Various architectures

Sant Fruitós de Bages. Barcelona

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Monasteryof Sant Benet de Bages

Josep Ma Esquius Prat y Francesc Xavier Asarta Ferraz, arquitectos

Description Technical file

The monastery of Sant Benet contains the traces of the different eras since it was built in the tenth century. Romanesque, gothic, baroque and modernist art blend into an architectural complex composed basically of church, clister and “celler” or cellar. This intervention has fitted out the space to accommodate new uses in keeping with the global intervention of the “Mon Sant Benet” project.

ON Diseño published in issue no. 279 an article on the restoration of the Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, which involved the bell tower and the church with the crypt. Once the works were fully completed, we thought it was timely to publish a more extensive article on the work as a whole.

The refurbishment of the monastery had to deal not only with the restoration itself but also with situating the new vertical circulation elements such as staircases, lifts and service lifts as well as facilities and installation galleries that, in order not to damage the historical elements, were installed in the areas that the painter Ramon Casas, the owner of the complex, and his heirs had demolished, that is the East and West wing of the site.

The basic criterion applied in this intervention consists of the determination to reveal the different construction phases and interventions and reforms that have taken place. The archaeological excavations of the church settlement have permitted studying, dating and protecting a large part of the pre-Romanesque elements conserved of the foundations of the primitive church dating from the tenth and eleventh centuries. The crypt, during the process of recovering the window of the apse, unexpectedly revealed, one after another, the Romanesque perimeter arches that had been left unattached after the Baroque intervention of 1629. From among the different restoration options, it was chosen to recover all of those arches plus four central columns of the old crypt without destroying the Baroque segmental vaults, replacing the perimeter walls by metallic profiles suspended from the presbytery floor or crypt ceiling. The excavation of the paving has also permitted studying, dating and protecting the remains of an old martyrium, which remains below the current paving.

The need to recover the spatial integrity of the “celler” made it necessary to undertake a structural operation of greater scope in the monastery. The arches had to be relieved of the weight of the top walls held up by the centre of the Gothic diaphragm arches. That is why metallic summers have been placed in the vertical of the arches, supported by pillars that rest on the perimeter walls in order to permit, by means of struts embedded into the central wall, their full weight to be supported and remove the underpins. The restoration of the stone, the lowering of the paving to its original level, the new lighting and the recovery of the eastern access have permitted recovering one of the most emblematic spaces in the monastery due to its architecture and amplitude. Also recovered in its volumetric formalisation is the old midday tower (which jutted out from the ramparts until the galleries that enveloped them were built) and the traces of another one situated in the east façade and that is now absorbed into the prison space. Both must date from the era of the wars with Castile.

We pointed out earlier the need to install new vertical accesses in the monument (stairs, service lifts and lifts) as well as facilities and storerooms. That is why the decision was taken to situate this suite of new elements in the space freed by the demolition (from 1907) of the precarious constructions in the Southwest sector, thus giving back to the monastery its original perimeter and creating new constructions to hold these elements so as not to damage the architectural parts that were of interest due to their antiquity and quality. This sector, designed according to contemporary criteria, stands as a counterpoint to the respectful restoration of the most outstanding historical elements and opened the door to a proper dialogue with them.

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Situación: Sant Fruitós de Bages. Barcelona. Autores: Josep Ma Esquius Prat y Francesc Xavier Asarta Ferraz, arquitectos. Estructura: Diego Martín, arquitecto. BOMA. Arquitectos técnicos: J. Emili Puig Soler y Jaume Juanola. Colaboradores: Arqueociència. Serveis Culturals, arqueología, Arcor, Restauració de Pintura, restauración de pinturas. Constructor: Cots i Claret. Museización: Transversal Produccions Culturals. Promotor: Fundació Caixa Manresa. Fotografía: Lourdes Jansana.
Francisco Javier Asarta
Josep Ma Esquius Prat
Manresa, (Barcelona)
Lourdes Jansana