As PJ and I plan our next trip to France, which includes a small detour into the Catalan area of Spain, we decided to look at our archive to see if there was a Spanish church that we could feature this week. We settled on a modest 12th century iglesia located on a small hill in the Camprodón valley in Girona. The Iglesia Santa Cecília de Molló is just a short 7 kilometers from the town of Camprodón and its twin Romanesque churches Santa Maria and Sant Pere de Camprodón.
The origin of the church appears to have been as a parish church, later donated by Ramón Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona and Besalu in 1131. He wished to be buried at Santa Maria de Ripoll and donated Santa Cecília de Molló to the Benedictine monks of that monastery.
The simplicity of the design of Santa Cecília is apparent at the first glance. It is rectangular with extremely shallow transept arms at the east end of the church. In this shot we can barely see the protrusion of the small apse on the far right. The two most dominant features are the bell tower and the portal in the south wall.
The main entrance to the church is from the portal in the south west wall, not from the western facade as is usual. This portal almost completely unadorned. There is no figurative sculpture in the three archivolts except for the modest egg and dart carving of the second. The archivolts are separated from the pillars only by a small projecting cornice. Notice that the tympanum is unsculpted.
Only above the portal arch do we find the kind of sculpture we would expect in a Romanesque church. Figures of animals and monsters adorn the corbels and support the dimensional lombard band. This ensemble is topped with a finely carved frieze.
The 11th century campanario, or bell tower, is a magnificent structure attached to the north wall of the church. Mostly rebuilt in 1952 from the original fortified tower described in the chronicles of the church, it was reconstructed with a pyramidal roof instead of the castellated original.
The tower that we see today is an elegant five-story structure with a different design for each level. The first has a blind arcade while the second has a single window topped with a lombard band. The third level contains the bells which are visible through a lovely double-arch, again topped with the lombard band. The fourth level has a larger double arch with the lombard band, while the superb fifth level has a pair of round windows. The lombard band above these windows features a small window in each arch and a fine line of corbels just below the roof line.
The interior the church is very simple – a single nave with no side aisles and topped with a banded barrel vault. The vault is slightly ogive. The east end terminates in a small, narrow apse, lit by a central window and covered with an oven vault. The chancel arch appears very solid because of the enclosing wall.
One either side of the nave just before the apse is a shallow transept with a chapel. What appear to be engaged pillars that spring the transverse bands of the vault are actually more complicated. These are large piers that form part of the exterior wall, and they even protrude outside of the flat exterior wall (notice these projections in the exterior shot of the south portal). The interior sections are topped with simple, unadorned capitals.
Each shallow transept forms an enchanting small niche chapel lit by a single window and framed by the transept arch.
Even the most modest churches can provide us with great pleasure and Santa Cecília de Molló is no exception. She demonstrates that unadorned Romanesque charms with the beauty of her simplicity and fine lines. Meanwhile, we may have to go back to the area again because of a recommendation by Covetotop, who wrote us; “If you are hungry in the Camprodón area, go to the neighboring village of Setcases and have a pantagruellian, sophisticated and inexpensive Catalan lunch at Can Jepet.” Who can resist the adjectives “panatgruellian”, “sophisticated” and, most impressively, “inexpensive” in the same description. Salut, Covetotop. You have our attention!
Location: 42.346536° 2.404631°