The Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses was the first female monastary of the Catalan counties.
Its origins date back to the 9th century, specifically to 887 when it was founded by Guifré el Pelós, Count of Barcelona, with the intention of granting protection on the territory and helping with the reconquest. Emma de Barcelona, daughter of the Count and of Guinidilda de Ampurias, became the first Abbess of the temple when she was only 7 years of age. Thanks to her good management of the lands and to the donations received, the first born managed to considerably Increase the monastery’s wealth and its radius of action. Emma died at the age of 62, after driving the creation of the current town of San Juan. It is believed that her remains are still kept inside the monastery, but nobody knows exactly where. Five more abbesses succeeded her during the almost 150 years that the Benedictine nuns lived at the monastery. In 1017, the ambition of Bernat Tallaferro led the community to be expelled, accused of immoral conduct and carefree living. From that time, a male community settled in. The current construction dates from the 12th century and the building has become an important piece of Romanesque architecture in Catalonia.
The Santísimo Misterio, a 13th century piece cut in wood, is the most important work housed by the temple. The group of sculptures, which represents the descent from the cross, is a transition between Romanesque and Gothic. There are also Gothic altarpieces dedicated to San Agustín and in Santa Maria la Blanca and the tomb of Beato Miró of the same style. These three pieces are the example of the important production carried out at the sculpture workshop in the town in the 14th century.
In architectural terms, the layout of the apses is a response to the Occitan influence. The Gothic cloister, with its trapezoidal floor and early Romanesque arcades which linked to the chapterhouse, and the Baroque chapel of Dolors, with a beautiful contemporary carving of Piedad by the sculptor Viladomat, complete the set.
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The monastery museum, open from 1975 to the old rectory, shows a collection of paintings, sculptures, fabrics and goldsmiths from the 8th to the 20th century, most of them for liturgical worship.
September to March: Monday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays also in the afternoon, from 4 pm to 6 pm. | April to August: Monday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.