We had a modest itinerary planned–four Romanesque churches. As we approached the outskirts of Vic, Ellen decided to stop and consult our maps. I looked around and saw (what else?) a Romanesque bridge! I had seen a picture of this bridge when I was researching our trip back in Canada, but somehow I had not put it into my notes and I had since forgotten about it. It is called the Pont de Queralt and dates from the eleventh century. It has four arches of different sizes; it is unusual because there are smaller arches which open in the pillars, apparently to reduce the weight of the structure. We would probably have missed it if we hadn’t stopped to look at the maps.
Our first planned stop was at the Església de Santa Eugènia de Berga. This is a beautiful eleventh century church which was expanded in the twelfth century. It has three apses to the east. Over the crossing there is a square bell tower which stands on an octagonal base. The effect is very pleasing.
The portal on the west façade has archivolts which are decorated with floral motives and two pairs of carved capitals. [053, 054, 055, 056 half] The floral motives in the archivolts have birds in low relief which remind me of the Saint Ursin portal at Bouges.
As we continued on we noticed a sign directing us to some “Forn Ibèric,” an Iberian oven. We didn’t know what these might be, but the Iberian villages which we saw had been very interesting, and the sign indicated that they were not far away. You can see the chamber at the bottom where a fire was built. The rock above this is about one meter thick and has cylindrical tubes drilled through it to let the heat from the fire rise into a chamber above it (no longer there) where hundreds of clay pots could be put for firing. It is a remarkable device, both in conception and execution.
As we continued on to Sant Andreu del Castell de Tona we happened to pass a church which appeared to have a Romanesque tower. It turned out to be Santa Maria del Barri, a twelfth century church which has been extensively modified, but its apse and bell tower are Romanesque. I particulary like an animal figure which is carved into the apse.
We had seen Sant Andreu del Castell de Tona from the distance and know that we were in
for a climb to get to it. When we got there we found a church with a single nave, a semicircular apse to the east and a rectangular bell tower on the south-east corner. The apse is decorated with blind arches between pilasters in the Lombardian style, as are the northern and southern walls.
Only one defensive tower of the Castell de Tona still exists.
Sant Andreu and the Castell de Tona are an impressive sight perched on their cliff.
By the time we left Sant Andreu del Castell de Tona it was noon, so we found a shady place to eat our lunch.
Our next surprise was the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de l’Ajuda, a church which is a mixture of styles but which still has its Romanesque bell tower.
Our next stop was Sant Miquel de Vilageliu which we came across about a half kilometer from Tona. It is a tenth century church which was rebuilt in the twelfth century. It has a semicircular apse with Lombardian arches without pilasters. It has a small belfry (a campanar de cadireta) with a single eye which is placed in the west of the church. I am always happy to find a church like Sant Miquel de Vilageliu which is off by itself and is still much the way it was when it was built 900 years ago.
Our atlas lists the church as Sant Miquel de Vilageliu although local signs refer to it as Sant Miquel de Vilageriu.
At this point I started thinking. We had planned to see four churches: the església de Santa Eugènia de Berga, Sant Andreu del Castell de Tona, Sant Miquel de Vilageliu, and we still planned to see Sant Vicenç de Malla. We had already stumbled on four things which we hadn’t known about but which were very interesting: the Pont de Queralt in Vic, the forn ibèric de Tona, Santa Maria del Barri, and the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de l’Ajuda.
“We had better not come across anything else that we didn’t expect. Otherwise we are going to see more things that we didn’t know about than we did,” I remarked.
“I don’t see that as a problem,” Ellen replied.
We had to ride through Tona again so we stopped at a map of the village which we had consulted earlier. It indicated that we had to turn left at the next intersection. When we turned, what was there? The Camp de Lloses, a second century BC Roman camp! We hadn’t seen it earlier because there was a high fence between it and the sidewalk! I felt that Team Unexpected was playing unfair by conjuring a Roman camp a mere five meters from where we had been standing.
We continued on to Sant Vicenç de Malla, a Romanesque church with three naves but no transept. Each nave has a semicircular apse; the central apse and the main entrance (which opens on the south wall) were (badly) reconstructed in 1983. The apses have Lombardian decoration, blind arches divided by pilasters. The square bell tower has four stories.
So Team Unexpected had won with a score of five to four. But they weren’t finished yet! As we rode back through Vic, we were riding on a street which was within a block of a section of town which we knew well and we found the Temple Roma, a second century Roman temple
and beside it the remains of the Palau dels Montenda, an eleventh century palace.
In the end Team Unexpected won with a score of seven to four. We decided to celebrate with ice cream at the Plaça Major.