The Vall de Boi lay far from the Muslim power seats of Zaragoza and Barcelona, under the civil authority of the Erill lords and the religious authority of the bishoprics of Urgell and Roda. Here the Romanesque churches built in the 11th and 12th centuries are the best-preserved architectural group of Catalan Romanesque art still in existence.
The fruit of territorial struggles between bishops and feudal lords, and largely financed by the spoils of war, the medieval Romanesque group in the Vall de Boi was rediscovered in October 1904 by Lluis Domenec i Montaner, one of the main architects in Catalan Modernism with works such as the Sant Pau Hospital and the Catalan Music Palace in Barcelona.
Influenced by European Romantic thinking and in search of national roots in the Middle Ages in order to strengthen the notion of a uniquely Catalan identity, Domenech i Montaner travelled the Vall de Boi, camera in hand. He documented the great forgotten riches of the Pyrenees with his photos and described them for the first time in his notes: the Vall de Boi route of the Catalan Romanesque.
The group is formed by the churches of Sant Climent and Santa Maria in Taüll, Sant Joan in Boi, Santa Eulàlia in Erill la Vall, Sant Feliu in Barruera, the Nativitat in Durro, Santa Maria in Cardet, the Assumpcio in Coll and the Sant Quirc hermitage in Durro.
They are exceptional due to the concentration of such a large number of churches with the same architectural style in such a small area, conserved over the passage of time owing to their inaccessibility. There have been hardly any alterations to their original construction and they were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
The buildings were constructed following models from northern Italy, also known as the Lombard Romanesque, characterised by the function of their constructions, the stonework, the shape and height of the bell towers, as well as for the external decoration in the cloisters, based on attention-grabbing colourful frescoes.
The Vall de Boi Romanesque route begins at the Romanesque Interpretation Centre in Erill la Vall and continues along the whole valley. With a total duration of some 6 hours, it can be done in two parts with a complete guided tour (morning and afternoon), or it can be done in separate stages according to personal taste and the time available. It is a very good option on days when the weather prohibits an excursion.
The Romanesque buildings are a must-see. One cannot visit the Aigüestortes National Park without discovering the mark left by medieval man on its soil, or without understanding how the natural surroundings helped preserve a Romanesque past practically intact. They remind us of a past in which injustice was confused with faith, but also in which man and nature lived in unison.
The Romanesque route of Vall de Boi, a World Heritage Site, goes through nine small churches. It is possible to do the route on your own or with a guide (which is the better, more interesting and cheaper option). The route starts in the town of Erill la Vall at the Romanesque Center of Vall de Boi and continues through the whole valley.
The tour takes a whole day and is divided into a morning and an afternoon route. It costs 6€. It is a great way to get to know this area of the Pyrenees. It is necessary to have a car to do the route.
How to Get there
Bus: There is a daily bus service from the bus station Estación del Nord in Barcelona to the village El Pont de Suert from which you will need to take another bus or taxi to Erill la Vall. It is a four and a half hour journey and the fare is €31.45. However, to see the route it is obligatory to move around by car as there is no frequent public transport service.
Car: Leave Barcelona via the A-2 (direction Lleida) and then the N-230 to Vielha until you reach the L-500 junction. Continue until the LV-502 that will take you to Erill la Vall. It is a four and a half hour drive and there is no highway toll.
- Official UNESCO site – Catalan Romanesque churches
- Official World Heritage Site – Vall de Boi
- Information about all the churches in the route
- More historical sites in the Pyrenees
- The Romanesque route of Pallars Sobira
- Tourist information offices
- Hiking and cycling routes in the Pyrenees.
- Distance calculator and driving directions