Pedralbes Monastery

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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The monastery of Pedralbes is one of the most beautiful jewels of Catalan Gothic architecture, a few kilometers from the center of Barcelona. The monastery was founded in 1327 by Queen Elisenda of Montcada, with the support of her husband, King Jaime II. Following the customs of the time, the new monastery was inhabited from the beginning by Poor Clare nuns, the female branch of the order of St. Francis, who resided in the monastery continuously from its foundation until 1983.


Introduction to the Pedralbes complex

The building is one of the best examples of Catalan Gothic, both for its church and for the splendid three-storey cloister, one of the most spacious and harmonious in this style in all of Catalonia. To be highlighted in the church the tomb of Queen Elisenda, which offers two faces, one towards the church, where she appears in her image as a sovereign, and the one towards the cloister, where she shows herself as a widow and penitent. In the same way, the stained glass windows of the fourteenth century, various tombs of noble families and the three choirs: the upper one, the lower one and that of the friars are to be admired.

Inside the monastery, and around the cloister, you can visit various day cells, where the nuns used to retire for meditation. To see the chapel of San Miguel, commissioned by Abbess Francesca ça Portella to the painter Ferrer Bassa in the year 1343, with a clear influence of artists of the caliber of Giotto, the workshop of the Lorenzetti or Simone Martini, the Murales bajo la lupa exhibition analyzes in greater depth the frescoes of the chapel. To complete the visit, you can see the chapter house, the abbey, the kitchen, the dormitory and the infirmary - one of the best preserved examples of a Renaissance hospital building.


In the old dormitory of the nuns, which has undergone numerous transformations over time, you can visit the exhibition The treasures of the monastery, which presents a selection of the best works of art, furniture and liturgical objects, gathered by the community during its seven centuries of life. The other permanent exhibits offered by the monastery are Plants, remedies and apothecaries, in the cloister of the enclosure; a exhibition of dioramas in the Prosecutor's Office, and thePetras Albas performance in the ancient infirmary, which illustrates the life of the community of Poor Clares and the history of the architectural joint. In addition to its artistic value, the monastery of Pedralbes allows you to show, thanks to the objects and works of art presented, what the cloistered life of the community was like until 1983, when the monastery was converted into a museum.


The church

Interior of the church
On 26 March 1326 the monarchs placed the first stone of the apse of the church, which was consecrated a year later, on 3 May 1327, in a solemn mass presided over by the kings, accompanied by a retinue formed by the most important nobles of the country. The church shows a great architectural homogeneity thanks to the great speed with which it was built. It maintains the specificity of Catalan Gothic, with a great sobriety and monumentality, but also the characteristics of the so-called mendicant architecture, typical of the Franciscan and Dominican orders of southern Europe.

The building consists of a single nave, with lateral capitals between the buttresses and covered with a series of 7 cross vaults. The vaults are completed with keystones where the 7 joys of the Virgin are represented, with the coronation and the royal shield in the space of the presbytery; on the opposite side, a representation of the resurrected Christ showing the stigmata. The plant, an example of Catalan Gothic architecture, is of great formal unity and is highlighted by the 3 preserved choirs: the high choir, the low choir and the central choir, also called the friars' choir. The high choir was reserved for cloistered nuns and communicates with the dormitory through the Sala dell'Angelo. The low choir was also reserved for nuns and is separated from the church by a wall and a grate: it is still used today for daily prayers. The stone choir with pine wood seats located in the center of the church was built for the friars who accompanied the mass with songs.


Queen Elisenda made a monetary endowment so that each priest had assigned a chapel, of which he was the beneficiary. The institution of a benefit presupposed the creation of an altar and the devotion to a saint; the beneficiary priests said the mass inside the chapel, administered the donations and were in charge of maintaining the liturgical objects.


The presbytery houses the tomb of Queen Elisenda, dressed in royal cloak and attributes. In the chapels you can see the sarcophagi of other noble families, such as that of Elionor de Pinós i Montcada, or that of Costança de Cardona, as well as that of famous people such as the Count Eusebi Güell, Gaudí's sponsor.

At the end of the XNUMXth century the church underwent a profound restoration by the architect Joan Martorell. Following the trends of the restoration of the time, the walls were cleaned, which possibly resulted in the loss of the remains of the original frescoes.

The cloister

The cloister is the central element on which the space of the monastery revolves. Considered to be the largest Gothic cloister in the world, is made up of two galleries with 26 columns on each side made of Nummulitic stone - limestone with remains of fossils - from Girona, and a third floor subsequently raised with the function of an attic. The capitals that support the pointed arches are decorated with stylized leaves and with the shields of the royal house and the Montcada. The roof is made of wood and originally could have been painted in gold and red, as they are reproduced in the hall of the abbey.


The main rooms of the monastery are distributed around the cloister: the chapter house from the XNUMXth century, the abbey room, the infirmary from the XNUMXth century, the refectory, the dormitory and the day cells. The latter are the most genuine examples of the application of the rule in the monastery. The daytime cells were small rooms in which some nuns spent the free hours that remained after the community acts in solitude. Most of the cells are decorated like small chapels, with retablos, paintings, altars and objects of worship of different styles, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, although most of those preserved are from modern times.


