Note: PJ and I were so excited to see this contribution from Jong-Soung Kimm. we will be visiting the Vall de Boi in Spain this coming October and Sant Climent de Taüll is one of the main reasons. We hope you enjoy this post as much as we did!
In Vall de Boí, Comarque of Alta Ribagorça in Lleida province of Catalonia, there are nine Romanesque churches inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage register in 2000. Sant Climent de Taüll may be said to be the most distinguished, and it is the original home of the justly famous fresco panting of Christ Pantocrator by an unidentified artist known as the Master of Taüll, now in the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya in Barcelona.
The church boasts another important Catalonian artwork, a wooden altar frontal, said to have been built by a Catalan artist in the workshop of La Seu d’Urgell. The beginning of the church is unknown, but it was consecrated in 1123 by Guillem Ramon, Bishop of Rodes-Barbastro.
Sant Climent de Taüll is situated at the bend of a winding country road in the valley with a spacious lawn to the south and is visible from three orientations except the north. The view from the southeast shows the central apse and the southern apse decorated with Lombard moldings, and a campanile of six stories on a base of about 4.4 meter square.
The church is built on a basilica plan of the nave, two aisles, and three apses. Six columns of ashlar masonry separate the aisles from the nave. The column at the northeast of the nave, near the central apse, was where the inscription with the date of consecration was found. The inscription itself has been moved to the Museu Nacional. The church plan is not square but skewed so that the northwest corner is slightly pointed. The main entrance on the west shows traces of structure which may have formed the porch. The south aisle has a large doorway.
Upon entering the church from the west, a visitor finds the nave and aisles framed by wooden roof trusses simply sloping from the ridge toward north and south, with homogeneous spatial feeling permeating the entire church, a little like a hall church. The central apse and the apsidal chapels on the north and south aisles are vaulted with stone. A copy of the Christ Pantocrator on canvas used to adorn the central apse until a few years ago.
The artistic authorities appear to have mobilized the best professional capabilities in removing the original fresco, then creating the copy, judging by the exquisite details.
The recent incarnation of the celebrated fresco painting in Sant Climent de Taüll, however, relies on projection on the newly plastered apsidal surface.
Most of the interior surfaces of the nave, apses and columns were originally covered with polychrome decoration, but were carefully removed from the original strata in the early 20th century, and are now preserved at the Museu Nacional.
The nave elevation scheme shows columns with only a hint of a capital above supporting half round arches of precisely cut stonework with ashlar masonry above supporting the wooden frames for the roof.
The apse on the north aisle also used to have fresco painting, but not represented with a replica.
The oblique view from the south aisle toward the chancel and north aisle shows that the master builder placed vertical windows above the apses.
The campanile appears to have been constructed by a different building workshop of a superior craftsmanship when compared with the humble, not to say rather amateurish touch found in the construction of the nave space itself.
The Lombardian bell tower would feel quite at home in any monastic compound on the Italian peninsula.
Location: 42.517500, 0.848611