We decided to take a bus to Ripoll and then cycle back to Olot for two reasons: there is a Via Verda (a bicycle route) between Ripoll and Olot, and Ripoll is at a higher elevation than Olot. When we arrived we went straight to the monastery. As you can see, it is a magnificent building. It has been a bit spoiled because he narthex has been glassed in. We headed immediately to look at the magnificent sculpted portal. Our examination of the portal was interrupted when a woman came and told us that a service would soon be starting. We went inside to have a look around.
As you can see, the interior is magnificent. The square columns (which are a little unusual) give the building a sense of solidness which is admired in Romanesque architecture. After a short visit the service was starting, so we returned to the west façade.
The Portal on the West Façade.
We spent considerable time looking at the amazing west portal. I can only give you an idea of the richness of the sculptural program, This portal can be divided horizontally into three sections. In the middle is the entrance to the church. Around it we have:
- to the left there is a columnar statue of Saint Peter with the life of Saint Peter in the archivolts above;
- to the right there is a columnar statue of Saint Paul with the life of Saint Paul in the archivolts above;
- the inner archivolts contain the story Jonas on the left and the story of Daniel on the right; the story of Cain and Abel are below them;
- the columns, in addition to the figures of Saints Peter and Paul contain decorative figures and the signs of the zodiac;
- the insides of the columns contain the labours of the months;
- above these, there are the lion of Saint Mark on the left and the bull of Saint Luke on the right;
There is additional sculpture on either side of the main portal, each of which which is divided into an upper and a lower part:
- on the upper sections we see the story of David and Solomon on the left and the story of Moses and the people of Israel on the right;
- on the lower sections the second vision of Daniel is to the left and the first vision of Daniel is to the right.
Above all this is a frieze which runs the entire length. It has Christ suspended by angels in the centre, next there is the angel of Saint Matthew on the left and the eagle of Saint John on the right, and on either side are the elders of the apocalypse.
To give you an idea of what it is like, here are four of the scenes from the life of Saint Peter.
There is incredible detail in the sculpture, but, to use (or maybe abuse) one of Rodin’s ideas, the planes are not good and when the detail has eroded away the lines (and with it the affective qualities of the sculpture) are lost.
The cloister at a cathedral or monastery is always a delight. It is usually quiet (if there are other tourists they will run around the perimeter, perhaps pausing to look at a sarcophagus, and leave within ten minutes. Only the north part of the cloister at Santa Maria de Ripoll is Romanesque (the east, south and west parts are Gothic) and, curiously, has capitals which are in better condition than the Gothic part has. There are the usual beasts such as mermaids and lions; none tell a story. I have chosen some (more or less) at random.
Personally, I find the apses of a very attractive. Santa Maria de Ripoll has a somewhat unusual (but not unique) configuration of apses on its east side. There is a central large apse, and on either side three smaller apses, all with Lombardian decoration.
After Ripoll we took the Via Verda to Sant Joan de les Abadesses. The grade was not too challenging so the ride was enjoyable. On the way a beautiful emerald green lizard crossed the path.
Our first stop in Sant Joan de les Abadesses was the església de Sant Joan i Sant Pau de Sant Joan de les Abadesses. In spite of all the saints in the name of this church, it’s nave has collapsed leaving only the crossing tower and the west facade. There appeared to be carved capitals in the west portal, but twas restoration work being done and we couldn’t get very close. The crossing tower, however, is very impressive. You might think that a tower would be the first thing to fall, but the extra weight adds stability and it is almost always the vaulting which fails.
Next we headed to the Monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Unfortunately it was not open so we could only walk around the outside. The apse is very attractive, with its Lombardian decoration and carved capitals. It was interesting to see that some of the capitals were “repeated” in the sense that some were very similar to others. Perhaps there was a workshop which produced the capitals and an apprentice was set the task to reproduce what the master had done. The elephants are remarkably similar to some which we saw in Burgundy in 2008.
Monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses has a Romanesque davallament de la creu (Descent from the Cross) carved in wood. All of it is original except for Dimes, the theif on the left. Jim and Ellen had seen the davallament from Santa Maria de Taüll which is in the MNAC, and it would have been nice to see another one, and also see how it fits with rest of the church.
Some of us had a short rest before starting the trip back to the campground.