The entrance to the monastery now consists of a group of Mediaeval and modern structures, adapted to present day uses. Some Mediaeval defensive structures have survived, but most of the building was erected between the 17th and 18th centuries to be used for stores and cellars.
In the 12th century, above the ambulatory reached from inside the church, a second ambulatory, reserved for the members of the community, was built. Various chapels open off it as well as two arcosolia that conserve vestiges of a 13th century mural painting.
Opposite the church are some rooms which have been identified as cellars. They were built between the 17th and 18th centuries together with the stores in the entrance block above. The space is divided into different rooms, covered with a false vault. It uses the mountain rock as a building element.
In the 11th century, once the works on the church were finished, the Galilee was built. It is a porch to shelter the faithful and pilgrims. Despite its present appearance, which is due to the looting of the monastery, it was once a monumental space with painted walls, as we can deduce from the scraps of paint that have been conserved.
Sant Pere de Rodes church is the outstanding element of the complex for the originality of some of its architectural elements.
The restoration works have uncovered an old entrance to the monastery located beside the church. A travertine gate led to a corridor excavated out of the rock which ran into the church. With the building of the Galilee, another gate with a basket arch was attached. This entrance, however, was eliminated in the 12th century when the courtyard was refurbished and the present door opened on the centre of the façade.
In all monasteries, the cloister is the starting point around which the other areas are laid out, following a distribution marked by everyday needs. Although time may have changed the function of the buildings, the structure is repeated all around because it is marked by the comings and goings of the monks during the day in fulfilment of the rule.
To the south of the cloister is a room with splayed windows and a ceiling with a pointed vault. According to the building programme of the Benedictine monasteries, this space would have been the communal dining room. It has a lower floor which, judging by its conditions of humidity and temperature, may have been used as a store.
In the Middle Ages the chapterhouse was divided into different spaces. No original element remains to allow us to interpret the use they were put to. According to the layout of Benedictine monasteries this area would have housed the chapterhouse, the sacristy and the area where books and documents were kept. Moreover, above it there would have been the monks’ communal dormitory, located beside the church to make it easier for them to attend the night prayers, especially in winter.
Inside the precinct is a square from which the entrances to the church and the cloistered space lead off. It was created as part of a rearrangement in the 12th century which extended the monastic complex. To build it the old graveyard was covered to level the ground, which until then had followed the natural slope.
At the end of the Middle Ages, at a time of changes to community life, single rooms were built for the monks on the upper part of the cloister. We can still see the remains of windows, balconies, fireplaces and the old roughcast of the walls, corresponding to eleven dwellings from the 18th century.
Between the 13th and 14th centuries, for the purposes of defence, the tower was built on top of an earlier structure that corresponds to the 10th century façade. The loopholes are the original openings, whilst the semi-circular windows and the doors from the upper cloister are from a later date.
A spiral staircase, which can be seen in the St Michael chapel, led from the church to these chapels on the upper ambulatory. The worship of the archangel Michael gave rise to a kind of elevated chapel or sanctuary, like this one.
Standing out from the monastery complex in the area of the vegetable gardens is a three-storey rectangular building, whose main feature are the porticos. The records show that in the 16th century the ground floor contained the stable. The upper floors were not built until the 18th century, perhaps to lodge the families that worked in the service of the monastery.
To the south-east of the monastery, to take advantage of the sun and the easterly winds that brought the rain while providing shelter from the blustery north wind, is the area set aside for growing vegetables and medicinal plants.
A few metres from the entrance to the monastery precinct are the remains of a building, dating from between the 11th and 12th centuries: the hospice. The emphasis placed on charity and hospitality by the Benedictine rule led to the erection of buildings outside the cloister so that the monasteries could provide lodgings for poor people and pilgrims without their interfering in the life of the community.
Among the alterations made in the 18th century was the building of the new sacristy, attached to the church, with a rectangular ground plan and three storeys.
The abbot, the supreme authority of the monastery, was in charge of the spiritual life of the community, as well as the temporal aspects. To guarantee the proper functioning of the community, the rule laid down a series of posts among which the abbot shared out the responsibilities. In the minutes of a chapter from 1360 the following ones appear: the prior, who also served as almoner, the cellarer (in charge of the administration), the chamberlain (who looked after the monks’ clothes), the piaterius (the tax collector), the sacristan (responsible for all the material elements of worship required), the workman (responsible for the works), the infirmerian (responsible for the sick), the hospitaller (responsible for the pilgrims), the cenator or sopator (who took charge of the monks’ collation on the summer evenings) and the provost (administrating the important possessions).
Near the monastery is the monks’ fountain. Above the spout, which emerges from the head of a fantastic animal, we can read an inscription dated 1588: QUI BIBERIT EX AQUA SITIET ITERUM (whoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again), quoting the gospel according to St John.
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 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.
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.
© Departament de Cultura 2018 Agència Catalana del Patrimoni Cultural