Former Cistercian Poblet Abbey (World Heritage)

By | August 16, 2021

The Cistercian monastery, founded in 1151, is the largest and most magnificent royal monastery in Spain. It was built in thanks for the expulsion of the Moors. After a fire in the 19th century, it was completely restored as a museum. Poblet was the burial place of numerous kings of Catalonia-Aragon.

Former Cistercian Abbey of Poblet: facts

Official title: Former Cistercian Abbey of Poblet
Cultural monument: Santa María de Poblet founded by Ramón Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona and Prince of Aragón, after defeating the Moors; 2000 m long fortification wall; in the wide outer courtyard, the Fratres’ craftsmen’s quarter; Reliquary collection with the bones of 66 saints
Continent: Europe
Country: Spain, Catalonia
Location: on the northern slope of the Serra de Roquerole, west of Montblanch
Appointment: 1991
Meaning: one of the largest and most interesting Catalan Cistercian monasteries from the 12th century.

Former Cistercian Abbey of Poblet: history

1153 Founding of a monastery
1191 large cloister
1377 Tomb of the kings of Aragon
1442 under Alfonso V building of San Jorge, a jewel of the Gothic
1835 Dissolution of the monastery
since 1940 Resettlement by Italian Cistercian monks

A majestic monastery town

The Cistercian order enjoys an excellent reputation primarily because of the harmonious architecture of its monasteries and its ascetic ideals. The order builders did without stained glass windows and lavish ornaments, because the monastery brothers were not interested in pomp. The constant spread of their faith through new monastic cells rather guided their actions. Never more than twelve brothers and an abbot with roughly the same number of lay brothers should live in a monastery. When that number was exceeded, the surplus were sent out to find a new place to live in humility. As a result of this self-limitation to the number of apostles, innumerable daughter foundations arose all over Europe, which were subordinate to the respective mother monasteries; all monasteries were family tree-like with the original monastery of Cîteaux founded in 1098.

According to ezinereligion, the Cistercian monastery of Poblet also follows this tradition. At the request of Ramón Berenguer IV., Cistercian monks from the French Fontfroide came to Poblet in the 12th century to found a monastery. Berenguer, who supported the founding with numerous donations, did not act solely for religious reasons, since after his victory over the Moors he was primarily interested in securing his dominion. In the Cistercian order, which had already paved the way for Christian civilization in numerous remote regions of Europe because of its extraordinary cultural and economic achievements, he saw a “bulwark against the Moorish infidels”. True to their rule of the order, the Cistercians were only allowed to settle in “wastelands” – preferably in remote valleys.

The Cistercians, also known as “gray monks” because of their simple robe made of undyed sheep’s wool, which should testify to higher virtues, diligently set to work. Within a few decades they transformed Poblet into a blooming Garden of Eden, and they also brought Gothic architecture and with it the pointed arch to Catalonia.

Over the centuries, Poblet developed into a complex with dimensions similar to that of a town: A tower-reinforced wall protected not only the monastery church, but also the stables, a bakery and the numerous workshops that were located on the labyrinthine monastery area. In their heyday, the abbots of Poblet had jurisdiction over more than sixty villages and thus had a great influence on the politics of Catalonia.

The dimensions of the monastery buildings were also majestic: While the three-aisled church is already a respectable 85 meters long, the monks’ bedroom is another two meters longer. The cloister, however, exudes a very special magic; As in all Cistercian monasteries, it formed the center of community life. The church, the chapter house, the library, the dining room (refectory) and the kitchen are arranged around it. The merging of simple Romanesque capitals with the delicate Gothic tracery avoids any exuberance, the octagonal fountain pavilion fits elegantly into the overall concept.

A look at the monastery church shows how much Poblet was favored by the Catalan rulers: A large number of the counts and kings from the Catalan-Aragonese family chose Poblet as their final resting place. Unfortunately, the royal sarcophagi were not spared the vandalism that led to secularization. In the 19th century, the abbey escaped complete destruction only with luck.

Not only the stone tombs could be reconstructed, the Cistercian spirit also experienced its rebirth in the 1940s when the “gray monks” returned to Catalonia. Today around thirty Cistercian monks live in Poblet, which is the only Cistercian monastery in Spain to be used again, true to its original purpose.

Former Cistercian Poblet Abbey (World Heritage)