Empuries_Mm

Castelló d'Empúries and the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes provide the nucleus for the destiny of the county of Empúries. At Castelló, visitors will discover the ancient capital of the county of Empúries, while the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes offers visitors the possibility to learn in greater depth about the influence of the Benedictine monastic order and the birth of Catalan Romanesque art.

Recommended itinerary

The county of Empúries has two attractions that are not to be missed, the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the former capital of the county, Castelló d’Empúries. For visits to the area lasting more than one day, we recommend the following itinerary: a route beginning at Castelló d’Empúries and continuing on to Sant Pere de Rodes on the road that goes through Vilajuïga; from the monastery, the route doubles back to Vilajuïga and continues on to Vilamaniscle, from where a track leads to Sant Quirze de Colera; to the south, after passing through Garriguella, the route arrives in Peralada, and from there continues inland to Vilabertran, the final point on the itinerary.

1.- From Castelló d’Empúries to El Port de la Selva (Sant Pere de Rodes)

2.- From El Port de la Selva to Rabós (Sant Quirze de Colera)

3.- From Rabós to Perelada

4.- From Peralada to Vilabertran

5.- From Vilabertran to La Jonquera (Requesens Castle)

The history: the county of Empúries, between the cross and the sword

From its beginnings, the county of Empúries, records of which date back to 812, was characterised by a strong sea-going tendency. Although from the 7th to the 13th centuries the Mediterranean was controlled by the Islamic power, squadrons from Empúries battled Muslim domination on many occasions.

For example, in the year 890, the ships of Empúries set out on one of their most daring expeditions against the Muslim power. A fleet commanded by Count Sunifred II attacked the town of Petxina–near the modern city of Almeria–the point from which the Muslim power controlled maritime trade in the western Mediterranean. Some years later, under the caliphate Abd ar-Rahman III (929-961), the Islamic army attacked Castelló d’Empúries. The battle had disastrous consequences for Empúries. The county’s ships were set on fire and the infrastructure of the port was destroyed. At that moment, the fleet of Empúries lost a significant part of its former capacity, although it remained one of the most powerful fleets in Catalonia.

While Castelló d'Empúries and Sant Martí served as coastal capitals, Peralada provided the counts with an inland residence that was less exposed to attack and enabled them to have greater control over the county’s agricultural and livestock resources. In spite of this, Castelló d’Empúries was chosen as county capital, as at the end of the 11th century, Peralada was governed by the lords of Peralada, the viscounts of Rocabertí.

Empúries_comtes d'Empúries

Highlights of the county of Empúries

A VISIT TO CASTELLÓ D'EMPÚRIES

Although the most representative building in Castelló d’Empúries, the Basilica of Santa Maria, is Gothic, a walk through the former county capital immerses visitors in the mediaeval era with clear examples of architecture from this time, such as the mediaeval prison and the Palace of the Counts.

Practical information:
>Car parks:
Castelló d’Empúries has two visitor car parks. From the car parks it is easy to reach the town centre and the Tourist Information Office by following the signs. Visitors are recommended to begin their visit at the Tourist Office in the royal curia-prison, where they can obtain information on the town's attractions.

>Information point:
Castelló d’Empúries Tourist Information Centre
Plaça de Jaume I, s/n
17486 Castelló d’Empúries (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 156 233

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THE ERA OF THE COUNTS IN CASTELLÓ:
As the capital of the county of Empúries from the beginning of the 11th century, Castelló d’Empúries is a town that has preserved its mediaeval heritage in the form of streets and monuments, perhaps the most important of which is the Basilica of Santa Maria, considered the most valuable legacy left to the town by the counts of Empúries.

At Castelló, the counts had extensive construction work carried out. Hugo II of Empúries (1078-1116) fortified the town and had the county palace built. In the 13th century, construction began of the Basilica of Santa Maria, which was to become the seat of the county’s own bishop. This construction was intended by the Counts of Empúries to reflect yet again their independence from the counts of Barcelona. In fact, the county of Empúries was one of the few Catalan counties that did not become subject to the domination of the counts of Barcelona until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon in 1402. From that time onwards, the county of Empúries was reduced to a title and some annuiteis that were assigned to a member of the royal family. In the 16th century, the county title was passed on to the counts of Cardona and in the 17th century to the dukes of Medinaceli, who still hold the title today.

