The Monastery of Santa Maria of Ripoll is located in the centre of Ripoll, in the Ripollès region, and is popularly known as the Cradle of Catalonia.
Its origins can be traced back to the year 879, when Guifré el Pelós, in his task of re-Christianizing the territory recovered from the Arab occupation in the foundation of Al-Andalus.
During the medieval period, the monastery underwent various expansion reforms. Under the direction of the Abbot Oliba, the monastery of Santa Maria of Ripoll became a first-rate religious and cultural centre throughout Europe. In fact, in the 11th century a large Romanesque temple was built, in the Lombard style, with two twin bell towers. In the middle of the 12th century, a large Romanesque doorway was built, which can still be seen today.
With the passing of time, the monastery was extended and reformed. The blackest point in the history of the monastery was found in 1835, during the First Carlist War.
On the 9th of August 1835, the Isabel II Shooters Battalion was presented in Ripoll. These troops accused the monks of the monastery of being Carlist supporters, and sacked and burned the monastery for three days. In this assault, two monks were killed, the archive was set on fire, and the graves of the counts were desecrated. The monastery was badly damaged.
Between the years 1850 and 1863, the first works of cleaning, consolidation and restoration of the monastery were carried out. In 1863, Elias Rogent, of the Provincial Academy of Fine Arts of Barcelona, was appointed to restore the church. Together with Francisco de P. Del Villar and August Font, they decided to restore Santa Maria de Ripoll as it was in 1032. This restoration was inaugurated on July 1st 1893, and we can still enjoy it today.
During the Civil War, the committee of Anti-Fascist Militias of Ripoll, following orders from the Generalitat, requisitioned the Ripoll Monastery. Their aim was to be able to safeguard the building, as well as the objects inside it. However, they could not prevent the monastery from being plundered, and some of its tombs from being desecrated. Some Militiamen thought that the Monastery had a hidden arsenal, but this did not exist.
At the end of the Civil War, in 1938, the Ripoll Town Hall had a wall built in front of the large Romanesque doorway. The aim was to prevent the bombing from damaging this doorway. Thanks to this wall, today we can still enjoy this majestic facade.
In this monastery, moreover, some legend has been preserved. It is said that in the monastery of Ripoll, every day at 12 o’clock at night, the ghosts that live there come out with torches (very large candles) and start to walk around inside the church. Once, a young man wanted to test himself, and decided to spend the night inside the monastery, in order to check if the ghosts really went out to wander. When it was the stroke of midnight, the boy, frightened, was able to confirm how the ghosts came out to wander inside the building. Curious, he asked them where they were before they were born, and all the ghosts replied that in God’s understanding. In this monastery it is said that there was also the Mass of St. Benedict. When someone from the monastery had to die, you could see the mass ringing three times during three days, thus warning all the monks in the monastery.