Santa Maria de Cardet

Santa Maria de Cardet preserves one of the most spectacular apses in the valley. The church was built on the steep slope of the mountain, capitalising on the terrain’s unevenness to build a small crypt inside, the only one in the entire complex.

Unlike the other churches in the valley, here the bell tower has a gable, the result of the Baroque transformations that the church has undergone.

During the latest restoration the aim was to maintain the interior of the church as it was in the early 20th century.


11th-12th century
First building work.

12th-13th century
Apse and barrel vault construction.

17th-18th century
Baroque reforms giving the church its current appearance.


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In the Middle Ages, the possessions of the Lords of Erill in the Vall de Boí began at the Les Cabanasses strait, just below the town of Cardet.

The town and its church are very strategically located: access to the valley and a large part of the territory could be controlled from Cardet.

The first references to the town of Cardet can be found in a document from 1054, in which the town of Cardeto is mentioned.

It is also documented in the will of Bernat d’Erill dating back to 1157, when, before leaving on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he assigned Cardet to Lavaix Monastery (located near Pont de Suert). In this document Cardet is not called a town, but rather Cardet Castle, which suggests the function of the town’s strategic location.

The architectural forms

Santa Maria de Cardet is a church with a single nave covered by four groin vault sections. The nave is topped to the east by a semi-circular apse.

On each sides of the nave you can see semi-pillars and semi-pilasters attached to the walls. Its function was to support the weight of the barrel vault that covered the building in the Romanesque period.

The layout of the church was modified in modern times, when a sacristy and a chapel were added.

The crypt

Santa Maria was built capitalising on the unevenness of the land, which allowed it to have two floors, that of the church itself and that of the crypt, located below the presbytery.

The crypt area is adapted to the semi-circular shape of the apse and is covered by a barrel vault. There is a single-slit window with a semi-circular arch in the central part of the wall.

On the west façade you can find the door to enter the church, sheltered by a porch that was built later.

Let’s take a look at the outside

The apse of Santa Maria de Cardet is one of the most spectacular ones in the valley’s entire Romanesque ensemble. It’s decorated with the different Lombard motifs that are repeated in all the churches in the valley: the blind arches, the sawtooth frieze and the lesenes.

Santa Maria de Cardet is the only church in the valley that doesn’t have a bell tower, but rather a Baroque bell-gable that crowns the main façade.

An excellent mediaeval wrought-iron bolt decorated with geometric motifs on the arm and a very well-made head at the end is preserved on the door of the church.

Let’s take a look at the inside

Santa Maria de Cardet is the smallest church in the valley. The interior of the building currently seems even smaller due to the presence of the Baroque altarpiece that conceals the area with the apse.

During the latest restoration, the aim was to maintain the interior of the church as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. The architectural additions (the groin vault, the sacristy and the chapel) and the furniture from the post-Romanesque period have been respected.


An altar front dating back to the second half of the 13th century was found in the Church of Santa Maria de Cardet. It is currently preserved at the National Art Museum of Catalonia and you can see a reproduction inside the church.

The altar front of Santa Maria de Cardet was made by the Ribagorça Workshop. Several works by this Workshop are known, all of them very similar in technique and style, such as the façade of the Hermitage of Sant Pere de Boí, which currently lies in ruins.

The altar front of Cardet is made of wood and decorated with stucco reliefs, above which you’ll find several scenes painted with the tempera technique (pigments mixed with egg).

This work is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus and it depicts different scenes from the life of the Virgin that can be identified by the different inscriptions.

Presiding over the front appear the Virgin and the Child Jesus inside a mandorla. Mary is crowned and seated on the throne with the Child Jesus on her lap, who blesses with his right hand and holds the book of the Gospels in his left hand. The four symbols of the evangelists, the tetramorph, appear around the mandorla.

The lateral sections depict the scenes of the Visitation and the Annunciation separated by a column, the Epiphany, the Magi making the offering to the Child, the scene of the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds, the martyrdom of the Innocents and the Flight to Egypt.

An original cross-beam with pictorial decorations inside the Church of Santa Maria de Cardet was also preserved until the early 20th century, It is currently housed at the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

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