We knew that Santa Maria de l’Estany (Saint Mary of the Lake), a twelfth century Augustinian monestary, would be something special. Toni, the man in charge of the hostel at Vic, had told me that it was one of the most authentic monasteries in Catalunya and the article in Romanico we had seen pictures of the cloister on the internet.
We had checked the web page for Santa Maria de l’Estany and knew that it was only open from 10:00 to 2:00pm. There was a bus from Vic at 10:00 which arrived in Moià, about 7 km from Santa Maria, at 10:40. We arrived at the bus station in good time, I asked at the information desk where we caught the bus, and was directed to a platform just off the street. Well, we waited and waited. 10:00 arrived, 10:15, and I was beginning to suspect we were in the wrong place. There was a town near Vic called Malla, which the information desk may have heard instead of Moià. However, a man from the bus company assured us that the bus was coming and that this was an aberration. When the bus eventually came it was small, with no luggage compartment! We groaned inwardly, afraid that we wouldn’t be able to get our bikes on board, but there was a space at the back that seemed made for them and the same man from the bus company helped us load our bikes and saddlebags. We arrived in Moià with enough time to get to Santa Maria. The first part was a bit of a climb, and men who were sitting on benches along the street cheered us on!
We arrived at the church in good time and I walked around the north side of the monastery so I could get a feel for the architecture. On the whole it has a lot of bare stone and feels very austere. It’s plan is a Latin cross with a large transcept. On the crossing a cimbori supports a tower which dates from the fifteenth century; it looks a little awkward.
The nave and transcepts have apses, a large one on the nave and smaller ones on the east walls of the transcepts. There are windows in the apses with baby columns with baby capitals which are so cute!
The cloister is located to the south of the monastery. It dates from the mid twelfth to thirteenth centuries and has double columns with 72 magnificent and well preserved capitals.
I particularly enjoyed those in the northern gallery which show scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The figures have a stiffness and lack of movement, but the carving is done in meticulous detail.
The capitals depict the creation of Adam and Eve, the Original Sin, and the Expulsion from Paradise; the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, the Flight to Egypt, the Magi before Herod, the Massacre of the Innocents, and the Presentation in the Temple; the Baptism of Jesus, the Marriage in Cana, the Temption of Christ, the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Washing of the Feet, the Kiss of Judas, the Flagellation, and the Crucifiction.
The capitals in the western gallery depict hunting scenes, devils, fantastic animals, and so on.
The capitals in the other two galleries are later and tend to be decorative.
The capitals in the slide show are mainly from the north and west galleries.
After we left Santa Maria de l’Estany we still wanted to visit two churches which have been incorporated into other structures. Sant Feliu de Terrassola is now part of a house. You can see that it was once a magnificent church!
Our route to Sant Jaume de Vilanova led us down a private road. We eventually came to a farm and could see Sant Jaume, but we were reluctant to trespass on what was obviously private property. There was a dog barking and soon a man came out and we asked if we could take pictures of the church. He said that of course we could, and asked if we would like some water, but we politely refused as we had recently found a fountain, filled our water bottles, and drunk our fill. He led us to the church, opened the door, and told us that we could stay as long as we wished.
Sant Jaume de Vilanova is an eleventh century circular Romanesque church which is now attached to an old farmhouse. It has a semicircular apse and the door has the original period ironwork. It is beautiful! We felt very lucky to be able to admire it at our leisure and get to know it a little. You can see from the pictures that it was decorated for an upcoming wedding–we were glad to know it was being used!
On our return to Moià, Ellen stopped to do some shopping and struck up a conversation with one of the customers. He said that he had taken a week that summer to bicycle from Salamanca to Santander, a distance of at least 400 kilometers. Our little trip of 35 km that day seemed a little paltry, but we were delighted with all the wonders we had seen.