In the monastery everything was organized around the central space of the cloister, which depending on the moment became a place of circulation, personal meditation and contemplation of nature as an image of the divinity. Currently the cloister houses a project for the recreation of a medieval medicinal garden, based on the writings preserved in the monastery and the medicinal treatises of the time.

The chapel of San Miguel


The cell or chapel of San Miguel is decorated with a magnificent set of frescoes, entrusted - according to what we read in two contracts of 1343 and 1346 - to the painter Ferrer Bassa from the Abadessa Francesca ça Portella, who wanted to convert it into her own home. Although the contract specified that the chapel had to be painted with the oil technique, these are murals executed with a mixed technique: fresco and dry. The iconography is inspired by the Marian devotions and represents the Passion, the Joys of the Virgin and various figures of saints.

The narrative cycle goes from left to right and occurs in three pictorial frames. The superior is dedicated to the Passion and shows 8 scenes: the prayer in the garden and the capture of Jesus, the insults, the journey to Calvary, the crucifixion, the descent from the Cross, the Pietà and the Holy Sepulcher. The central is dedicated to the joys of the Virgin and presents the following scenes: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the adoration of the Magi, the triumph of the Virgin, the resurrection of Jesus, the ascension of Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the coronation of Mary.

In the lower frame the restorations have uncovered a marble representation. On the side there are 15 painted saints, divided between the upper and the central register. On the upper level you can see in order from the left San Michele, San Giovanni Battista, San Jaime, San Domnino, Sant'Onorato, Santa Isabella and Santo Stefano, while in the central level are represented San Narciso, San Francesco, Santa Clara, Santa Agnese , Santa Catalina, Santa Eulalia and Sant'Alessio.

The chapel was conceived as a particular devotional space of the Abadessa Francesca ça Portella, but over time it became the archive of the monastery. Between 1801 and 1870 it was used as a cloakroom and was later converted into an abbey cell. Due to the different uses, the paintings remained hidden and protected by the furniture, isolated for centuries from external light, humidity and dust. At the end of the XNUMXth century the paintings in the chapel were rediscovered and revalued.

In the mid-twentieth century the wall paintings were the subject of a first restoration by the Italian master Arturo Cividini, and from this moment the interest increased for its Italian character, an innovation as much stylistic as a technique at the time of its realization. One can clearly admire the influence of the great Italian masters such as Giotto, the Lorenzetti brothers or Simone Martini. After more than 10 years of closure for restorations, the recent reopening of the chapel allows you to observe the results of recent restorations.

Exhibitions inside the Monastery of Pedralbes

Murals bajo la lupa. The murals in the chapel of San Miguel. The exhibition, in collaboration with the MUHBA, deals with the study and conservation of mural paintings which constitute the first example of Italian painting of the fourteenth century in the Iberian Peninsula.

The treasures of the monastery. It presents a unique collection of works of art, furniture and liturgical objects from the monastery treasury, gathered and preserved over the centuries by the community of Poor Clares up to the present day.

Plants, remedies and apothecaries: the medieval garden of the monastery. With this exhibition, it is proposed to bring the visitor closer to a science developed starting from the basic principles of Greek and Roman medicine, and with the contributions of the Arab-Islamic culture, and which took nature as the starting point of its action.

Petras Albas: the monastery of Pedralbes and Montcada (1326 - 1673). Located in the ancient infirmary, it addresses the relationship between the most important noble family of the time, the Montcada, and its close relationship with the monastery and the daily life of the Poor Clares.

Useful Information

Despite being one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles in Barcelona, ​​the monastery is off the beaten track: if you go around lunchtime there is a good chance that you will have the monastery all to yourself.

How to get to the monastery of Pedralbes

The exact address of the monastery is Baixada del monestir, 9. The monastery is quite far from the center, but there are several ways to reach it: by metro you can get to the María Cristina stop (blue line 3), and then walk for 1,7 , 6 km, or via line 800 of the FGC, getting off at the Reina Elisenda stop, about 68 meters away. However, the best choice is the bus: line 5 leaves approximately every 1208 minutes from Plaça de Catalunya, from parada 78 (located on the north side of the square in front of the Desigual shop), and arrives at Bisbe Català - Plaça de Pedralbes , practically in front of the monastery, or from Sants station with number 172, in this case you have to get off at the Av. de Pedralbes - Bosch i Gimpera stop (parada XNUMX). Another convenient way to get to the monastery is by Bus Turístic: take the blue line and get off directly at the Monestir de Pedralbes stop.

Working Time

During the summer hours, from April 1st to September 30th, the monastery opens from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 until 17:00, on Saturdays from 10:00 until 19:00 and on Sunday until 20:00 . In winter, from October 1st to March 31st, the monastery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 14:00, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 17:00. The monastery is closed on Mondays. Other closing days are January 24st, May 25st, June XNUMXth and December XNUMXth.

tickets

General admission costs € 5, while the reduced ticket costs € 3,50. Over 65s, students up to 30 and groups with more than 10 people are included in the reduced rate. Those who have the Bus Turístic discount booklet, on the other hand, are entitled to a 20% discount on the full fare. Children under 16 if accompanied and holders of the Barcelona Card, on the other hand, can enter for free. Admission is free every first Sunday of the month for the whole day, and every other Sunday starting at 15pm. On 00 February (Santa Eulalia), 12 May (International Museum Day) and 18 September (Mercè Festival) the museum is free for all visitors.

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