What is the oldest building in Spain

Sant Pau del Camp monastery

The history of the monastery complex

Since the founding of the Roman settlement Barcino in today's Gothic Quarter, there has also been settlement outside the city wall. It was located at the foot of Montjuic on a wide, agriculturally used area called "El Camp".

There are few and partly contradicting documents on the history of the Sant Pau monastery. Based on remains from the Roman-Christian period, it is now assumed that the place was a Christian place of activity even before the Benedictine monastery was built. Traditions from the 5th century show that Saint Paulinus built a hospice here. Documents from 1420 took up these traditions - accordingly Paulinus was buried on the premises of the hospice.

What is certain is that the monastery was founded between the years 897 and 911 by Count Guifre-Borell (Wilfredo II.). This is evidenced by the Count's tombstone, which was found in 1596 and which is now on the wall of the left arm of the church building. Wilfredo II died on April 26, 911. He was the son of Wilfredo I el Vellonso ("the hairy one"), who introduced the hereditary nobility in the Spanish Mark in 897 and is considered the founding father of Catalonia.

From the time of its founding to the sacking and destruction by the Moors in 985, there are no written documents about the monastery. It is known that the Benedictines abandoned the monastery before it was sacked by the Moorish troops of Almanzor. Until the second founding of the monastery more than 100 years later, it remained a simple church, although no parish was housed in it.

The nobles Geribert Guitard and his second wife Rotlendis, founders of the house of Bell Lloc, rebuilt the church building on their own at the end of the 11th century and united it with the monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallés so that a new monastery could be founded. The noble couple submitted the monastery to the Holy See in Rome as a donation on April 29, 1117 - but the monastery was still allowed to act independently. In the 13th century the monastery of Sant Pau del Camp was no longer dependent on Sant Cugat. In 1508 Sant Pau was united with the monastery of Montserrat, in 1593 again with Sant Cugat and in 1617 with the monastery of Sant Pere de la Portella del Berguedà.

During the French occupation from 1808 to 1814, the monastery was used as a hospital for the French troops and then converted into a barracks for the Italian troops. In 1835 the Benedictine monks were released from the monastery. The monastery then served as a school and barracks until the church was finally declared a national cultural monument in 1879. Today the restored Romanesque complex is a museum and a cultural venue.

The architecture of the monument

Although the monastery has existed since the 10th century, the current building is the result of extensive renovation and renovation work from the 12th century. Over the centuries, further modifications and extensions were added. As a result, little has been preserved from the original church building. The monastery of Sant Pau del Camp is assigned to the Romanesque, i.e. the pre-Gothic style. But there are also many Gothic elements to be seen.

The monastery church consists of a single nave and the floor plan is based on a Greek cross. The portal, which comes from an older church building from the Visigothic period, is particularly worth seeing. From the simple interior of the church you can reach the beautiful cloister with its multi-pass arches from the 13th century via the Gothic chapter house - it is clearly attributable to Moorish influence and unique in Europe. Inside the church you can see typical Romanesque elements such as windings and barrel vaults.

In the garden is the Casa Abacial, which was completed in the 15th century. The portal is flanked by two marble columns on which the archivolt, the arched semicircular arch, rests. On the tympanum - the decorative surface in the arched area of ​​the portal - Jesus Christ is depicted together with Peter and Paul (Pere i Paul). The pilasters of the pillars on the outside of the church are adorned with human faces, mythical creatures and plants.

The location of Sant Paul del Camp

The first residents of today's Raval district settled here around 4,000 years ago. This is shown by excavations from 1989 near the monastery, in which, in addition to the remains of a Roman settlement, remains of a settlement from the Bronze Age were found. A year later, when a Civil Guard barracks were demolished, a Neolithic necropolis with 25 graves was found. The area around the monastery housed one of the earliest human settlements in Barcelona.

"El Camp" is the name given to the agricultural area in front of the city walls of Barcelona in the 9th century. At that time the monastery church was located far outside the city, in the open space. Until the Middle Ages, these fields were largely undeveloped. At the end of the 14th century, Raval was finally incorporated into Barcelona. Today, the Raval district, in the southern tip of which the monastery is located, forms the old town together with the Barri Gòtic and El Born districts to the east.

The Sant Pau del Camp monastery is only about 200 meters from the southern end of the Rambla de Raval. The way is signposted.

Why a visit to the monastery complex is worthwhile

Barcelona's trendy Raval district - known for its multi-cultural and lively hustle and bustle. And right in the middle, like a hidden treasure: Sant Pau del Camp, the oldest preserved church building in the city. Noise and hectic are quickly forgotten during a visit, and on hot days it is pleasantly cool here. You can admire the Romanesque architecture, the many Gothic elements and, above all, the cloister with its Moorish influences, which is unique in Europe. During a guided tour you will also get a lot of interesting background knowledge about the history of the monastery and the life of the monks within the complex.