Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain)

“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.

Monastery Mediterranean

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.

St. Peter path

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:

Cabestany made

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”:

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:

Christ’s appearance to the Disciples

Christ’s appearance to the Disciples

When the Master of Cabestany arrived to Sant Pere, he crossed this very portal:

Sant Pere entrance

Sant Pere entrance 2

And within the walls he found an awesome, ancient church:

Romanesque church

This is the church’s transept …

Sant Pere 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.

Sant Pere West

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 …

Sant Pere West 2

The mysterious crypt …

Sant Pere crypt

The monastery has two cloisters. This is the lower cloister:

Sant Pere lower cloister

Sant Pere lower cloister 2

I took the four pics below in the upper cloister:

Upper cloister left

Upper cloister right

Upper cloister left 1

Upper cloister right 1

The monks in this capital seem to witness with horror the passing by of centuries of evil and plunder.

Sant Pere monks capital

The monastery has two big towers, both from the 12th century, both 27 meters high.

Sant Pere towers

One of them is a defensive tower:

Defensive tower

The other one is the bell-tower:

Bell tower

Interior view of the bell-tower:

Bell tower interior

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 …

Verdera

Verdera castle

Mediterranean Verdera castle

Back to Earth …

Sant Pere de Rodes

It is time to say good-bye to this legendary monastery…

Mediterranean 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” …

Mestre de 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:

Sant Pere de Rodes, lugar de peregrinación

Las portadas de la iglesia de 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:

Aportació al coneixement de l’escultura romànica de Sant Pere de Rodes

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About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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22 Responses to Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain)

  1. What an amazing place – that castle looks like it came out of a drawing by M.C.Escher…

  2. Thank you for sharing this delightful architectural gem! Would love to visit right now!

  3. Sarah says:

    I was wondering where Covetotop had gone as I didn’t get the last two posts in my WordPress reader. Must have been a glitch with WordPress. Very interesting posts I must say too, and I’m glad you linked them here so I couldn’t miss them.
    Love the photo above of the sea framed by stones. Outstanding!

  4. augusta says:

    I apologize that I always have the same comment, but you really move me. Thank you! –Aggie

  5. Trish says:

    I need to know about monasteries in this region, so you’re teaching me a lot. Thanks!

  6. augusta says:

    I know you said that the place was plundered, but what about the paint? Was it ever painted? I like it plain, the way it is, so grand in scale, yet so simple.

  7. Ah Covetotop, that is a wonderful post, about a lovely and special place. I feel quite inspired, and just like most of your other lucky readers, I want to dash off and visit right now. It is sad of course that all the treasures and so much of the decoration has been carried away by war, pirates, and just simple treasure and souvenir-seekers (worse than the regular pirates in my view!) but you’re quite right, they have not taken away the magic of this enchanted place. I’m in Carcasonne in (SW/Cathar) France in a few weeks. How far is this to drive do you think? I’d really love to visit some day. Thank you. Arran.

    • Covetotop says:

      Sant Pere de Rodes – Carcasonne?: Roughly 2 hours drive. It could be a great day trip if you add some interesting stops. For example, in Spain, very close to Sant Pere de Rodes, you can visit Cadaqués (a nice white village, where you can visit the surrealistic Salvador Dalí’s house –previous reservation needed-, the natural beauty of Cape of Creus –“Cap de Creus”- etc). In the same route, in France, very close to Spain, you can visit the villages of Colliure (by the sea) or Ceret (by the mountains, there is a good Picasso Museum there). Cadaqués, Colliure and Ceret are very nice. Anyway, all this area is full of interesting places to visit. Two hours drive to the North-West of Carcasonne you have Albi, World Heritage Site … Oh my! You’ll have a very tough time deciding where to go … 😉

      • 2 hours, eh? That sounds very do-able in our little rental car. Many thanks Covetotop, for a generous and informative response. I remember being in Cadaqués (and Figueres) a couple of times, many years ago. I used to live and work in Barcelona, but gosh, its nearly 20 years ago now! But i have never been to the other towns you mention, and they all sound lovely. Albi, in particular, sounds like an absolute must. Strangely enough, the wife of one of my colleagues comes from Albi, and I’ve looked it up on Google pictures and can not believe how beautiful it appears. I’ve forwarded a link to your blog and comment on to my travel partner. I can not wait to see all these lovely places. thank you. -Arran.

      • Covetotop says:

        I’m sure you´ll like Albi very much!

  8. Christina says:

    Thanks for posting your visit to the monastery! I particularly like your photo up through the bell tower. Beautiful!

  9. Covetotop, stunning site; we were supposed to go a couple of years ago but changed our plans. Regret that still. The Cabestany “Christ’s appearance to the Disciples” is an absolute masterpiece. Thanks as always for this.

    • Covetotop says:

      As you well know, I am a fan of the mysterious Master of Cabestany. I blog about his works whenever I can. Visiting Sant Pere de Rodes -in low season, if possible- is some kind of “mystic” experience. There is a modern copy of “Christ’s appearance to the Disciples” just at Sant Pere’s portal. The original work is in Barcelona, in the wonderful Museu Marés, just in front of the Cathedral. If you ever visit Barcelona, don’t miss that museum. It is a must for Romanesque art lovers. Thanks for your kind comment, Dennis.

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