Santa Maria de Vallbona
Distance from L’Hospitalet de l’Infant: 91 km
Type of activity: cultural, sight-seeing
Time required: half day
 
Santa Maria de Vallbona

The monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona is one of the three abbeys which form the Cistercian triangle in the Priorat. At least from 1175 the monastery was inhabited by Benedictine hermits. In 1163 they had received territories from Ramon Berenguer IV , Count of Barcelona (1113 –1162), and in that year decided to convert to the Cistercian order. Two years later the abbey received several privileges from King Alfonso II of Aragón (1157-96), and subsequently was able to expand thanks to  numerous donations from noble families. Other privileges came from bulls issued by Pope Innocent III in 1198, 1200 and 1201.
 
Between the 12th and 14th century the monastery established a fiefdom across the county of Urgell, a fact that was ratified when abbess Saurena de Anglesola (1379–1392) bought the civil and criminal jurisdiction over these lands from King Peter III of Aragón (1239-1285).  At the time some 150 nuns lived in the abbey, most of Catalan noble origin.
 
The Catalonian Civil War (1462–1472) and later the Council of Trent (1545–1563) had a deep impact on the monastery. The latter issued a law by which female communities in uninhabited places were forbidden, which forced the nuns to sell several of their lands (1573) to colonists who settled around the monastery. This settlement later evolved in the current town of Vallbona de las Monges. In the following centuries, strife with the monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, and events such as the Catalan Revolt (1640–1652), the War of Spanish Succession (1705–1717), and the War of the Pyrenees (1788–1795), eroded the economic prosperity of the abbey and led to its decline.
 
 
 
The church, built in several stages between the 12th-14th centuries is in a transitional style between the Romanesque and the Gothic. The bell tower, built in 1340-1348, has an octagonal plan in the Gothic style. The main gate is located in the northern transept arm and faces the monastery's square. It features five archivolts supported by columns and capitals with foliate reliefs and a tympanum decorated with a sculpture of the Virgin and Child. Above the latter is a decorated frieze. Another gate is located on the church's northern wall, but is now obstructed by a sarcophagus enclosed in an ogival arch.
 
Santa Maria de Ballbona

The cloister has a rectangular plan, whose sides, of different lengths, were built in several stages between the 12th and the 15th centuries. The oldest sector, in the south, exhibits the original, sober Romanesque-Cistercian canons. The Capitular Hall  has a cross-vault cover and is accessed from the cloister through a Gothic gate built under abbess Anglesola in the 14th century.
 
Santa Maria de Ballbona
 
For more information see http://www.vallbona.com.