Apse of Sant Joan de les Abadesses church.
Accommodation in Sant Joan de les Abadesses
Sant Joan de les Abadesses: a legendary monastery
The Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses has always been shrouded in mystery. Literature has given us accounts of Count Arnau’s visits to the monastery and the supposedly licentious lives led by the Benedictine nuns.
When all is said and done, all that remains is the legend and what you can see on your visit today.
The Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses is an austere building situated on a sheltered square in the centre of the town. The main entrance to the church is protected by four arches and a small open gallery. This is the access for the faithful into the temple, which did not become a parish church until the mid 19th century. The monastery was founded by Count Guifré el Pilós, who placed his daughter Emma as the Abbess at the head of the community between 898 and 942. The female community was expelled in the 11th century, presumably for disorderly conduct, which fact also contributed to the legend of the exploits of Count Arnau.
If you wish to obtain more information before your visit, please go to the Museum entrance, where you will be given a plan of the building. From there you can enter the 15th-century Monastery cloister with its simple elegant lines in the Catalan Gothic style. The space is adapted in summertime to stage shows based on the legendary figure of Count Arnau.
Entrance to the church is through the cloister. The building has several interesting features such as the Saint Augustine Altarpiece, the White Virgin Altarpiece, the Sepulcher of Blessed Miró and the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, a baroque construction that contrasts with the simple lines of the rest of the building. However, the most curious element is probably the 13th-century Santíssim Misteri group of sculptures representing the Descent from the Cross and dating from the transition period between Romanesque and Gothic art. The “mystery” refers to the fact that a consecrated host was said to have been preserved intact for centuries on the forehead of the carved Christ.
Part of the museum collection.
Do not overlook the Museum, situated at the entrance to the building, which houses a collection of sculptures, paintings, textiles and silverware that illustrate the history of the monastery and the town that grew up around it.