Nativitat de Durro

The monumental nature of the Church of La Nativitat testifies to the importance of the town of Durro in the Middle Ages. The large size of the nave, the bell tower, the sculpted façade and the porch are outstanding.

The Romanesque church was remodelled on several occasions between the 16th and 18th centuries. These transformations added new spaces to the church, such as the two Gothic chapels and the Baroque sacristy.

The Romanesque image of Nicodemus, which originally formed part of an ensemble of the Descent from the Cross, is on display at the church.


12th century
First building work.

16th-17th century
Opening of two lateral chapels.

18th century
Chevet of church and porch renovated.

Roofs restoration and chapel removed.

Bell-tower renovated.

Last restoration.

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The location of the town of Durro, surrounded by meadows, high mountain pastures and forests, led to it becoming one of the largest towns in the Vall de Boí during the Middle Ages, with a certain degree of economic power.

This economic pre-eminence becomes evident when you see the Church of La Nativitat, one of the largest in the Vall de Boí.

The richness of some of the Baroque altarpieces preserved inside, such as the main altarpiece, shows us that in later times Durro could still afford to commission works with these characteristics.

The town of Durro appears documented for the first time in the second half of the 11th century in feudal agreements between the Counts of El Pallars. One of them records that the town of Durro belonged to Count Ramon IV of Pallars Jussà and how, in around 1070, the men of Durro swore allegiance to him.

In 1140 the Church of La Nativitat became part of the domains of the Bishopric of Urgell, as occurred with most of the churches in the valley.

The architectural forms

The architecture of the current church is the result of different construction periods between the 12th and 20th centuries.

During the 12th century, the initial construction was that of a church with a single nave to which a large porch was later added on the south façade. Later on, the church was remodelled and given the shape of a cross, opening up a transept headed by the main apse and two lateral secondary apses. Finally, the space of the north apse was modified during this period to accommodate the bell tower.

The side chapels were added between the 16th and 18th centuries. Firstly, the two Gothic chapels on the north wall, covered with groin vaults. Later on, the south arm of the transept was modified to become a side chapel covered with a dome and a lantern, as you can see now.

During the Baroque period, a fourth side chapel was also built on the south façade to open onto the nave. It hasn’t survived until today, as it was demolished during the initial interventions on the church during the 20th century, probably because it occupied part of the space for the porch. The arcade that led to it is still preserved inside the church.

The last major transformation that the church underwent at the end of this period was the removal of the Romanesque chancel in order to build a large sacristy in its place.

Let’s take a look at the outside

The Church of La Nativitat in Durro has architectural characteristics different from those we can see in most churches in the valley: The monumental nature, the large stones with which the nave was built, the decorative elements that run along the façades and the decorated entrance. We can only find similar characteristics in L’Assumpció de Cóll.

Sheltered by a Romanesque porch that extends from one end of the façade to the other, the main door, with three semi-circular arches in gradation, is adorned by two archivolts supported by four pillars with decorated capitals. A frieze with chess motifs frames the entire ensemble and, above the Chrismon, located within a circle at the top of the door, the monogram of Christ is depicted, made up of the letters X, P and S (three letters taken from the name of Christ in Greek). The alpha and omega are added, hanging from the blades of the X: Christ as the beginning and end of all things. The circle lies within a square and four animal figures are depicted in the corners.

The capitals

The capitals are decorated with reliefs of plant and zoomorphic motifs (ones in the form of animals) that recall a similar model used in the Church of L’Assumpció de Cóll.

La Nativitat de Durro is one of the few churches in the valley that has decorated façades; the upper part of the walls displays a frieze with blind arches that runs along the length of the nave, on top of which is another cornice forming small squares to resemble a chessboard.

The bell tower

The bell tower is located on the north façade. It has a square base and five floors. This tower has undergone a number of modifications over time: the upper floor, lower in height, was cropped, the windows of the two lower floors were walled up and the Romanesque windows on the two upper floors were replaced by Gothic pointed-arch windows.

In the bell tower you can once again find the ornamental elements of Lombard art, with blind arches and sawtooth friezes.

Mediaeval wrought-iron bolt

As in other churches in the valley, the entrance door to the church has a mediaeval wrought-iron bolt. In this case, you should pay attention to the plate that reinforces the lock, as it’s decorated with cornices with geometric motifs from which four structures protrude, recalling the outline of mediaeval castles. In the middle, a very schematic human figure points to one of the towers to be found surrounding the lock. The scene is complemented by a plant element and two quadrupedal animals that will remind you of horses.

