The Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants – A Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The Monastery was begun in 992 outside the walls of Girona when Ramón Borrell, count of Barcelona deeded to the monks the right over the property of Sant Pere. Borrell made further donation the following year to put the fledgling monastery on firmer footing. In 1117 Ramón Berenguer III of Barcelona merged the monastery with the Abbey of Sainte-Marie-de-Lagrasse in present day France, although Sant Pere kept its own abbot and a large degree of autonomy. Sant Pere was never a large community as it was not the parish church, and only baptisms were held at the church. The control of abbots over the monastery ceased in 1339 when King Pero III of Aragon made Girona a duchy of the kingdom of Aragon. It began to decline in importance in the 15th century, and was absorbed into other monasteries in 1592.

The Romanesque church that we see today dates from 1130. The western façade with a prominent, 3.5-meter diameter rose window and an unusual, squared top is thought to be a carryover from a previous church.

Western facade, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western facade, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The church is built on the basilica plan of nave and two aisles, the crossing which is the same size as a typical bay, short north and south transepts, but with unusual deviations. The north transept has apses both on the east and the north faces, and a stair turret to the campanile; the south transept has two small apsidal chapels in tandem.

Plan, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Illustration by Jong-Soung Kimm

Plan, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona)

The nave is composed of four bays defined by substantial rectangular piers with semi-cylindrical pilasters with well-proportioned capitals, which in turn support sturdy transverse arches for the barrel vault.

Nave, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

A short bay to the east of the crossing framed by two pairs of columns with very delicate and elaborate capitals, precedes the chancel. These capitals for the chancel arch columns are thought to be the work of different artists than the stone carvers for the nave. Some of them have been attributed to the master of Cabestany. The chancel itself is laid out in a semi-circular plan divided into seven sectors, slender colonnettes separating each, and there are three windows on the curving chancel wall.

Chancel, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chancel, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The oblique view looking up at the intersection of the nave vaulting and the chancel shows the oven vault for the chancel. The barrel vault continues over the crossing in the same direction as the nave, ending with a diaphragm wall with a quatrefoil oculus over the entry bay to the chancel.

Chancel entry bay, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chancel entry bay, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The level difference between the nave floor and the chancel is much less than at some early Romanesque churches with crypts underneath, presumably because of the terrain sloping away toward the east. The nave floor is raised at the easternmost bay by one step, while another step raises the level of the crossing, and there are four steps to the level of the entry bay to the chancel. Finally, one additional step completes the gentle ascent to the chancel floor. The view from the north aisle toward the southeast illuminates the pure geometry of the nave arcades well, and also shows that each pier is set on a cross shape base.

Nave piers, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave piers, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave elevation scheme shows that the semi-circular tops of clerestory windows extend higher than the springing of the barrel vault.

Nave elevation, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave elevation, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view from the south transept toward the crossing and the north transept shows the north-facing apse (Photo 8), and the view from the north aisle toward the south transept shows the two apsidal chapels in tandem (Photo 9).

View from south transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from south transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from north transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from north transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view looking straight up to the nave vaulting shows the high caliber of masons building the curving surface on the one hand, as well as the logic with which the master builder brought together all constituent parts toward a harmonious architecture on the other.

Nave vault, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave vault, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

As mentioned earlier, the terrain slopes away toward the east, making the apse and the campanile stand tall seen from the east. The exterior of the apse is built in a smooth semi-cylindrical shape, while the campanile is built on an octagonal plan, and it has two tiers. The upper tier of two stories feature double arches divided by columns, decorated with Lombard bands.

Chevet with campanile, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chevet with campanile, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

In 1362 when the city walls were expanded to include Sant Pere within its walls, the campanile of the monastery was rebuilt for more defensive function. The cloister, while relatively small in size, is an excellent example of Catalan Romanesque architecture. The northern gallery attached to the church wall dates from 1154, while the other three galleries from 1190. The capitals of the columns have motifs very similar to those in the cloisters of Sant Cugat del Vallès, or those in the Cathedral of Girona.

Cloister, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Cloister, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The fact that the former Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants has been the home of the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia in Girona since 1857 is a measure of poetic justice, as it is one of the most “classical” and quintessential Catalan Romanesque churches.

Location: 41.98888 2.82638

For more information about our guest writer, Jong-Soung Kimm, please see this link.

8 responses to “The Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants – A Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm

  1. There are many worthwhile articles on this to be found by googling!
    The Master of Cabestany may have done sculpture there.

  2. You guys are so technical that you lose me along the way… What defines Catalan romanesque please? I find this cloister so similar with its series of double columns to other romanesque cloisters in France…

    • Hundreds of Romanesque churches dot either side of the Pyrenees. They share many architectural elements among them. It is not uncommon to find a certain features such as the double columns in cloisters in the French Pyrenees as well as in Catalonia.
      Catalan Romanesque architecture, on the other hand, offers a wide range of design elements itself within the broad geographical boundary, e.g. Sant Climent in Taull, Sant Vicenc in Cardona, Santa Maria Vilabertran, and Sant Pere de Galligants.
      What put them in the “Catalan Romanesque architecture” collectively becomes clearer when seen in relation to Romanesque architecture in Navarre, Castile-Leon or the glory days of the kingdom of Asturias.
      Jong-Soung

    • Joel, sometimes things get technical, but we are so fortunate to have Jong-Soung Kimm’s contributions to Via Lucis. His short studies are both erudite and approachable, a rare combination.

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