Today we planned to complete the itinerary which had been interrupted by my tire blowout. Another lovely day dawned and we set off up the valley towards Boí and Taüll.
Sant Joan de Boí is a three-naved church and as as you can see it has a rectangular central apse and two semi-circular side apses. The tower is impressive, as are many in the Vall de Boí, and visitors are able to climb into the tower, always making sure that their visit doesn’t coincide with a long ring (say at 11:00!)
But the frescoes are the most noteworthy of Sant Joan’s features. It has a rare exterior fresco, depicting (probably) the Lamb of God supported by four angels, with a prophet or evangelist (the human figure with the book.)
There are diverse decorative borders in several colours, which were perhaps inspired by decoration in Muslim art.
The interior frescoes are spectacular. To see these fresco replicas in their original setting and to see the originals in the MNAC was an exciting opportunity for us. There was a huge collection of beasts, real and imaginary, jugglers, biblical scenes, the stoning of Saint Stephen–it took a long time to look at them all. Here are a representative few–see more in the slideshow.
From Sant Joan de Boí we had to backtrack to Erill la Vall to see Santa Eulàlia, because of the limited opening hours for the valley churches.
Santa Eulàlia has the requisite tall bell tower, but is celebrated for the wooden carving of the Descent from the Cross. The figures have remarkable movement and convey powerful emotion. The originals are in various museums–we were able to see figures at the Museu Episcopal de Vic and the MNAC.
Also in Erill la Vall we saw some pine torches ready for La Baixada des Falles in Taüll that Friday. These are actually quite small: some of them were large branches or actual tree trunks!
To get to Taüll we had to cycle back up, past Boí. The hill seemed long today, maybe because of our marathon the day before, but the climb was definitely worth it to see the churches of Taüll.
Sant Climent de Taüll is one of the most recognizable churches of the valley. Replicas of the church with its five-tier belltower abound in shops.
It is a spectacular tower, improbably tall, imposing even against the backdrop of the Pyrenées. I climbed the tower and was rewarded with spectacular views and strong breezes.
Inside the church we spent some time gazing at the wonderful (reproduction) frescoes. Jim and I had seen the originals in the MNAC but to see their place in the church. The apse shows Christ in glory with the evangelists.
We headed out of the church for lunch and encountered the Taüll cat. He was a bit of a pest, but had his own charm!
On the way up to Plà de l’Ermita and Sant Quirc de Taüll we stopped to look at the beautiful apses of Sant Climent.
We returned to Taüll and the church of Santa Maria and spent some time enjoying its frescoes. Unusually, the painting in the apse is not of Christ in Glory but of Mary and the infant Jesus.
Santa Maria had also had a wooden descent from the cross, similar to the one at Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall. The surviving figures are in the MNAC, and a replica was not (yet) built for the church.
After a stop at our favourite Barruera water fountain, we made a brief visit to Santa Maria de Cardet.
The slide below shows the reproduction altarpiece from Santa Maria on the left and the original from the MNAC on the right.
We coasted back to the campground and cleaned up for a meal out in Pont de Suert, a send-off for Gwen who was bussing back to Barcelona the next day, to catch her flight to Canada. We happened on a wonderful restaurant “Les Cumbres” (“The Peaks”). The chef came out to talk to us himself, and when we didn’t understand one menu item, brought a bag of snails out to show us (“I don’t like them at all!” he said, making a face.) We shared our plates of beautifully prepared, tasty items which included local lamb, chicken, asparagus, homemade lemon basil sorbet, and luscious chocolate cake, and almost literally licked our plates clean. After our meal, the chef came out and offered us a digestif of “almost local” (in his words) cassis. What a wonderful end to our wonder-filled day!