THE SPLENDOUR OF THE YEAR ONE THOUSAND
Ripoll is the capital of a small region of the Catalan Pyrenees, known as Ripollès. This bustling town is one of the most prestigious monasteries of the country which has also known how to face the future through the diversification of its economic resources. It became an important metallurgical centre thanks to the vicinity of important iron mines, which formed the basis of a modern iron metallurgy industry. While the textile industries there prospered until the late 1800’s, and then gradually closed one after the other. Their place has been taken by tourism, which is expanding rapidly thanks to the natural and artistic beauty of the region.
Ripoll in fact grew up around the Benedictine monastery built by count Goffredo il Villoso in around 880 and reached the height of its glory from the 10th century onwards. Its influence extending far beyond the Catalan region, reaching a European scale.
The church of the Santa Maria monastery was built and consecrated in 1032 by the abbot Oliba, Bishop of Vic. It was seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1428, it was subsequently re-built, but was plundered and burnt in 1837. It emerged from the ruins thanks to Elias Rogent who had it re-built between 1886 and 1893. The current building has been restored to its original scale, that of the great church of Bishop Oliba, with its five naves. The interior bears the mark of a fairly Romantic interpretation of a medieval structure. However the exterior still retains the harmony of the original building, a fine example of the early Romanesque period, largely inspired by Lombard construction techniques. Of particular note is the chancel, the best preserved part featuring a transept and six smaller apses along the central apse dominated by the octagonal lantern tower on the transept dome.
Only one of the two original Lombard bell-towers exists on the western façade. A gallery made up of gothic arches, also surrounds an extraordinary 12th century sculpted portal; an authentic masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture in terms both of composition and the quality of the workmanship.The cloister of the monastery is situated at the south end. Four galleries of different eras surround the ample courtyard ; the most ancient was begun in 1170, while the others date back to the 14th-15th centuries.
An upper cloister was added in the 16th century.
ANCIENT CULTURAL CENTRE
The name Ripoll evokes the great scriptorium which was one of the intellectual centres of Europe in the early Middle Ages between the 10th and 11th centuries. Manuscripts were copied here, coming from all over, and especially those of Arab origin. Gerberto di Aurillac, who became the pope of the year One Thousand, and one of the greatest scholars of the time, stayed in Ripoll in his youth in order to perfect his training.
Ripoll also evokes another great individual: the abbot Oliba, son of the count of Cerdagne, who was also abbot of Saint Michel de Cuxa, the pastoral guide of a monastic community on the Pyrenees and the Bishop of Vic.There are also other centres of interest in Ripoll apart from the monastery, it all offers the possibility of wonderful mountain excursions to the nearby ski resorts. There is also a museum of Folkloric archives, boasting some excellent collections, such as those dedicated to the blacksmith and metallurgical crafts.