Sant Climent de Taüll

Consecrated on 10th December 1123 by Ramon Guillem, Bishop of Roda Barbastre, the Church of Sant Climent de Taüll was built on top of an 11th-century place of worship.

It’s the prototype of a basilica-style Romanesque church with its three naves separated by pillars, a gabled wooden roof, a chancel with three apses and a bell tower.

The image of Christ in Majesty in Taüll is one of the most iconic works used to depict Catalan Romanesque architecture. The original is preserved at the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

Important fragments of original Romanesque wall paintings preserved in situ have recently been recovered from the church and a museographic project including the projection of the paintings in the main apse with video mapping has been implemented.

This new medium capitalises on the technical potential of mapping to show us what the church would have looked like in the 12th century, displaying the paintings integrated into the architecture and combining them with the original painting scenes preserved in situ.

Three Romanesque carvings complement the collection of assets preserved at Sant Climent.

> Sant Climent Church restauration
> Sant Climent Church video mapping
> Virtual tour of Sant Climent de Taüll

Chronology

11th century
First building work.

s. XII
Church consecration.

1919-1922
Paintings removed.

Early’s 70’s
First restoration work.

2000-2001
Second restoration. New paintings discovered.

2013
Restoration, new paintings and new museography.

Video mapping:

Virtual visit

Find out more

History

The Lords of the Vall de Boí were members of the Erill family, feudatories of the Counts of El Pallars Jussà. Alongside the King of Aragon, Alfonso the Battler (1073-1134), the Lords of Erill took part in several military reconquest campaigns. As a result of the above wars they obtained economic rewards that led to a golden age in the Vall de Boí.

Good examples of the excellent economic times in this valley during the Middle Ages are the three churches that were built in the Romanesque era in Taüll: Sant Climent, Santa Maria and Sant Martí. The first two have survived until the modern day in a good state of preservation, while only part of the chancel of the Church of Sant Martí, located on the road linking Sant Climent and Santa Maria, has been preserved.

The Church of Sant Climent de Taüll was consecrated on 10th December 1123 by Bishop Ramon Guillem of Roda-Barbastre, as documented in the act of consecration that was painted on one of its pillars.

The architectural forms

The church is a basilica-style building with three naves, separated by large side arches resting on pillars. The naves, covered by double-sided wooden joisting, are topped to the east by a central apse and two lateral secondary apses.

The door, with a semi-circular arch, opens up onto the west façade and was originally sheltered by a porch which has now disappeared.

The slender square-shaped bell tower stands in the south-east corner of the church, made up of a plinth and six floors of stained-glass windows.

The tower of Sant Climent de Taüll embodies all the characteristics of the Romanesque towers of the Vall de Boí: the slenderness, the presence of windows on all the floors and the decoration with blind arches and sawtooth friezes. The window openings becoming wider and wider, losing weight to make the tower higher.

The Church of Sant Climent de Taüll was built in the first quarter of the 12th century, but some walls from a previous building dating back to the 11th century were reused in its construction. This is evident in the lower part of the central apse and on the north wall, where the layout of the small and irregular ashlar stones reflects the construction of the initial place of worship.

Let’s take a look at the outside

In the chancel of Sant Climent you’ll see the three kinds of stone that were most commonly used in the construction of the churches in the valley: granite, schist and pumice.

The three apses are adorned with different motifs with Lombard influences: blind arches, sawtooth friezes and Lombard pilasters or bands.

Remains of plastering and red Romanesque paint are preserved in the central apse and bell tower. These can be seen on the upper floors of the tower and on the main window of the central apse. We can assume that all the outer walls of the church would have originally been plastered and painted.

Let’s take a look at the inside

When you enter the church of Sant Climent de Taüll, all the architectural elements will direct your gaze towards the central apse, presided over by the solemn image of Christ in Majesty.

What you can currently see in the apse is mostly a projection, as most of the original paintings were taken down and taken to Barcelona in the early 20th century. These are currently on display at the National Art Museum of Catalonia. However, together with the projection in the church, you’ll also find important fragments of original paintings preserved in situ, some of which were recovered and restored in the latest intervention performed in 2013. These paintings correspond to different decorative periods.

Original Romanesque paintings

The Romanesque wall paintings preserved at Sant Climent de Taüll correspond to different decorative periods.

The oldest ones are the decorations of the windows in the lower part of the main apse, cornices with red and yellow plant motifs on a white background that correspond to the decoration during the first phase of the construction of the church prior to the 12th century.

The fragments of mural paintings dating back to around 1123 attributed to the Master of Taüll include the scene with Cain killing Abel, located on the right of the central apse. on the intrados of the presbytery arch you can see how Cain holds Abel by his hair with one hand while he drives an axe into his cheek with the other. Next to Abel’s face we can read the inscription that identifies the scene – “ABEL”.

Another original painting from the iconographic programme of the Master of Taüll preserved in the church is the one to be found on the frontispiece of the main apse, on which you’ll see a character dressed as a soldier playing a long wind instrument to herald the arrival of the Lord at the end of time.

The image with two saints who continue the series of apostles in the intermediate section of the apse is preserved on the front of the pillars of the first arcades beside the presbytery. The best-preserved one is Saint Clement, the patron saint of the Church, depicted as a pontiff.

