Constructed during the second half of the 11th century under the command of the counts of Pallars, Ramon V and Valença (daughter of Arnau Mir de Tost), the church of Santa Maria de Mur
is an exceptional case of Romanesque canonry in the Catalan territories since, unlike others, it conserves its original structure
intact, formed by the church, cloister and dependencies of the canons.
We can classify the church with the Romanesque Lombard
for the strips
and the blind arches
that decorate its exterior. It follows the typical Romanesque pattern, with a basilical layout
with three naves oriented to the East and covered by a robust barrel vault. The vault is supported by pillars and transverse arches and the north nave, fallen centuries ago, was redone with three Gothic chapels. Along with the church, the cloister
–dating to the 12th century, is one of the jewels of the group. It has a rectangular form and its sides are unequal in the number of columns and arcades.
The majority of the original capitals have been lost but in the western gallery we can still see some and decipher their symbols.
The church of Santa Maria de Mur was not considered finished (like the majority of Romanesque temples) until the entirety of its walls were painted
. In the central apse we find a Pantocrator
encircled within a mandorla
, seated and surrounded by stars. We also find the symbols of the four evangelists
), some inscriptions of religious texts and seven lamps. On the second level we find the figures of the twelve apostles
and two scenes that we can rarely see in Romanesque paintings still in existence today: the atlanteans and two scenes of Abel
. In the lower part or the third register, episodes of the infancy of Jesus are explained, and in one of the lateral apses we also find an infrequent theme: the Ascension
, rarely represented in the apses.
The precious paintings of Santa Maria de Mur were removed by means of the strappo
technique and sold in 1919 to the North American antiquarian Ignacio Pollak, this action motivated the first intervention of the Junta de Museus de Catalunya
(Museum Group of Catalonia) that, in spite of their efforts, couldn't avoid that the paintings went to the United States.
Since the year 2008, however, the church of Santa Maria de Mur shows visitors a faithful copy of these paintings thanks to an innovative impressive technique. This action, along with the restoration of the church's cloister
, makes it that the ancient canonry displays an appearance faithful of the original, after years of looting and abandonment.
The church of Santa Maria de Mur is part of the getaways ‘Romanesque weekend: the Pallars and the Alt Urgell
Author of the photographs: Josep Giribet.