Rediscovering Romanesque

Following trends that had begun throughout Europe with Romanticism, interest in the medieval world in Catalonia started in the 19th century with historical and literary trips and the cultural movement of the ‘Renaixença’. The first exhibitions of Romanesque and Gothic art were being held by the end of the 19th century and the first museums and collections started.

In order to get to know and study the Romanesque heritage in Catalonia, in 1907 the ‘Institut d’Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) organised an Archaeological-Juridical Mission to the Aragon Border Area. 

During the month of September, they travelled around the Vall de Boí, visited its towns and villages and “discovered” the churches and murals conserved there. 

The photographs, drawings and plans from this trip formed the basis for the Institute’s subsequent publications. In 1911 the fourth fascicle was published of the work entitled Les pintures murals romàniques (Romanesque mural paintings), including, among others, the three in the Vall de Boí. 

A few years later, in summer 1919, the Museum Board discovered that the frescoes of Santa Maria de Mur (Pallars Jussà) had been acquired and removed, but it could not stop them from being sold to the Boston Museum as there were no laws to protect heritage. To stop such serious events from happening again, a campaign was established to remove the Romanesque mural paintings from the Catalan Pyrenees and conserve them in the Museum of Art and Archaeology in Barcelona. The first works were removed from the Vall de Boí in December 1919. In 1924 the collections of Romanesque art were inaugurated in the Ciutadella.