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MNAC Romanesque Collection

The glories of medieval Catalonia

Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll

This covers the Romanesque art, one of the crown jewels of the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. The museum is justifiably proud to house the world’s foremost collection of Romanesque murals, rescued during the 1920s from often neglected chapels in the remote valleys of the Pyrenees — and from wealthy Americans like the Rockefellers who were buying all medieval art they could lay their hands on, including entire cloisters on the French side of the border. Before their agents and their bags of cash could tempt impoverished villages to part with their treasures, Barcelona’s Ajuntament intervened, bought them up and brought them here, leading to the foundation of this museum in the Palau Nacional, as one of the few places big enough to house them all.

Catalonia was quite well off at the very start of the Middle Ages, when, according to the chronicles, over 90 per cent of its business was transacted in gold—and in the Pyrenees much of that gold was exchanged for iron from its rich mines. All that loose loot attracted the top if ever nameless artists of the day, who were charged with filling chapels with images that could lead to their patron's eternal salvation.

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Medieval Art and Architecture

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by MNAC, PD Art