THE CURIA-MEDIAEVAL PRISON:
The royal curia building, which today is the tourist office, provides all of the necessary information for a visit to Castelló d’Empúries and to the Marshes of the Empordà. The same building also houses a mediaeval prison with reconstructions of some of its different areas. Visitors can see remarkably detailed graffiti drawings of ships on the wall made by prisoners, along with a modern audiovisual area that will take the visitor back to the mediaeval era of the counts of Empúries.

THE BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA:
The basilica was begun in the Romanesque style, but its ultimate appearance is Gothic. It has additions from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Today it is a place of worship with a museum in the ambulatory. It has the typical dimensions and structure of a cathedral, which is what the Counts of Empúries wanted it to become. Of the pieces that have been preserved inside the basilica, the most important are the tombs of the counts of Empúries, a Romanesque baptismal font and the altarpiece of the main altar.

>Address and contact details:
Plaça de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, s/n
17486 Castelló d’Empúries (Alt Empordà)
Parochial museum:
Tel.: (+34) 972 158 019

Empuries_Basilica Santa Maria

A VISIT TO SANT PERE DE RODES: THE MONASTERY AT THE END OF THE WORLD (El Port de la Selva)

A trip to this Benedictine monastery allows the visitor to see one of the most important monastic pilgrimage centres of mediaeval Catalonia–according to legend, the relics in the monastery included the head and the right arm of Saint Peter.

Practical information
>Car parks:
Visitors can park their car in either of the two car parks that provide access to the monastery. We recommend the second car park as it is closer to the monastery and is supervised by staff. After parking, the route, with a panoramic view of the sea, unveils the monastery to visitors step by step. The entrance is very well signposted. Visitors are given a map and some short explanations with their entry ticket, which will help them to appreciate the monastery. 

>Address and contact details:
Camí del Monestir, s/n
17489 El Port de la Selva (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 387 559

Empuries. Sant Pere Rodes

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THE ERA OF THE COUNTS IN SANT PERE DE RODES:
The Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes experienced a time of splendour between the 10th and 13th centuries that, despite the plundering that has affected it in the last 200 years, can still be seen in the remains of the buildings, paintings and works of sculpture that are excellent examples of Catalan Romanesque art.

Sant Pere de Rodes was dependent on the Monastery of Sant Esteve de Banyoles until the middle of the 10th century, when the noblemen Tassi and his son and first abbot Hildesind promoted its independence. From a very early stage, Sant Pere de Rodes benefited from the firm support of the counts of Empúries, which enabled the monastery to take on a major role and to lead the expansion of the Benedictine order in the region.

The 12th and 13th centuries were a period of splendour for Sant Pere de Rodes, thanks in part to increasing property and rents. The construction of the upper cloister, the monumental portal of the church (the work of the Master of Cabestany, which has today disappeared) the bell tower and the defence tower date from this period, although the latter was built on top of an earlier structure. In parallel to this, an important scriptorium was developed; a good example of the work produced is what was known as the Bible of Ripoll, the last volume of which was engraved at Sant Pere de Rodes.

The decline of the Benedictine monasteries began in the 14th century and continued throughout the 15th century. Although Sant Pere de Rodes would still undergo considerable renovations during this period, the monastery began to show the first signs of decline. The earthquakes in the area in the 15th century and the wars with France, in which the Spanish monarchy was involved, led to the definitive decline of Sant Pere de Rodes.

THE MONASTERY OF SANT PERE DE RODES:
Constructed on a terraced site in the Verdera mountain range, the monastery is highly original, since it is built on different levels. The church, which is on the north side of the site, is the building furthest down the hill and is a unique example of its type in Romanesque architecture, as it moves away from the usual massive structures with its very slim outline. Its decoration was provided by one of the few known artists of the Romanesque period, the Master of Cabestany. Visitors can today see a number of reproductions of the original artwork in the portico of the church; the originals are now housed in different museums and private collections. The two cloisters, upper and lower, provide a structure for the different areas of the monastery. The upper cloister leads to what would have been the refectory, where an audiovisual impression of life in the monastery is now shown.

Points of interest in the county

The points of interest in the county of Empúries are Sant Quirze de Colera, where a restoration programme has been carried out and which is now open to visitors, Requesens Castle, the town of Peralada and the monastery of Vilabertran.

 

THE MONASTERY OF SANT QUIRZE DE COLERA (Rabós)

Sant Quirze, which has been restored over the course of recent years, is a good example of the monastic renaissance of the Carolingian era, as it was founded in the 8th century, although all of the remains that are currently visible date from the 11th and 12th centuries. In addition, its location in the L’Albera Natural Park provides it with a mediaeval landscape setting. Unfortunately, only the church, one gallery of the cloister and the buildings of the western and southern wings have been preserved, although they have been altered extensively.

