Sant Pere de Rodes monumental complex
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Conjunt Monumental de Sant Pere de Rodes

INTRODUCCIÓ

Santa Creu de Rodes

The town of Santa Creu, with its church, is part of the Serra de Rodes monumental complex, with Sant Pere Monastery and Sant Salvador Castle. The three elements are closely linked.

The church, which is older than the town, was a possession of the monastery, often disputed by the Counts of Empúries. Before houses began to sprincg up around it, the church already housed the graveyard for the people who lived in the surroundings.

In the early 12th century it became a parish church and the focal point of a town that soon spread under the dependence of the monastery. The inhabitants benefited from its proximity, since it provided them with a certain level of wealth and an economic activity that was largely devoted to its service. When the town reached its moment of splendour between the 13th and 14th centuries, it is calculated that about two hundred and fifty people lived there and, from the materials that have come to light in the excavations, it seems that some had a certain purchasing power.

The town began to go into decline from the second half of the 14th century. The reasons put forward for the fall in popularion include attacks by pirates, the effects of the plague epidemics and the decline of the monastic community itself. The uprising of the serfs against their feudal lords and the Catalan Civil War in the second half of the 15th century dealt the final blow to the town and it was totally abandoned. The church, on the other hand, remained active as a chapel until the end of the 19th century.

Sant Salvador Castle on Verdera

Sant Salvador Castle stands on the very summit of Verdera Mountain at an altitude of around 670 m. From the top of the mountain, you can see the Shrine of Sant Onofre at the foot of the cliff on which the castle perches. Beyond to the west, is L'Empordà, which stretches out northwards as far as the Pyrenees, where you can make out the profile of Canigó. The Fulf of Roses and teh Medes Islands are also clearly visible, as is El Montgrí massif, Les Guilleries and El Montseny. To the east, you can see the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the coast of Cap de Creus, which links to the north with the Gulf of Lion. This commanding position and outstanding view made the castle strategically very important. In addition, the steep and almost inaccessible terrain provided a system of defence that made the castle impregnable.

The castle is mentioned in numerous documents due to the constant disputes between the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the counts of Empúries, wo vied with each other to control it. The first reference dates from 904, suggesting that the castle was already in existence in the 9th century. Nevertheless, many of the surviving structures date from the 13th century, the time when Count Ponç IV of Empúries ordered that a new fort be built given the poor state of repair of the existing cstle.

With the passing of the years, the strategic importance of castles perched on rocks -the invincibility of which was due to the difficult terrain on which they were sited- declined as a result of developments in weaponry and warfare techniques. Even so, Sant Salvador Castle was still in use in the 16 th century as a look-out post to combat piracy.

Sant Pere de Rodes Monastery

The Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes is the centre of the monumental complex on the Verdera sierra. The oldest records, dating from the 9th century, make mention of a monastic cell, dependent on the monastery of Sant Esteve de Banyoles, although there are archeological remains that bear witness to an earlier occupation.

The foundation of the independent monastery in the 10th century ushered in a period of splendour promoted by the nobility of the Empordà. Now the centre of feudal and economic power, the community launched a building project that would reflect its strenght. The works went on into the 10th and 11th centuries and essentially included the enclosed area made up of the church, the cloisters and the premises around them.

One of the peculiar features of Sant Pere de Rodes is the existence of two cloisters which were never in use at the same time. The restoration has recovered the original one, which was buried in order to build the 12th century one on top of it. In thsi way we have been able to conserve a building model which has been lost in most cases owing to later refurbishments.

From the 15th century the surrounding countryside was ravaged by constant looting, pirate raids and wars which more than once forced the monks to abandon the monastery.

The economic revival of the 18th century provided the means to undertake new projects, such as the refurbishment of the precinct around the cloister, consisting of service buildings, mostly erected in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the planned works were never carried out because in 1798 the community abandoned the monastery definitively. From that time the complex went into a swift decline.



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