Santa Maria de Vilabertran
IN MEMORY OF A ROYAL WEDDING
Vilabertran is located in the vicinity of Figueres, on the lush plaints of the Upper Empurdan. This peaceful farming village which grew up around the monastery of Santa Maria was founded in the 11th century by a certain Pere Rigall who became its first abbot, the monastery adopted the canonical rules of Saint Augustine. Thanks to the rich donations that it received it had a leading role in local life, also having civil and penal jurisdiction rights. In 1295 the wedding between James II of Aragon and Bianca d’Angiò took place here.
The community was subsequently secularised in 1592, however the church maintained its status as collegiate church until 1835. Today Santa Maria is a parish church, and the monastery which has been tastefully restored by the Autonomous Regional Government of Catalunia is open for visits.
Building on the church began around 1080, and it was completed and consecrated in 1100. The two different stonework structures are visible on the walls of the chancel, illustrating two different work stages.
This building has three naves with low transept, of a very basic style void of any ornamental decoration. The central nave, supported by cross-shaped elongated pillars is covered by a barrel vault. The lateral naves feature semi-barrel vaults which give balance to the higher central nave. The apse is decorated with an elegant arch motive resting on fine columns. Two smaller apses open onto the transept. The west end features a bell-tower of traditional Lombard style.
The south end features a small trapezoidal shaped cloister, with alternating pillars and columns dominated by austere capitals and rounded arches. The monastic buildings are set around it consisting of the refectory, kitchen, stores, capitular hall and communal work rooms. There is a dormitory on the upper storey with covering structure resting on dividing arches. The severity of the architectural style reflects the severity of the Augustinian canonical rules applied.
The abbey building is located nearby, in Gothic style, consisting of an imposing building dating back to the early 15th century by Antoni Guirgos.
FAR FROM THE MADDENING CROWD
The monastery of Vilabertran is set only a few kilometres from the crowded beaches of Costa Brava and the convulsive traffic, and is a true haven of peace. There is nothing to disturb the calm of the small cloister. The pure architectural style, and the quality of the materials used, are in marked contrast to the bland soulless style of the commercialised tourist buildings.A stroll through the hamlet also offers pleasant surprises: the cool shadows of the plane-trees on the church square, as well as the occasional Gothic window with their elegant columns made of Gerona limestone.The village comes to life each September when it hosts a musical festival.