Pedralbes Monastery, constructed in 1326 by Queen Elisenda of Montcada, is a prime example of Catalan Gothic architecture in Barcelona. Pedralbes, a pleasant neighborhood in Barcelona, is where you’ll find it. The magnificent Gothic cloister at the heart of this structure is one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.
You’ll see that it’s three stories tall, has two galleries, and is adorned with arches and columns with the crests of the Kings of Aragon and the House of Montcada around a green center garden. Then, you’ll find Queen Elisenda’s tomb in a side chapel of the cloister.
The building has been transformed into a museum where permanent displays highlight the area’s cultural heritage. There is also a tiny group of Saint Claire’s Order nuns living there.
James II of Aragon and his wife Elisenda of Montcada commissioned the construction of the monastery in the early 14th century. The homogeneity of its Catalan Gothic architecture can be attributed to the year it took to build.
After the nuns left in 1983, the building became a permanent exhibit at the Barcelona History Museum. The interior of the structure is like a time warp, transporting you to another period. Explore the 14th-century structures within the medieval wall after passing through one of the two enormous doorways.
The cathedral, now a museum, has the founder’s grave, adding to the attraction of a trip to the monastery. The San Miquel church reached via the cloister, should also not be missed. Ferrer Bassa, a well-known Catalan painter, was responsible for the interior design.
The structure of the Monastery of Pedralbes
The original wall that surrounded the monastery (which was constructed out of white stone, or pedres albes in Catalan) has now been reduced to only two towers and one gate.
The Gothic retablo was created by Jaume Huguet, and the church features a single nave, rib vaults, and a polygonal apse. A big rose window dominates the front of the building.
The cloister is 40 meters in length, with a central garden filled with orange trees and palms. It has three stories. The structure is made up of broad arches supported by columns bearing the coats of arms of the Kings of Aragon and the House of Montcada. In one of the cloister’s wings is the alabaster stone tomb of Queen Elisenda.
The Chapel of St. Michael, which features frescoes by Ferrer Bassa, is also noteworthy. They were painted in 1346 and displayed Giotto’s influence.
In the 1990s, the former dorm room was transformed into a permanent display of works from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, featuring paintings by Italian Trecento artists as well as later works by Rubens, Canaletto, Tintoretto, Velázquez, and Fra Angelico (including his masterpiece, the Virgin of Humility). These are currently on display either in Madrid’s main museum or Barcelona’s Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
If it weren’t for the garden in the center of the monastery’s courtyard, the building wouldn’t be nearly as stunning. You won’t find more peace and quiet anyplace else in Barcelona than here. Only the birds singing and the splashing of the Renaissance fountain in the center can be heard.
Massive cypresses and palm trees cast a cool, relaxing shadow. From the lower cloister, you may enter the garden from a number of different points.
The history of the Monastery of Pedralbes
In 1326, King James II of Aragon established the monastery as a gift to his wife, Elisenda de Montcada. It was home to a congregation of Poor Clare nuns, many of whom came from aristocratic backgrounds.
The queen granted the monastery a number of special rights, including the responsibility of being defended by the city of Barcelona’s Consell de Cent (“Council of the Hundred”) at all times. After her husband’s death in 1327, Elisenda moved into a mansion she had built adjacent to the convent. In 1367, she passed away there. In the 1970s, archaeologists finally located the palace’s ruins.
The nuns were forced to flee their homes during the Reapers’ War in the 1640s and 1650s, but they eventually returned. The building was designated a national monument in 1991, although some nuns still call it home.
This peaceful monastery was established in 1327; today, it serves as a museum of monastic life (the remaining sisters having relocated to more contemporary nearby structures). It is located in a residential region of Barcelona that was farmland up to the turn of the century and is now a peaceful sanctuary.
The huge, magnificent cloister, completed in the early 14th century, is the crowning architectural achievement of the monastery. This solemn cathedral is yet another shining illustration of Catalan Gothic architecture.
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