Romanesque churches in the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees is a range of mountains that forms a natural border between France and Spain. They extend for about 300 miles from the Cantabrian/Atlantic coast (West) to the Mediterranean coast (East).

On this post I’m “hiking” just from the Central Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast, hopping from Spain to France, from France to Spain, from Spain to France … Thanks God, there are no political borders within the old Europe any longer.


(Pic above: “Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici” National Park, Pyrenees, Spain)

“Ancient art has a specific inner content.  At one time, art possessed the same purpose that books do in our day, namely: to preserve and transmit knowledge.  In olden days, people did not write books, they incorporated their knowledge into works of art. We would find a great many ideas in the works of ancient art passed down to us, if only we knew how to read them.” (George Gurdjieff)

Some of the churches, abbeys and monasteries you are about to see in this post are included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Our walk begins at the Cloister of St Peter’s abbey, in Moissac (France):

Moissac cloister

“Moissac is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage preserved in the medieval Saint-Pierre Abbey” (UNESCO).

Moissac portal

This abbey is included in the World Heritage Site “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France

This is Santiago (St. James) in Moissac:

Santiago in Moissac

Now let’s climb a little …

Pyrenees Mountains

We are visiting the Romanesque churches of two awesome valleys on top of the Pyrenees range: Vall de Arán and Vall de Boí (Spain)

Romanesque curch

Romanesque portal

Romanesque faces

Arán Valley

Pyrenees Romanesque

Romanesque Pyrenees

Artíes interior


musicians in stone

“The churches of the Vall de Boí are an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting” (UNESCO).

Taúll church

All the Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí are included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Boí interior


church on the mountains

rural church Pyrenees


Architecture is not the only art in which our ancestors excelled …

Catalan medieval art

A little SUV comes very handy in order to reach some hermitages lost among these high mountains

Mitsubishi on the mountains

Beware of the bell …

beware of the bell

Let’s go on to the East …

Grail forrest

“The Grail-Knight Gurnemanz and his esquires are praying in a forest near Montsalvat, the hidden Temple of the Grail, somewhere in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain …” With this phrase (more or less) begins the medieval legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail. This old story has been a source of inspiration for great geniuses, from Richard Wagner in his opera “Parsifal”, to the great Covetotop in this very post …

Covetotop in Canigou

On this trip I saw so much Medieval Art, that my head ended up turned into a Romanesque capital (pic above: Covetotop starting his hike to the Saint Martin du Canigou abbey, in the Canigou mountain, France)

St Martin de Canigou

Mount Canigou

We go on always towards the East, direction to the Mediterranean Sea …

The master of light (Via Lucis) Mr. Dennis Aubrey says about the Cloisters Museum collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: “Perched on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters is a superb home for the transplanted walkways of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa … Saint Martin-de-Canigou, and from other sites in southern France. Visitors to the City can enjoy these marvels of the Middle Ages for themselves. But it is a different thing to go to France and visit the original sites of these cloisters. We see fragments instead of ensembles, fragments of the buildings that once were the glory of medieval France”

I totally agree with Mr. Aubrey’s opinion. Here below there is a sad view of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa today: what is left of its cloister in its original site.

Sant Miquel de Cuixà

No arches in the background. Almost no cloister is left. Nevertheless, focus your attention on the face of that lonely little monster in the capital above … Do you see it? There is a smile on his face! Do you know why? I’ll tell you why: natural beauty, clean air, silence, peace, no tourists around (apart from me) and … the very best part of the monastery is still just in front of him!:

Saint Michel de Cuxa

Let’s go on. This is the beautiful cloister of Elne (France):

Elne cloister

The monastery of Santa María de Ripoll (Spain) is very beautiful too:


Its portal is Romanesque Art at its best:

Ripoll portal

Camprodón (Spain):


Camprodón and its surroundings deserve a special post. I’ll write it any other day.

By now let’s go on. This is the secluded Monastery of Sant Quirze de Colera (Spain):

Sant Quirze de Colera

Our hike is about to finish. The last monastery we visit is the awesome monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, overlooking the Cap de Creus (Cape of Crosses) and the Pyrenees.

Monastery Costa Brava

Sant Pere de Rodes is an 11th-century monastery whose first structures date from about 750 AD. Here worked the mysterious “Master of Cabestany“. The relief you can see in the pic below was made by the Master of Cabestany for the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery:

Master of Cabestany

Mmm … I think that Sant Pere de Rodes deserves two or three posts more …

My Romanesque “hike” ends at the very end of the Pyrenees: the virgin coves of Cap de Creus (Costa Brava, Spain) and the mythical Mediterranean Sea.

Cala Rustella

I’ll wait here until I recover my human face …


About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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22 Responses to Romanesque churches in the Pyrenees

  1. What a spectacular post this is. Thanks for the overview of all these wonderful churches.

  2. Photos close to home says:

    Thank you for taking me I will never be able to go.

  3. a ferreira says:

    In olden days, people also had … time! And Art needs time: all these beautiful details surely took a long (and peaceful) time to make – cut, carve, sculpt, build…
    Looking forward to seeing the ‘more’ promised posts – and your Romanesque face is fine! 😉

  4. Trish says:

    Thank you Covetotop for the monastery tour. Your posts are so interesting, not to be missed!

  5. Christina says:

    I wish we were all so lucky as to go on your Romanesque tour! (Maybe someday I’ll make it….) Thanks for taking your readers along through your photos! 🙂

  6. Space AND time travel. Love these unexpected trips though a Europe i’m not familiar with.

    • Covetotop says:

      Actually, I took some of the pictures featured on this post in the Middle Ages (almost) with a little point-and-shoot … Since I have a modern and heavy SLR, I don’t take it to the mountains! 😦

  7. harri8here says:

    Stunning and oh so atmospheric. Catching up with you has been a joy.

  8. Bama says:

    What a nice compilation of pictures of old churches! More often than not this kind of place has more stories to tell as only a few people visit them.

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