Romanesque architecture started around 1000 AD and spread rapidly throughout Europe. In spite of some local variations, it was the first international art movement with a unified style. In Catalonia, this new artistic style arrived through Abbot Oliba who, in the towns of Ripoll, Cuixá and Vic, was the driving force behind the architectural renovation of the Catalan counties in the 11th century.
Early Romanesque has elements from the classical world, local traditions and Lombard designs brought by itinerant craftsmen. The buildings are practical and austere, their only external decoration being rounded arcading and pilaster strips, with thick walls capable of withstanding the weight of the barrel vaults. There are few windows or doors and the naves are usually separated by columns or pillars joined by semi-circular arches.
In the 12th century improvements in techniques illustrate how the art of stonemasonry had been perfected. Architectural resources diversified and more sculptural elements were added to the decoration. By the 13th century Romanesque shapes had started to exist side by side with the arrival of Gothic architecture, as we can see in the buildings of the “Lleida School”.