advertisement

The oldest building in Pedralbes (the city's wealthiest residential area) is a monastery founded in 1326 by Elisenda de Montcada, Jaume II's queen. It housed the nuns of the Order of Saint Clare (who now live in a small building adjacent), and after the king's death Queen Elisenda took up residence in the convent. She is buried in the Gothic church next door (where the nuns sing their vespers) in a beautiful tomb surrounded by angels.

Beyond the threshold is a serene cloister with a central fountain, well, herb gardens, and other greenery. There are nearly two dozen elegant arches on each side of the cloister, rising three stories high. Immediately to your right is a small chapel containing the chief treasure of the monastery, the intact Capellà de Sant Miquel. Inside, it is decorated with murals by Ferrer Bassa, a major artist of Catalonia in the 1300s, depicting the Passion of Christ.

The original nuns' residence houses an exhibition re-creating the monastic life of the 14th century: What they ate, how they dressed, the hours of prayer, and their general comings and goings. Some of the day chambers contain original artifacts of the monestir, although the most evocative rooms are the kitchen and refectory and the communal dining room where the Mother Superior broke her vow of silence with mealtime Bible readings from the wooden pulpit.