Featured UNESCO World Heritage Site of December: Poblet Monastery in Spain

One of the largest abbeys in Spain, the Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet (more commonly known as Poblet Monastery), is located in Catalonia, 78 miles southwest of Barcelona. Selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, it is one of the three sister monasteries collectively known as the Cistercian Triangle. It is also Pierbusseti’s featured UNESCO World Heritage for December, the second installment of our monthly series.

Built over the span of the 12th century to the 15th, one of the features that makes Poblet so unique is its inclusion of architectural styles from the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. Not only is it striking on the outside, but the interior of the monastery features many visually stunning elements, including the alabaster altarpiece which was created by Spanish sculptor and architect, Damia Forment.

Being included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it’s no surprise that Poblet Monastery has a rich and important history. Starting with the rule of James I the Conqueror, who reigned from 1213 – 1276, the monastery was the royal pantheon of the kings to the Crown of Aragon. Many of the kings and queens of Aragon are buried at the monastery, including James I. The kings have statues of lions seated at their feet and the queens have statues of dogs.

After damage from the First Carlist War, Poblet was closed in 1835 during the rule of Isabella II. During this time, Poblet was plundered and damaged further due to various fires. In 1940, the monastery was newly founded by Italian Monks who took on repairs to the building. Many features from the old church still remain, including the royal tombs, artifacts, the altar, and the royal wall which encircles the entire monastery.

In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Poblet Monastery also was declared a national monument in 1921 and therefore is protected by Spanish law. Despite all the work that has gone into renovation and restoration, one of the church buildings near the entrance has been left in a ruined state as a constant reminder of the events that took place.

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