This set of figures is reminiscent of a mediaeval cavalry scene.

The bolt pin is decorated with geometric motifs and topped on the right with an animal’s head.

Let’s take a look at the inside

The changes in the liturgy and the evolution of aesthetic tastes have caused the church to adapt to the needs and styles of the different periods in terms of architecture and decoration. Thus, we can see how the roof of the central nave is barrel-vaulted, while the side chapels are covered by cross vaults.

Only a part of the apse located in the south arm of the transept of the original chancel remains.

Over the centuries, the continuity of worship at the Church of Durro has gathered together a collection of assets that we now regard as artistic, although from their creation until today they have fulfilled religious and devotional functions transcending fashions and styles and harmoniously allowing the spaces and objects created in very different eras to co-exist.

Romanesque carving of the Descent from the Cross

At the end of the nave stands the choir, where the most unique work in the church is preserved: the wood carving of a Nicodemus, one of the images that formed part of the Descent from the Cross in Durro. Made by the artisans of the Erill Workshop in the late 12th or early 13th century, the sculptural ensemble would probably have been located in the presbytery area.

We only know of three carvings out of the seven that formed part of the sculptural ensemble of the Descent in Durro, which we imagine was very similar to the one in Erill la Vall.

Nicodemus (preserved in the choir of the church): This is a wood carving which is preserved in fragments. Nicodemus is the character responsible for unnailing Christ from the cross with pliers that have not been preserved. The image retains traces of polychromy.

The carving of Nicodemus was hidden and walled off behind the Baroque altarpiece of the passion dating back to the 18th century; its existence wasn’t known of until 2001, when it was found during the dismantling of the altarpiece.

The Virgin Mary (preserved at the National Art Museum of Catalonia): This is a linden wood carving of which practically the entire body has been preserved, except for the hands and the left arm. All of it would originally have been painted; traces of polychromy can still be seen today on the lower part of the tunic.

The Christ: We know of this work, currently missing, thanks to a photograph from the early 20th century in which it displays an excellent state of preservation. Between the 18th century and 1936 the Romanesque Christ presided over the Baroque altarpiece of the Passion (which you can see in one of the chapels of the church). The image disappeared during the Spanish Civil War.

Pew from the 12th and 16th century

Also in the choir of the church stands a wooden renaissance pew with two very special elements, namely the two panels on the left of the backrest. These two boards, made of pine wood, date back to the Romanesque period and originally formed part of another piece of furniture, a Romanesque pew. The two panels are adorned with geometric and plant motifs; the floral element that you can see in the lower part of the left panel matches the motif at the top of the second panel, which suggests that they originally came from the same board.

The type of wood, the decoration, the work technique used and the size of the two panels together suggest that they formed the side of a Romanesque pew like the one found at Sant Climent de Taüll.

The Romanesque font

The original Romanesque baptismal font is preserved at the entrance. The wooden structure above it was put up in the 18th century to protect the water. It also served as a cupboard to store the liturgical items.

Other assets

The rest of the furniture preserved in the church dates back to the Romanesque period.

Altarpiece of El Roser, 1621, dedicated to the Virgin Mary with scenes from her life in the predella: Annunciation, Virgin Mary giving the Rosary to Saint Dominic and the Visitation.

Altarpiece of the Holy Christ, 1732, dedicated to the Passion. The current Christ on the Cross was made by the sculptor Josep Viladomat in the 1960s and was a gift from the Andorran Councillors to Bishop Ramon, a son of Durro, who donated it to the church to complete the passion altarpiece.

Altarpiece of Saint Anthony, 18th century, at the top you can see Saint Antoni Abat depicted and, in the lower part, Saint Anthony of Padua.

Main altarpiece, 1755, the last altarpiece made for the church. At the bottom you can find the 4 virgin martyrs with their attributes: Saint Agatha, Saint Barbara, Saint Lucia and possibly Saint Engracia. During the civil war the altarpiece suffered damage, as a result of which the current figures are modern. They depict the double sacred heart, Mary and the Child Jesus, with Saint Joseph on the left and Saint Joaquim and the child Mary on the right.

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