Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses Medieval power with a woman's name
Cloister of the Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Xtv / Wikimedia Commons. Domini Púbic
In 887 Guifré el Pilós (Wilfred the Hairy) founded the monastery of Sant Joan de Ripoll which was later known as Sant Joan de les Abadesses. And, for nearly 60 years between the 9th and 10th centuries, it was the only female monastery in Catalonia.
The first abbess was the daughter of Wilfred the Hairy, Emma of Barcelona. This community of Benedictine nuns remained until 1017 when the nuns, accused of leading a life which was hardly exemplary, were expelled. Subsequently, the monastery was occupied by a male community of Augustinian canons until the 16th century and then went on to be ruled by the archpriest until the 19th century.
The monastic enclosure that we see today has undergone modifications over time. The original Romanesque church was renovated in the 12th century in the monumental architectural style of the models in South-West France and it was partly reconstructed after the 1428 earthquake. Inside, one cannot miss the Santíssim Misteri or Holy Mystery, the only preserved Romanesque sculpture in Catalonia that remains in situ.
Attached to the Church is the Gothic cloister (15th century) and the Chapel of Dolors (18th century), with the baroque cupola by the sculptor Jacint Morató. Also preserved is the old Abbey Palace, 14th-15th century, which today houses the Interpretation Centre of the Myth of Count Arnau as this legendary character was connected to the first community of nuns at the Abbey.
The monastery museum, open since 1975 in the old rectory, displays a collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles and metalwork from the 8th century until the 20th century, most of which was designed for liturgical worship.
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What can I do?
If you visit the monastery, listen out. The original 16th century clock still works and plays punctually on the hour. The wooden clapper of the belfry is also used on Holy Friday and Saturday as tradition dictates.
The building in 3D
A three dimensional reconstruction of the Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses as it was in the 12th century.