Located on the frontispiece of the south apse, animals in freedom run to drink from the fonts of salvation, framed by decorative cornices.

Later on, another master, known as the Master of the Final Judgement (due to the scene in Santa Maria de Taüll), also painted, at least, the south apse of the Church of Sant Climent, some of whose remains have also been preserved.

Deep layer

In addition to the fragments of original paintings, the main apse also preserves traces of the deepest layers of the Romanesque paintings of the Master of Taüll that were taken down.

You will clearly make out the image of Christ in Majesty inside the mandorla offering a blessing with his right hand and holding a book in his left hand, while around him you can see traces of the four evangelists.

In the middle of the presbyteral arches (in the key) you can also see the shapes of two circles. The hand of God in a blessing position and the Lamb of God were depicted in them.

Mapping and original painting

Together with these fragments of original paintings and the deep layer, when you enter Sant Climent de Taüll you’ll see the paintings currently preserved at the National Art Museum of Catalonia projected by means of the video mapping technique.

As a result, you can now see all the paintings by the Master of Taüll that have survived until the current day together at the Church of Sant Climent de Taüll, combining the original paintings with the projections.

You will understand the meaning of these paintings with a complete image of all the fragments that have survived until the current day:

From top to bottom, the apse is divided into three areas that are symbolically associated with Heaven, above, where the Divinity is displayed, the middle, the space between heaven and earth, where we can find the holy characters, intermediaries between God and man, and, below, the Earth, where the men are.

The whole composition abides by a geometrical scheme dominated by a large vertical axis. The themes and characters that were inspired by different texts from the Bible are symmetrically distributed on each side of this vertical axis, including the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament that prophesises the end of the world.

In Romanesque painting each element has its place determined by its importance and the architectural space, so they are organised in order of their significance.

In Heaven, the Christ in Majesty, the Hand of God and the Lamb with seven eyes.

Surrounding the image of Christ, the four Evangelists, two of them inside circles that evoke the fiery wheels of the chariot of Yahweh (God). And, on each side, a seraphim and a cherub.

Between Heaven and Earth, under the arches of the Celestial Jerusalem, the Virgin Mary, Saint John and the other apostles. At the ends, Saint Clement and perhaps Saint Cornelius.

And, above everything, the central element, the most important one: the Christ in Majesty. Its depiction is far removed from reality and the result is a non-naturalist, rigid, frontal, timeless and schematic image. To highlight the above, its forms are outlined in black and filled with bright and contrasting colours. But the details, the expressions on the faces, the folds on the clothing and the cornices were of a singular and unique mastery at the time.

The figure of Christ in Majesty inside the mandorla observes us seated in the accolade, with its feet on the sphere that represents the earth.

Christ Almighty blesses with his right hand and holds an open book in his left hand bearing the inscription “EGO SUM LUX MUNDI”: I am the light of the world, the light that reveals to us the knowledge of God.

On either side of Christ’s head appear the letters Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, symbolising that all things begin and end in God.

Mapping Taüll 1123

Three original wooden carvings from the Romanesque period have been preserved at Sant Climent de Taüll:

Christ the Saviour: image dating back to the 13th century. As was common in the Romanesque age, the figure of Christ is a Majesty, blessing with his right hand and holding the book of the Law in his left hand. In this case, Christ is crowned.

Christ on the Cross: this carving, dating back to the 12th century, is located in the church’s south nave. It depicts the Crucified Christ with a triumphant attitude. It shows no signs of death or suffering.

The Virgin as the throne of Christ: in the church’s south nave you can see a Romanesque carving that depicts the Virgin Mary with the Child. This is a highly recurrent typology in Romanesque sculpture: the Virgin acts as the seat of the Child, symbolising the throne of wisdom, while Jesus blesses and holds the book of the Scriptures.

The assets

The interiors of Romanesque churches appeared heavily decorated to the eyes of the faithful, not only due to the wall paintings, but also to the furniture, carvings and liturgical objects.

Three Romanesque carvings

Three original wooden carvings from the Romanesque period have been preserved at Sant Climent de Taüll:

Christ the Saviour: image dating back to the 13th century. As was common in the Romanesque age, the figure of Christ is a Majesty, blessing with his right hand and holding the book of the Law in his left hand. In this case, Christ is crowned.

Christ on the Cross: this carving, dating back to the 12th century, is located in the church’s south nave. It depicts the Crucified Christ with a triumphant attitude. It shows no signs of death or suffering.

The Virgin as the throne of Christ: in the church’s south nave you can see a Romanesque carving that depicts the Virgin Mary with the Child. This is a highly recurrent typology in Romanesque sculpture: the Virgin acts as the seat of the Child, symbolising the throne of wisdom, while Jesus blesses and holds the book of the Scriptures.

Presbytery pew

Inside the Church of Sant Climent you can find a reproduction of a medieval pew (the original is preserved at the National Art Museum of Catalonia).

It was common for the presbyteries of Romanesque churches to have two pews, one on each side, for the use of the ecclesiastical and lordly authorities. The profusely decorated pew at Sant Climent de Taüll would have been one of the seats of the higher hierarchies.

Image gallery

19th of June

Sant Climent de Taüll

CLOSED

Sant Climent de Taüll will be CLOSED due to maintenance tasks of the mapping from 11 to 17h.

Sorry for the inconvenience.