A FORTRESS AGAINST THE MUSLIMS
The town of Cardona is located in the heart of Catalonia, in an area of transition between the hot and dry Mediterranean climate and the fresher, cooler mountain air. The town originally grew up around the castle, a fine example of the fortresses of the Christian armies used in their struggles against Islam. The castle is located on a steep hill which dominates the centre positioned at a height of 589 m, it was the former residence of the counts and dukes of Cardona. The rounded tower known as the Minyona remains of this era, although it was partially demolished in 1794, as well as part of the actual building which has been transformed into a “parador”, or luxury tourist complex.
The ancient castle was reinforced with a high wall in the 17th century, along the lines of the fortresses built by Vauban
THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE CATALAN ROMANESQUE STYLE
The collegiate church of Saint Vincent situated on the peak of the castle hill, is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Catalonia, as well as being one of the most ancient having been built between 1019 and 1040. Together with Sant Pere de Casserres or Sant Jaume de Frontanya it made a valid contribution to the definition of the Catalan Romanesque style. Featuring three naves. The central one being covered by a barrel vault of 47 metres in length, of particular note due to its great height (20 metres). With very narrow aisles, and cross ribbed vaulting.
The low transept, a common feature in Catalonia, is dominated at the cross-piece by a perforated dome. The chancel comprises three elongated apses decorated with pilaster strips and blind niches, under the cornice, as in Ripoll or Casserres. The decoration of Lombard bands or small arches extends along the full length of the outer sides. Beneath the apse a three-naved crypt opens out separated by slim columns that support a ribbed vault.
THE SALT MOUNTAIN
The castle of Cardona, an austere fortress, offers a fine example of an elegant Romanesque construction, in which the intrinsic purity of the lines are highlighted.
At the entrance to the church is a small restored cloister around which the various areas of the small monastery are arranged, this monastery having been built by the counts in their castle. As a way of providing some assurances against the constant Muslim threat. This fortified hillside affords a wonderful view as far as Bagès and Solsonès. While nearby is the Salt Mountain of Cardona, an enormous rock salt deposit, used since most ancient times, featuring a series of sparkling crystal tunnels and transparent stalactites. A magical word concealed beneath the rough mountain surface.