Medieval Churches in the Val d’Aran, Spain
There’s something special about the medieval churches in the Val d’Aran, Spain. All are quite small, stone-built in Romanesque style, and date from the 11th to the 15th century.
Disclosure: I went to the Val d’Aran as part of a discounted package provided by Pyrenees Experience. I’ve already written about what to do in the Val d’Aran, from skiing to spa-ing, and also about the over-the-top hotel we stayed in.
Many have a similar floor plan: a basic rectangle contains two rows of stone pillars, dividing it into a nave with an aisle on either side. While one end of the church is flat, the other has three half-circular apses. The center apse contains the main altar while the two side ones have smaller altars. Each church has a tower as well, and sometimes a smaller tower holding one or more bells.
What struck me about these churches is their carvings around the windows and doorways. Each church’s decorative detail is different, ranging from extremely understated or rough-hewn, to much more sophisticated and detailed. Most, except to some extent Sant Miquèu in Vielha, have not been appreciably updated, like so many city churches, which have Gothic elements superimposed over Romanesque.
I enjoyed stopping in random villages throughout the Val d’Aran and spending some time noticing the details and and taking pictures.
Only three of the churches—Salardu, Bossòst and Vielha—are open to tourists (for free), though all of the ones I visited have schedules for mass, so presumably you could visit them during services. It would be especially pleasant in the spring, I think, to spend some time in the Val d’Aran walking from village to village, taking pictures of these charming small churches as well as the many remaining ancient farm buildings.
Rustic is the word that comes to mind looking at these pictures. Do you know how many churches are in this area? It seems like there’s a LOT of them.
Well, when I look at the tourist map of the Val d’Aran, I count 29 towns and villages. Each presumably has one church, and I know that a few have two. So, yes, it’s a lot of churches!
I love this kind of picture collection that focuses on the unique details and, far from feeling you’ve seen your share of churches, has you looking forward to the next one! Thanks for sharing this gem of an area and I hope to visit Val d’Aran soon (when it’s a little warmer) and see some of these beautiful old churches myself.
If I’d felt better I would have tried to see every single one, just to take the time to notice those little, unique details on each one.
Beautiful details – yes, wouldn’t it be lovely to explore in the spring? I love the sense of peace and quiet these places invoke as well.
True, though I would have liked to visit one of them during mass to see what it’s like full of people.
Beautiful churches with some really unique carvings. It’s remarkable what great shape they are in considering they’re from medieval times. I have no clue where Val d’Aran is so I’ll have to look it up.
It’s in the Pyrenees, just ‘above’ Andorra. Part of Spain, and part of Catalonia.
I always think of the devotion which must have inspired these artisans to give their all, even though it may “just” be for a smaller village church. Thanks for sharing these beautiful details.
Yes, and these weren’t experts or professionals either, judging by how simple some of the carvings are.
These are great photos and plenty of inspiration for us to return to the Pyrenees and this Val D’Aran region. Thanks!
What amazingly beautiful details on these churches that have survived the centuries!
And almost unchanged!
Very pretty! I might have to check out some of these churches and villages. I’m in val d’aran now.
If you can only see one, go to Salardu. You can go inside and see all the medieval frescoes.
I love the details on these churches – just wonderful. Someday I’ll maybe even get there to see them for myself!
I like to think about who might have done these rather inexpert carvings: some nearby farmer, perhaps, expressing himself in stone?