Santa Maria de Taüll

The Church of Santa Maria was consecrated on 11th December 1123, one day after Sant Climent de Taüll, reflecting the importance of the resources that the Lords of Erill assigned to the Vall de Boí in the early 12th century.

Located in the middle of the town, it’s the only church in the valley that seems to have led to the population settling around it.

Most of the Romanesque wall paintings in its interior were removed and moved to Barcelona between 1919 and 1923, just like those in the rest of the valley. Reproductions of the central apse and the south wall can currently be seen in the church.

The central apse is presided over by the scene of the Epiphany, with the Child Jesus sitting on the Virgin Mary’s lap and the Kings from the East making offerings.

On the south wall we should highlight the scene of the Kings from the East adoring the infant Jesus and visiting Herod.

Chronology

11th century
First building work.

12th century
Church consecration.

18th century
Baroque reforms.

1919-1923
First paintings removed.

1960
Second paintings removed.

1971
Last paintings removed and restoration.

2013
New paintings copies on the south wall.

Virtual visit

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History

On 11th December 1123 the Bishop of Roda-Barbastre, Ramón Guillem, consecrated the Church of Santa Maria de Taüll, just one day after consecrating that of Sant Climent.

The deed of consecration is the first written document that mentions the Church of Santa Maria.

The architectural forms

Most of the building dates back to the 12th century, but the base of the bell tower is built in a very different way from the rest of it. The irregular ashlar stones indicate that these are the remains of an earlier construction of a 12th-century building that were reused.

During the 18th century, the new liturgical needs and aesthetic tastes led to different changes in the structure of the building. The south apse was demolished and a sacristy was built in its place. A dome was also built on the roof of the central nave and the side naves were divided into chapels inside. The restoration work carried out in the 1970s returned the church to its original Romanesque appearance.

It’s a basilica-style church with three naves topped with a central apse and two secondary apses. The naves are covered by double-sided wooden joisting, the weight of which rests on side arches. These rest on cylindrical pillars which divide the interior area into the three naves. The route through the right nave is interrupted by the presence of the bell tower, which is incorporated into the interior of the church.

The main door is on the west wall, but another one opens up onto the south façade beside the bell tower. Both of them are semi-circular arches.

Let’s take a look at the outside

Remains of pictorial works that decorated the bell tower still remain today, such as those that can be seen on the upper floors. Red geometric motifs combined with the white of the plastering predominated.

In the apses you’ll find the Lombard decoration made up of blind arches, lesenes and sawtooth friezes. Unlike the other churches, you can find a unique decorative element in the valley beneath the set of blind arches, namely the concentric circles known as recast circles.

Let’s take a look at the inside

The inside of the Church of Santa Maria de Taüll boasts the mural paintings in the apse, reproductions of the originals, which are currently housed at the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

In the reproduction of the central apse you’ll see, as usual, that the paintings are divided into three parts: in the upper part you can see the scene of the Epiphany, in the intermediate part you can find depictions of the apostles and in the lower part you can see circular medallions with real and fantastic animals with a frieze of paintings that reproduce draperies at the bottom of the apse.

The scene of the Epiphany depicts the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne and her Son on her lap surrounded by a mandorla. Jesus, who wears a red tunic and cloak, holds a scroll in his left hand and raises his right hand in a sign of blessing. The depiction of the Virgin Mary has a clear Byzantine influence presented as the throne of Wisdom. Around her the Kings from the East approach to present their offerings. They appear in accordance with tradition, representing the three ages of a man’s life: Melchior as an old man, Balthazar as a middle-aged man and Gaspar as a young man.

On each side of the window you can find six apostles, identified, beneath the set of arcades, as Saint Andrew, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint John the Evangelist.

The other walls of the church were decorated with fresco paintings of a different quality to those in the central apse; these were painted by another master, known as the Master of the Final Judgement, due to the subject of the paintings on the west wall (of which there are no reproductions in the church).

The paintings on the south wall between the chancel and the bell tower by this second master were reproduced with gel paper, on which you’ll see depictions of different scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

In the middle part the scenes can be read from right to left; you can see the annunciation to Zechariah as he officiated in the temple, the Nomination of John the Baptist and Mary with the Child receiving the adoration of the Kings from the East who, at the same time, also form part of the scene in which they visit Herod.

Only the lower half of the scenes at the top has been preserved, and therefore it is more difficult to interpret the episodes that are depicted. Some historians identify the scene of Saint Martin’s charity with the character who cuts up his cloak to give it to someone else, and some armed angels with the archangel Michael fighting the dragon in the scene beside the bell tower.

At the bottom you’ll find a painted curtain.

The three Romanesque fonts and the Baroque altarpiece

Three Romanesque fonts have been preserved inside the church: the holy water font at the entrance, the baptismal font next to the bell tower and the larger font that was used to store oil. The oil was used for the lamps to light the church.

The original Baroque altarpiece that presided over the main apse from the 18th to the 20th century is preserved at the end of the nave, concealing the Romanesque paintings.

In the upper part you’ll find the archangel Saint Michael depicted, with Saint Paul on the left and Saint Peter on the right. In the lower part you can see the Immaculate Mother of God, with Saint John the Evangelist on the left and Saint Isidre on the right.

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.