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.

Santa Maria d’Arties

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.

simple carvings above the door of the church of Sant Miqueue in Vielha, Val d'Aran, Spain
simple carvings above the door of the church of Sant Miqueue in Vielha

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.

interior view of Santa Maria church in Bossost, Val d'Aran, Spain
interior view of Santa Maria church in Bossost

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.

A more sophisticated medieval carving above a doorway on the church of Santa Maria in Bossòst in the Val d'Aran, Spain.
A more sophisticated medieval carving above a doorway on the church of Santa Maria in Bossòst

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.

The tower of Sant Felix in Vilac, Val d'Aran, Spain
The tower of Sant Felix in Vilac.

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more...

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Very pretty! I might have to check out some of these churches and villages. I’m in val d’aran now.

I love the details on these churches – just wonderful. Someday I’ll maybe even get there to see them for myself!

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