The Monastery of Pedralbes, in Catalan Monestir de Pedralbes, is one of the finest examples of Catalan Gothic in Barcelona. The building from the early 14th century shows the everyday life of nuns. Religious art from the 14th to the 20th century is displayed in the monastery museum.
Highlights are the three-storey cloister and the gardens inside the monastery.
The monastery was founded by Queen Elisenda de Montcada. Her husband, King Jacob II (Jaume II), supported her and dedicated the monastery to Holy Mary. Ever since, it has been administered by the nuns of the Order of Saint Clare.
The construction of the Monestir de Pedralbes
The construction work of the monastery started in March 1326. Queen Elisenda chose its location in the village of Sarrià, which back then was far out of the city of Barcelona. The name “Pedralbes” derives from the Latin Petras Albas (white stones), a white stone is the cornerstone of the apsis. On May 3, 1327 the nuns moved into the monastery.
Since the monastery was built in just one year, it was not influenced by any other architectural styles and is a fine example of particularly homogeneous gothic architecture in Catalonia.
It was not before the 15th century that the third and lowest storey was added to the cloister.
Visiting today’s monastery
On the eastern side, there is the church with one nave. Inside the church, there is the tomb of Queen Elisenda on the right side next to a presbytery, a choir reserved for the clergy. There is something particular about Queen Elisenda’s tomb: the sarcophagus is double-sided. On the cloister side Elisenda is depicted as a mourning widow, on the church side as a queen.
There is no direct entry to the interior of the monastery from the church. The entrance lies only a few steps away from the church. From there you enter the cloister. It is most recommended to follow the route that leads through the monastery in anticlockwise direction.
The first interesting sight is the small St. Michael’s chapel on the right side by the church wall. Its frescoes from 1343 depict scenes from the lives of Jesus and Mary. Note the plastic quality of the frescoes that remind of the Italian painter Giotto, who was considered the first modern painter.
The next room in the cloister contains the tomb of Queen Elisenda mentioned above. On this side you’ll find more tombs of Reverend Mothers who lived in this monastery.
On the north side of the cloister, there are several utility rooms, the nuns’ day cells and the staircase to the second floor, half of which can be visited. The third floor is closed to the public.
The museum is housed in the former dormitory of the monastery. In a tour you can marvel at pieces of religious art as well as everyday objects of the monastery dating from the 14th to the 20th century. In the middle cloister there are several tiny cells in which the nuns used to pray.
Walking downstairs from the museum, you can continue the monastery tour through the lower cloister. On the west side, there are utility rooms, such as the dining hall and the kitchen, and in the basement the monastery’s store rooms are located. One of the store rooms contains a series of dioramas of religious scenes which depict the life history of Jesus.
The gardens of the Monastery of Pedralbes
The monastery certainly wouldn’t be as beautiful and impressive without its gardens in the courtyard. You won’t find a quieter place in all Barcelona – except for the birds singing in the trees and the gurgling of the Renaissance fountain in the centre of the courtyard you won’t hear a sound.
Large palm trees and cypresses provide cool shade. From the lower cloister, there are several ways to the gardens.
Sisterhood of the Order of Saint Clare
In 1212, Clare of Assisi joined Francis of Assisi’s Dominican Order and soon founded the Order of Saint Clare, later also dubbed the “Second Order” of the Franciscans.
The Order of Saint Clare still administers the monastery. Today, the nuns live in a more modern annexe.
Address: Baixada del Monestir 9
Phone: +34 932 563 434
Metro: FGC r6, Reina Elisenda
Bus Turistic: Monetir de Pedralbes
1 April – 30 Sep
1 Oct-31 Mar
All year round
So and holidays
Regular: 7€, reduced: 5€
Free admission with Barcelona Card