Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet, Catalonia, Spain

The Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet is a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1151, located at the feet of the Prades Mountains, in the comarca of Conca de Barberà, in Catalonia (Spain). It was founded by Cistercian monks from France on lands conquered to the Saracens. The main architect was Arnau Bargués. This monastery was the first of three sister monasteries, known as the Cistercian triangle, that helped consolidate power in Catalonia in the 12th century. (The other two are Vallbona de les Monges and Santes Creus).

The monastery, which had already suffered damage during the First Carlist War, was closed down due to the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal in 1835 during Isabella II of Spain’s rule. The Desamortización caused the exclaustration of the place and brought monastic life to an end. On 24th July of the same year the monastery was plundered by representatives of the Mendizábal’s government and unruly mobs. During the events all valuable paintings and furniture were removed and dispersed. Also parts of the monastery were destroyed owing to fires. In the years that followed the Poblet Monastery fell into disrepair and ruin, some of the main roofs having caved in. The tombs of the rulers of the Kingdom of Aragon were desecrated and the remains were transferred and kept for a while in the Cathedral of Tarragona, thanks to the intervention of Rev. Antoni Serret from the neighboring town of L’Espluga.

Finally the monastery was refounded in 1940 by Italian monks of the same order and rebuilding and repair began to take place. Close to the entrance to the church one building has been kept in a ruined state as a reminder. The remains of the ancient Royal House od Aragon were put back in the sepulchres, but they are now all mixed up. Poblet belongs to the Cistercian Congregation of the Crown of Aragon, along with Santa Maria de Solius and nunneries such as Santa Maria de Vallbona and Santa Maria de Valldonzella. The Abbot of Poblet is the ex officio chairman of the Congregation. Today the monastic community of Poblet is composed of 29 professed monks, 1 regular oblate, 1 novice and 2 familiars.

Poblet Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1991. The altar (1527) was sculpted by Damián Forment.

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