The convent of Sant Bartomeu de Bellpuig

The convent of Sant Bartomeu de Bellpuig (l'Urgell) was founded in the year 1507 by Ramon de Cardona-Anglesola, the Baron of Bellpuig, who was also the Viceroy of Naples and Sicily. Cardona petitioned Pope Julius II for the right to create a Franciscan convent on the site of the earlier chapel of Sant Bartomeu. The convent was abandoned from around the time of the disentailment of 1835 until 1899, when it was occupied by Paulist monks who created a minor seminary there. In 1990, it was donated to the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The convent is, without doubt, an exceptional example of the architectural transition from Gothic to Renaissance style. The second cloister is its most outstanding and characteristic architectonic feature: the patio has three different levels, with the first two dating from the 16th century, while the third was added at the beginning of the 17th century. The second gallery is very original and is unparalleled in Catalonia; it is formed by ten spiral or braided shaft columns, with figured capitals and small arches that give continuation to the twisted and braided forms of the column shafts. In the centre of the cloister it is possible to see a Renaissance-style ornamental well with a round parapet.

It is also important to highlight the main stairway, the refectory lavabo, the chapterhouse (the first two keystones take the form of medallions bearing effigies of the founders of the convent), the cupboard for storing the chalices in the vestry, the spiral staircase, the open window, and the Mirador del Duc (duke’s vantage point), in the north facade, which is a Renaissance-style open-sided gallery which was built at the beginning of the 17th century.

The church which housed the mausoleum of its founder, was commissioned by his widow, Elisabet de Requesens. She contracted the Neapolitan sculptor Giovanni Merliano da Nola, who built the mausoleum between 1524 and 1530 using white marble from Carrara. The structure was subsequently transported to the convent church, piece by piece, by land and sea and the body of the Viceroy was buried on 15th March, 1531. On 11th May 1842, several years after the convent was abandoned, the mausoleum was transferred to the parish church of Sant Nicolau de Bellpuig. This work was declared a monument of historical and artistic interest on 2nd December 1925.

The tomb (10.90 x 5.50) takes the form of a classical victory arch (a typology widely used in Italy during the Renaissance), symbolising the victory over death achieved through the fame associated with the qualities and deeds of the dead hero. The iconography is complex and mixes religious elements with allegorical and mythological motifs referring to the personality of the deceased. The quality of the abundant figurative and decorative elements that were engraved, superimposed on architectonic elements, make this one of the best examples of Renaissance art in Catalonia.

Information provided by:

Convent de Sant Bartomeu
Ctra. de Belianes, s/n
25250 Bellpuig
Tel.: 973 32 02 92

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