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A glimpse into the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona

Cloister of cistercian monastery of Santa Maria of Vallbona de les Monges, Spain

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Cloister of cistercian monastery of Santa Maria of Vallbona de les Monges, Spain

Daniel Esparza - published on 01/05/24

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most important monastic sites in Catalonia.
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The Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona is a Cistercian nunnery located in Vallbona de les Monges, in the comarca of Urgell, Catalonia, Spain. It is one of the most important monastic sites in Catalonia. Its church is a magnificent example of the transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is more than 800 years old. Nestled in the Catalan countryside, it was founded in 1173 by King Alfonso II of Aragon, “The Chaste” – the first King of Aragon who was also Count of Barcelona.

This magnificent Cistercian monastery (as is often the case with these abbatial buildings) was once a beacon of spiritual and material wealth – and, in more ways than one, it still is.

Since its foundation, the Cistercian nuns of Vallbona have embraced a strict monastic lifestyle, guided by the Rule of St. Benedict. In typical Cistercian fashion, the nuns’ daily life revolves around silent contemplation, communal worship, and meticulous work. Indeed, the monastery has always been devoted to writing, copying, and preserving classic texts – theology, philosophy, science, literature. Following in the footsteps of their predecessors, the nuns of Vallbona still work on word processing. If medieval nuns were skilled scribes who meticulously copied and illuminated manuscripts in the scriptorium, contemporary nuns do so using word processing software.

The library of the abbey, together with the scriptorium, achieved great fame. For example, 14 codices from the 13th century were copied and illustrated by the old nuns and are kept in the archive, along with numerous old documents of great interest for regional and national historiography. The same goes for the pharmacy, which served all the villages of the barony: It has preserved documents from the 15th century.

Today, a small community of Cistercian nuns still call Vallbona Abbey home. More than a historical landmark, Vallbona Abbey is a living testament to human resilience and the great devotion of these daughters of the Church.

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