Santa Eulàlia d'Erill la Vall

In Santa Eulàlia you’ll find one of the best bell towers in the valley, a slender square construction six floors high with the typical Lombard Romanesque decoration: blind arches and sawtooth friezes.

Aligned with those of Sant Joan de Boí and Sant Climent de Taüll, the bell tower fulfilled the functions of communication and surveillance of the territory.

Inside the church you can see a copy of the sculptural ensemble of the Descent from the Cross, the only one from the Erill Workshop preserved in its entirety. The originals are divided between two museums, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia and the Episcopal Museum in Vic.


11th century
First building work.

12th century
Nave extended and the bell-tower and porch were built.

Accidental collapse of the vaulted roof and facades and reconstruction work.

Bell-tower renovated.

Archaeological excavations and restoration work.

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The first reference to the town of Erill la Vall dates back to 1064, when the Counts of El Pallars Sobirà sold it and its lands to the Counts of El Pallars Jussà, possessions that included the Church of Santa Eulàlia.

The toponym Erill is related to the Erill feudal family. This was originally from Erillcastell, a currently uninhabited town that lies within the municipality of Pont de Suert.

The architectural forms

The structure of the Church of Erill la Vall that can be seen today is the result of different construction phases.

It is currently presented in the form of a single extended nave that ends with three semi-circular apses in the shape of a clover leaf. The roof of the church is double-sided with wooden joisting resting on the walls of the nave.

The process of building the Church of Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall was highly complex. Archaeological and restoration studies have revealed the architectural elements of different periods. Thus, it is known that the Church of Santa Eulàlia is the result of four construction phases between the 11th and 12th centuries.

Phase 1. The 11th-century church had a single nave, smaller than the current one, which was covered by a wooden roof. The entrance to the church was a door located on the west wall.

Phase 2. Some time later the nave was expanded to obtain a more elongated space. The entrance door to the church was built on the north wall. The baptismal font also dates back to this phase.

Phase 3. In this phase the roof of the nave was modified with a barrel vault in the form of a semicircle, which entailed the construction of five arches on pillars in order to support the weight of the roof.

Phase 4. During the final construction phase the bell tower was built and the porch was added to the north façade of the church.

The Romanesque barrel vault that originally covered the church collapsed at an undetermined time. When the vault fell, the south wall and part of the west façade were affected.

Let’s take a look at the outside

The bell tower of the Church of Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall is visible from everywhere in the town, the neighbouring towns and other places in the valley. It’s a slender tower with a square base and six floors. It follows the model of the other bell towers in the valley, such as that of Taüll, although in Santa Eulàlia the technique used was more painstaking.

On the first floor of the bell tower you’ll see a simple semi-circular arched window opened up on the north face; the other levels share the same layout, with double or twin windows on the four sides of the tower. The floors are delimited by a set of blind arches decorated with sawtooth cornices; flanking the windows there are two vertical strips, one on each side, known as angular lesenes.

From a religious standpoint, the tower was the architectural element that symbolically rose up to heaven. But the social function was also fundamental: they were elements for surveillance and communication.

In the Middle Ages the bell towers of Sant Joan de Boí and Sant Climent de Taüll could be seen from the tower of Santa Eulàlia. The three towers were aligned to facilitate communication between the three towns.

The porch

The entrance and exit of the church has always been an important meeting point for the population, which is why one of the functions of the porch was to protect the access to the church from inclement weather. However, this element also had another symbolic function: it was the transitional space between everyday life and the entrance to the house of God.

Remains of red mural paint are still preserved on the door, on the part of the cornice of the semi-circular arch. Inside the arch you can also see the decoration in the shape of a snake cut into the mortar.

The mediaeval bolt

At the entrance to the temple you can see a mediaeval wrought-iron bolt similar to those in the other churches in the valley. If you look at the tip of the pin you’ll see a geometric face.

Let’s take a look at the inside

The Descent from the Cross

Inside the Church of Santa Eulàlia you can see a reproduction of the Descent from the Cross. The original is currently preserved at two museums, the Episcopal Museum in Vic and the National Art Museum of Catalonia. This Descent is the only one of all those known to come from the Erill Workshop to have been completely preserved.

The Descent of Erill la Vall is made up of a set of seven 12th-century Romanesque carvings made of poplar wood, except for the figure of Christ, which is made of walnut.

From left to right, the figures are: Dismas (the good thief), the Mother of God, Joseph of Arimathea, Christ, Nicodemus, Saint John and Gestas (the bad thief).

Originally they would all have been painted and we can still see traces of polychromy on Christ’s left arm and the tunic of Saint John in the original carvings.

On these wood carvings we should highlight the treatment of the clothing, which adapts to the anatomy of the figures: Saint John and Mary wear tunics down to their feet and a cloak over them. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wear knee-length skirts fastened by a belt at the waist, while the thieves Dismas and Gestas wear tight-fitting short trousers.

Despite being Romanesque, the sculptural ensemble of the Descent displays some characteristics that show us that it approaches the Gothic style: the main figure is not a typically Romanesque triumphant Christ in Majesty, but rather the Christ who has died for humanity, closer to the faithful.


The bases of some semi-pillars are preserved on each side of the nave, supporting elements of the barrel vault that was added to the church in the 12th century to replace the original wooden roof.

The apse was modified in the early 20th century with the construction of a sacristy. During the restoration in the 1990s the apse was rebuilt in order to return the church to its original layout.

Romanesque font

Inside the church there is a Romanesque baptismal font that has the peculiarity of being the only one preserved in Catalonia that’s made of stone with different ashlars, most of them with a single piece.

Romanesque decoration

If you look at the north wall of the church, you’ll see that there are still fragments of Romanesque decoration with lime lines representing the ashlar stones above the mortar. This decoration is called tapering and it allowed for geometric and regular decoration of the interior. The lines of the ashlars are painted red on one of the bases of the pillars at the end of the nave.

Santa Eulàlia, 18th-century

The original 18th-century image of Santa Eulàlia is preserved on one side of the apse. The restoration work in the late 20th century brought back the original colours that were hidden beneath subsequent repainting. The sculpture displays the characteristic forms of the Baroque age, with an abundance of folds and volumes in the clothes that give movement to the figure.

Gothic and Baroque altarpieces

At the end of the nave stands the church choir, a later addition in which different assets are currently on display to reflect the evolution of liturgical furniture.

  • Altarpiece probably dedicated to Saint Michael, late 16th century
  • Altarpiece dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, 17th century
  • Unfinished altarpiece, 18th century
  • Holy Week monument, 18th century

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