“Now, let me introduce to you this great artist: The “Master of” or “Maître de” Cabestany (XII century) was a mysterious, anonymous, errant and sublime sculptor (most probably Cathar) who worked in the very same geographical area which I cover in this blog: the Latin Arch (Do you see the parallelism?)”
The silly paragraph above was written by Covetotop (that’s me) in the first post of his universally unsuccessful series named “Following the steps of the Master of Cabestany“.
Then came a second post devoted to the Master: “The sarcophagus of Saint Sernin“. Wow.
And now comes the third post of that staggering series: “The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes”. Wow!
According to my stats page, very few people are following the steps of the Master with me. I don’t know why. I find the issue very interesting. Well, it doesn’t matter. Today we are following the Master to an impressive monastery perched on a mountain overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea: the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes.
This is Costa Brava at its purest. The special mix of art, history and wild nature that you can find in this little corner of the world is really unique.
Sant Pere de Rodes is an old Benedictine monastery, which stands on one of the last mountains (to the East) of the Pyrenees range, just 1700 feet (520 meters) above the Mediterranean Sea.
The origins of the monastery are lost in the mists of legend. The first documentary mentions of this marvel are dated back in the 9th century …
In the second half of the 12th century, the wanderer Master of Cabestany worked on this monastery and sculpted in marble the doorway of the atrium (galilee porch). Sadly, this marvel was plundered at the turn of the 19th century and most of the pieces are now scattered in museums and private collections around the world. Only a few tiny fragments remain in their original location. This is a very sad view of one of them:
Today, just in front of the doorway, there are two modern copies of some reliefs sculpted by the Master of Cabestany for the galilee porch. This is the copy of “Christ’s appearance to the Disciples”:
The original relief is located today in the Marès Museum of Barcelona, some two hours drive from the Monastery (I strongly recommend to you visiting this museum if you love Medieval Art). This is the original masterpiece:
When the Master of Cabestany arrived to Sant Pere, he crossed this very portal:
And within the walls he found an awesome, ancient church:
This is the church’s transept …
Sant Pere’s church strongly recalls the architecture from the old Roman Empire. The barrel vault over the central aisle is 16 meters high, and it is supported by a complex system of columns, some of them with Corinthian capitals.
All the marble and ornaments of this church were plundered. Wars, pirates and thieves took away all the treasures of this monastery. Nevertheless, they couldn’t take away the magic feeling you always experience when visiting this splendid church …
The mysterious crypt …
The monastery has two cloisters. This is the lower cloister:
I took the four pics below in the upper cloister:
The monks in this capital seem to witness with horror the passing by of centuries of evil and plunder.
The monastery has two big towers, both from the 12th century, both 27 meters high.
One of them is a defensive tower:
The other one is the bell-tower:
Interior view of the bell-tower:
The monastery was under the (unsuccessful) protection of the neighboring Verdera Castle. If you are relatively fit and well fed, you can hike to the ruins of this 9th century castle. You only have to follow a tiring and difficult path that leads you from the monastery to the top of the Verdera Mountain. Reaching the castle takes no more than half an hour if you walk at a tranquil pace.
The castle is ruined, but mountain and sea views are awesome …
Back to Earth …
It is time to say good-bye to this legendary monastery…
And it’s time to go on, following the steps of that mysterious, anonymous, errant and sublime sculptor from the Middle Ages known as the “Master of Cabestany” …
(Pic above: “Christ’s appearance to the Disciples”, detail, Master of Cabestany)
See you soon!
Post scriptum. If you are lucky enough to speak Spanish, and if you are really interested in this masterpiece of the Romanesque art, here below you’ll find two very interesting works in “pdf” format about Sant Pere de Rodes:
If you not only speak or understand Spanish, but Catalan as well, then you are really very lucky, because you can read this other pdf too: