocrator, one of the most representative pictorial works of Romanesque art. Although the original is in Barcelona, in Sant Climent they offer an ingenious show of «mapping» very modern that allows to contemplate the famous complete mural and in his place of birth. You can also climb the bell tower and contemplate the surrounding landscape.
Video-mapping in Sant Climent
Since we were in Taüll, we went to see the other Romanesque church of the town: Santa Maria. In addition to the entrance is free, in the apse a mural of Mary with the very colorful child Jesus is preserved, and in the north wall you can still see remains of murals that represent the seraphim. It is curious to see the townspeople hearing the mass among 11th century murals of great artistic value.