Cisterian Route (Path) connect three ancient monasteries (Santes Creus, Santa Maria de Poblet and Vallbona de les Monges) of Cisterian Order that was founded by French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux as religious movement on 11th century.
The route was created in 1989 and also connected three important comarcas (Catalan country or administrative division) in Catalonia: La Conca de Barberà, Alt Camp and Urgell, which shows the importance of the order for the communities of the region.
The austere spirit of the order is reflected in it’s own architecture style, which is a transition between Romanesque and Gothic and had great architectonic influence.
The Santes Creus monastery (Aiguamúrcia) was the starting point from which The Crown of Aragón allowed the Cisterian monks to repopulate just conquered back from the Moors of Al-Andalus the so called “New Catalonia” in 12th century with the foundation of monasteries. The church, the cloister and the chapter room (13th-14th centuries) are the three basic elements for the Cistercian rule and the life of the monks.
Other rooms and rear buildings, such as monks dormitory and refectory, Puerta Real doorway, Abbatial palace and it’s small Baroque cloister (17th century), the tombs of the King Pere el Gran (Peter III of Aragon) and King James II of Aragón also can be visited. The monastery complex was declared a National Historical and Artistic Monument in 1951.
On the way through the region of Alt Camp to the next destination of the route Santa María de Poblet (in Vimbodí) (about 30 km. from Santes Creus) it’s worth stopping in it’s capital town of Valls also known as the capital of calçots (a special local variety of spring onions). If you visit at the end of January or beginning of February, you will be able to take part in the typical calçotades: traditional gatherings where people eat calçots — spring onions cooked over an open flame of vine cuttings until they are well-roasted.
Once cooked, they are wrapped in newspaper to keep them hot and to allow them to soften. Then before eating the outer skin of the calçot is removed and it should be dipped into the sauce, which is made by mashing toasted and peeled almonds, grilled and peeled tomatoes and garlic cloves, parsley, vinegar, olive oil and salt.
But don’t be disappointed if you visit Valls at any other season, you can always get a traditional wine and food matching lunch in a masía (Catalan farmstead) and there are a lot of dishes to choose from. It can be Escudella i carn d'olla, or shorter escudella (traditional Catalan soup and stew), Mongetes amb botifarra (beans and pork sausage), Civet de senglar (Wild boar and onion stew), Truita amb suc (Omelette with “gravy”) or Rossejat de fideus
(Sauteed Noodles in Fish Broth) and of course pa amb tomaquet (bread and tomato with olive oil) accompanied by a glass of local wine. Not mentioning long list of local sweets and desserts.. Crema catalana, menjar blanc, xuixos, panellets – just to name a few. Afterwards you can take a stroll to Roser Chapel and the group of Modernist and 19th-century buildings.
In the next region Conca de Barberà visit it’s capital Montblanc, which has the best preserved medieval urban area in Catalonia surrounded by walls, with seventeen towers and four gates, and in the town of L'Espluga de Francolí visit the old church of San Miguel and a splendid Modernist 19-century building of the cooperative winery, currently the Wine Museum.
From L'Espluga de Francolí the route goes to the foot of Prades mountains and Poblet forest to the largest of the three Cisterian monasteries – Santa Maria de Poblet.
In has a church and cloister dated to the 12th and 14th centuries and the Abbatial Palace, the chapels of Sant Jordi and Santa Caterina, the Royal Palace, the old cloister of Sant Esteve and the new vestry from different periods up to the 18th century. Monastery was declared Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991.
About 25 km. from Santa Maria de Poblet is the last stage of the route - monastery of Vallbona de les Monges situated in the centre of the town Vallbona de les Monges.
The church here has importante features, such as dome-belfry and the tomb of Queen Yolande of Hungary, wife of James I of Aragón, the cloister and the chapter room, with a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic elements. It also has library, scriptorium, refectory, kitchen, guesthouse and museum.
The Ruta del Cister is one of the most traditional tourist routes in Catalonia where you can discover historical, cultural, artistic and monumental heritage of the region and beyond …
author: Aleksandr Kulikov