Sant Pere de Montgrony
18 Sep 2012 1 comment Redacció

Following the trail of Count Arnau

The legend has turned Count Arnau into the quintessential myth of medieval Catalonia. It is based on a popular song that has survived the pass of time. According to tradition, many centuries ago, a certain Count Arnau committed two sins: to succumb to the pleasures of the flesh with an abbess and not paying his vassals for some work they had done for him. The consequence was a punishment that apparently still goes on: ride eternally on a black horse, accompanied by a group of evil dogs.

Count Arnau existed. He was real. History shows he seemed to  have been a member of the Mataplana family, one of the most important and influential lineage of medieval Catalonia. He was the last Baron Mataplana. Among his possessions there was the castle of Mataplana (XI-XIV century), located near Gombrèn. It’s a good starting point to track Count Arnau’s trail in the area. Last year’s excavations, for example, discovered remains of the ground floor of the castle and many objects that can be seen at the Count Arnau’s Museum on Gombrèn. By the way, they organize guided tours the last Sunday of every month.

Mataplana Castle near Gombrèn

From Gombrèn, you can go to the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Montgrony. According to legend, Count Arnau was responsible for building the 144 steps cut into the rock, that connect a small inn to the Romanesque church of Sant Pere de Montgrony. This is the project that spurred his bad reputation. Apparently he promised to pay with wheat each measure of stone dug out from the rock. But he never paid.

The plain from where begin the steps leading to the church of Sant Pere de Montgrony

The first flight of stairs connect the small inn to the tiny chapel of Santa Maria de Montgrony, dedicated to one of the so-called “found Virgins”, a series of religious statues discovered in Catalonia. Locals have been worshiping the Virgin at least since the 1400s. The current statue depicting what worshipers call the Virgin of Montgrony, is a reproduction of the original that was damaged by a fire.

Interior of the chapel of Santa Maria de Montgrony

From the chapel we continue the climb to the church of Sant Pere de Montgrony. Its existence has been documented as far back as year 889. It was consecrated in 1.138. It has a portico with three arches above the portal and a large nave with apse and two cross-shaped apses. The front door still retains much of the Romanesque wrought iron which reinforced the door. From that spot, right outside the church, you can see a beautiful view of the county of Ripollès.

Exterior view of the church of Sant Pere de Montgrony

Montgrony is the starting point for many trips in the area to Puig de Sant Pere, Puig de Montgrony, or l’Avenc de Sant Ou, just to name a few. Also, it is a great place to climb. Montgrony has at the base of the mountain that holds the sanctuary, areas praised for climbers.

Montgrony, great destination for fans of climbing

On another post, we will dive into what happened when Count Arnau passed through Sant Joan de les Abadesses and other spots in the county of Ripollès.


  1. gold price (Català) va dir això el 25 Oct 2012

    Quina hora és que el gall ja canta, muller lleial? Quina hora és que el gall ja canta, viudeta igual? Les dotze hores són tocades, valga’m Déu, val. Les dotze hores són tocades, comte l’Arnau.

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