>Address and contact details:
L’Albera Massif
Rabós Town Hall
C/ de la Plaça, 2
17754 Rabós (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 563 082

Empuries_Sant Quirze Colera

REQUESENS CASTLE (La Jonquera)

The castle consists of three fortified enclosures, with round and square towers, portals, merlons and spectacular machicolations. In the lower enclosure the large chapel, which reused the Romanesque elements of other buildings in the area, and the stables, are of particular interest. The noble or upper enclosure includes different areas with paving stones decorated with the heraldic stone of the Rocabertí family, the great hall with a stone fireplace, large windows that are visible from afar and a round watchtower, the highest point of the monument.

>Address and contact details:
From the N-II or the AP-7 (exit 2), heading towards Cantallops on the Gi-601 from the roundabout on entering La Jonquera. On arriving in Cantallops there is a well-signposted forest track that leads to Requesens.
Requesens Castle
17700 La Jonquera (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 193 081

THE TOWN OF PERALADA

The town of Peralada was constructed in the shelter of a fortress, Toulon Castle, constructed towards the end of the 8th century, the same time as the Carolingian conquest. Records exist of Peralada as one of the first counties in the Spanish March. Following the independence of the counties, Peralada remained within the territory of the county of Empúries until the 11th century, when it became the seat of the viscounts of Rocabertí, one of the most important lines of viscounts in Catalonia. The Rocabertí were always at the side of the counts of Barcelona in all of their warlike actions and were often in conflict with their neighbours, the counts of Empúries. In the historic centre of Peralada, a large proportion of the two walled enclosures that would have protected the town have been preserved, along with a network of alleyways and stone facades that give it the mediaeval appearance it still has today.

Ramon Muntaner, who was born in Peralada in 1265, left behind a record of one of the terrible events in the town’s history in his Chronicle: the siege, sacking and fire that took place in the summer of 1285 during the crusade against Catalonia ordered by Pope Martin IV and led by the king of France, Philip the Bold. After the fire, in the early 14th century, the viscounts had a new castle built, which is the current home of Peralada Casino and the prestigious Peralada Castle International Music Festival. Other monuments of interest in the town are the Convent of El Carme, which houses the Peralada Castle Museum and the Monastery of Sant Domènec, now the location of the Peralada Cultural Tourism Centre.

SANT DOMÈNEC CULTURAL TOURISM CENTRE:
The most important element remaining in the centre is the Romanesque monastery of Sant Domènec. The centre houses two permanent exhibitions: the first, “L’Empordà, territori museu” (“The Empordà, a living museum”) aims to provide an overview of the most important characteristics of the town and the region (the heritage, the history, the cuisine and the musical tradition) while the second, entitled “Desperta ferro!” (“Wake the iron!”, a mediaeval battle cry) focuses on the Ramon Muntaner’s Chronicle and on mediaeval Peralada. Of particular interest in the exhibition is the mould for the seal of the Viscount William of Castellnou, a unique example of such an item.

>Address and contact details:
Plaça de la Peixateria, 6
17491 Peralada (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 538 840

Empúries - Centre de Turisme Cultural Sant Domènec

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PERALADA CASTLE MUSEUM:
Peralada Castle Museum contains one of the best collections of artefacts that can be seen today in the Empordà. It is divided into four broad areas: the library, with over 40,000 works, the Church of El Carme, which is decorated with capitals carved by the Master of Cabestany and which predate the work at Sant Pere de Rodes, the glass collection, with pieces that date from ancient Egypt to the 18th century, and, lastly, the wine museum and the former wine cellars of Peralada.

>Address and contact details:
Plaça del Carme, s/n
17491 Peralada (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 538 125

Empúries_Museu del castell de Peralada

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THE MONASTERY OF SANTA MARIA DE VILABERTRAN

The Augustine monastery of Santa Maria de Vilabertran consists of a basic Romanesque nucleus made up of the church, the cloister and the monastic buildings. The car park is to the front of the monastery. Along with the entry ticket, visitors are also given a leaflet with an explanatory map of the site. The complex, which is extremely sober and of great emotive beauty, is one of the best examples of Romanesque monasteries in the 11th century in Catalonia.

>Address and contact details:
C/ de l’Abadia, 4
17760 Vilabertran (Alt Empordà)
Tel.: (+34) 972 508 787

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Update:  27.05.2011