Tour of Cistercian Monasteries
Tour of Cistercian MonasteriesTour of Cistercian Monasteries

Not only lovers of modern art will be delighted in the environs  of L’Hospitalet but also those who like to travel in time and discover the millennial history of the region. The most significant among Catalan abbeys are the monasteries of Poblet, Santa Creus and Vallbona de les Monges. Combine hiking with cultural sight-seeing: all three can be visited together on a hiking tour following the so-called Ruta del Cister on hiking route GR 175. They are located in a vast territory characterized by medieval fortifications that bear witness to the times when this region marked the border between Christian and Arab cultures. The three monasteries, founded in the 11th century were official royal monasteries of the crown of Aragón for 300 years.

The Cistercian order originates from the French abbey of Citeaux in Burgundy, wehre in 1098 a group of monks around St. Bernard split from the Benedictine order to follow the vows of poverty and simplicity even more radically. The Cistercians valued manual labor to an extent that was not common in other monastic orders at the time. Consequently, the order became very successful in farming and viticulture, which were practiced both by the monks and by the lay brothers instructed by the monks.

Cistercian abbeys began to be founded in Catalonia starting in the middle of the 12th century at the time of the Reconquista of the territories occupied by the Arabs in the southern part of Catalonia. This is why the majority of monasteries rose in the newly “liberated” areas south of the line Barcelona-Lleida, while the north of Catalonia remained under the influence of the Benedictines. The architecture of Cistercian abbeys in Catalonia is characterized by the transition taking place at the time between Romanesque and Gothic styles. The austere architectural style characteristic of Cistercian abbeys was loosened up to allow some ornamentation under the influence of the kings of Catalonia and Aragón, who chose these abbeys as their royal burial places. Still characteristic for the spiritual principles of the order as well as for the monks’ focus on farming is the isolated location of most of these monasteries.

Detailed descriptions of the hiking tours, as well as more information about the monasteries is available on www.larutadelcister.info