The town and the monastery were connected directly by a road that ran out through the lower gateway. The present line is almost the same as the original. A few years ago, steps were put in to make access easier for visitors and the old road can be seen alongside them.
As the population grew, the original space around the church became too small. Along the edges of the monastery road buildings were erected and eventually formed a district which, in documents from the 15th century, was baptised Sa Petja. We cannot estimate the total surface area, but its spread was most likely limited to the east by the steep slope and to the west by the rock of the mountainside.
With the upper gateway this is all that remains of the original defensive system of the town. There is no evidence that this was a stone wall. The excavations have provided clues to a possible wooden palisade used to enclose it. With the growth of the town, that system was eliminated and the houses, with their massive walls and narrow doors, acted as a walled precinct.
The houses built around the square are the oldest part of the town. The remains date back to the 12th century, although the structures we see today are from the mid 15th century.
Located in front of the church, this square is the centre of the town, where public activity was concentrated and the main roads into the town met, as well as many of the streets and alleys. According to the records the stalls of the weekly market were set up here. They were patronised by many of the pilgrims visiting the monastery.
The church is a singular element in the town, since it was built before it and continued to be a place of worship after its inhabitants had abandoned it. Linked to the monastery, it came into being to provide a service for the people who lived scattered around the area. The first dedication was to the Holy Cross, but in the early 16th century it was dedicated to St Helena.
After the town was abandoned and the status of parish church lost, the church remained in the custody of a chaplain. According to a pastoral visit from the early 17th century, he had no house of his own and slept in the church. The fact that the bishop looked askance at that led to the building of this house, also called the new sacristy, in the first half of the 18th century.
As opposed to how it might seem today, the zone in which the town is set was, in the Middle Ages, busy and inhabited. Sant Pere Monastery acted as an economic draw of the first order. The inhabitants of the area who provided services for the monastery and took care of the pilgrims profited. Moreover, they were engaged in wxploiting the available natural resources, basically the harvest of cereals, vines, olives and meadows.
Around the church, from over the centuries we find the remains of various graveyards. The oldest is the one with the tombs excavated out of the rock, anthropomorphic in form with stone lids, which can be dated between the 10th and 11th centuries. Given that their existence precedes the building of the town, remains have been found over a broad area that overlaps with the surface area of the sanctuary, even under the houses, whose building damaged them seriously.
This is the oldest element of the church. Indeed it was there before it, since it was a watchtower for the surrounding territory, commanding a sweeping view of the coast. It has a square ground plan and the shape of a truncated pyramid, broader at the base. Originally it was roughcast with limestone mortar and there are signs that it was crowned with merlons.
To the north of the church we can see the ruins of a district that stretched well beyond the original core. The first line of houses, with façades on the square, would not have been very different from the other dwellings around the church. However, we know nothing about the other buildings, what they were like or what uses they may have been put to, since there is no archaeologicla study.
The tower of the upper gateway, with the lower gateway, bears witness to the old enclosure of the town. With a quadrangular ground plan it has solid walls one metre thick and has conserved some loopholes. It is of the open-backed type, that is, a tower open to the interior of the precinct. Thanks to the height which has been conserved, it has been established that it had two floors separated by a stone vault.
The first work to recover this archaeological complex was done in 1972, alongside the opening of the road to the monastery. The gateways were restored and the ground around the church lowered, incovering some of the town walls. At the same time the church was cleaned and reinforced.
From the upper gateway runs a road, mostly overlapping with the original which connected Santa Creu with other towns on either side of the mountain. We know that there were junctions with the main highways that led to Vilajuïga, Pau and Palau, and from there to Castelló d'Empúries and Roses, and over to Llançà. Stretches of those roads are still conserved, mostly protected by high stone walls at the sides.
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.