Cultural context

A common history at both sides of the Pyrenees which we can revive on foot

The Trek Refugis del Torb offers the participants a tour which has been the scene of episodes of the Catalan past, which is good to remember.


To start with these three counties, Ripollès, Vallespir and Conflent, and all the way of the route, now belonging to different states, shared lords and earls for centuries in our Middle Ages. Before Catalonia became a nation, the earls of Cerdanya, under the control of whom were, among other areas, the Vall de Ribes, are also masters of Conflent. Since the ninth century, they enjoy the help of the viscounts of Conflent as military partners. 258 / 5.000 Resultats de traducció A member of this viscounty family of Conflent is the bishop of Urgell, Sant Ermengol (1010-1035), who, in addition to his episcopal office, which affected the valley of Ribes, had in this territory, in particular, several properties, in Ventolà and Ribes.

Vall de Ribes and Conflent present, though, an even closer and more continuous relationship through an unknown, but essential to the understanding of the economy and the lifestyle in the mountains: livestock. In the fifteenth century, a period of great progress of livestock, when the butchers of Barcelona were interested in the supply of good products for the city markets, and bought meat from Conflent and Vall the Ribes, a strategic alliance was established between large pastures and shepherds of Coma de Vaca (Queralbs) and the pastures of Vinçà (Conflent). It was agreed that those flocks grazing at Vinçà would have free access to the pastures of Queralbs. Therefore, the contact between herders and livestock in these regions took often place in the landscape the participants will contemplate during the journey. Worth among many other examples, the proposed trek was used by the shepherds and animals from Prats de Mollo, who had the right to graze at Planoles until at least 1639. We must not forget the survival today of ancient livestock traditions such as the choice of mulattoes of Espinavell, so well known and celebrated by the villages of Molló and Pi.

Moreover, the human and economic relationship was not so interrupted as it could be expected by the Treaty of the Pyrenees (November, 7th 1659) which led to the annexation to the French crown of the whole old county of Roussillon and part of that of Cerdanya, whereas the Vall de Ribes and the Vall de Camprodon remained under Spanish jurisdiction. There are many examples at all levels showing that the border did not stop the human relationship, nor did it cause the loss of transhumance routes, nor those of pilgrims from Pi, for example, direction Núria. Because beyond the political and administrative borders there is and there was, in addition to the human and economic relationship, a very strong link, which comes from the mountain itself, and the flame and the mythical force created by the legends and religious beliefs associated with two emblematic peaks, the Canigó and the Puigmal.

Abbot Oliba, of whom in 2008 we celebrated the millennium, was the builder of this country of mountains, through the ambitious projects of Cuixà and Ripoll monasteries, but also on a smaller scale, by creating small rural parishes like St. Marcel de Planés in Planoles, which Oliba consecrated himself, giving a similar architechtural appearance to the country, Romanesque, well of values that we shared and now update. One foundation, that of St Miquel de Cuixà, near the Canigó, the other, that of St Marcel, near the Puigmal.
The vitality of the legendary Pyrenean, investigated by Monsignor Jacint Verdaguer, recovered an extraordinary poetic material, which crystallized in his poem Canigó (1886) where many of the myths of Puigmal and Canigó appear: the abbot Oliba, the counts of Cerdanya, Núria, etc … Verdaguer and his poetry brought the pride of belonging to the Pyrenean community and the defense and updating of values that are not seen, not only as part of the past, but as a universal proposal present and future: the Pyrenees as a reference for peace, love of nature, solidarity and sensitivity, and now and today, as a space for the union of peoples who enjoy leisure and sport.

157 / 5.000 Resultats de traducció Today, we update these values on the paths that, in the past, passed by shepherds, flocks, soldiers and pilgrims to Núria, Coma de Vaca, Ulldeter and Rojà.

The great monasteries of Ripollès and Conflent
5 large Catalan monasteries with a great historical relationship with each other, surround the landscapes of the refuge Refugis del Torb, as if they offered protection to their hikers.
Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll

The monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll was founded at the end of the 9th century by Count Guifré el Pelós and his wife Guinedilda with the aim of repopulating the Ripoll valley. A few years later, it had become one of the most important cultural centers in medieval Europe. His library housed Mozarabic, Visigothic and medieval codices on liturgical, legal, musical, astronomical, geometric … In 1032, the abbot Oliba consecrated the new church of the monastery, in the Lombard Romanesque style, with a basilica floor plan with five naves crowned by seven apses. The building has suffered several setbacks over time, and was rebuilt in the late 19th century by Elies Rogent. The cover, from the 12th century and designed as a large triumphal arch, is the most important Romanesque piece. The cloister was started in the late 12th century and finished in the early 16th century. The monastery was the pantheon of the counts until 1162. Count Guifré el Pelós, Ramon Berenguer III and Ramon Berenguer IV, among others, are buried in it.

Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Also founded by Guifré el Pelós in the late ninth century to repopulate the valley, he left it under the responsibility of his daughter, Abbess Emma, and a community of nuns. In 1017, Abbess Ingilberga and the nuns were expelled for alleged moral misconduct and were branded “Venus whores.” But behind this denunciation were political motives: Bernat Tallaferro, count of Besalú, wanted to appropriate the monastery and its lands to create the bishopric of Besalú, and therefore, together with the abbot Oliba, both stepbrothers of Ingilberga, appeared in Rome to accuse the nuns. Centuries later, the legend of Count Arnau will be related to this historical fact. An Augustinian community settled in the monastery in the 12th century. In 1150 the church was consecrated, the current building, with a Latin cross plan, with a single nave, short and high. This type of architectural plan is rare in Catalonia and must be related to the French Romanesque and the great pilgrimage churches. In the central apse, we can see a descent from the cross, the Holy Mystery, from 1251, made up of seven figures that suggest the first Gothic features in the treatment of the faces, although the bodies are fully Romanesque.

Monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon

Founded by Guifré II, Count of Besalú, in the middle of the 10th century, today we can only see the church. The cloister was destroyed in 1460, and in the 17th century, the monastery was in such poor condition that the eight monks and the abbot had to live in private houses. During the 20th century, the monastic outbuildings were demolished and the church was restored. The church dates from the 12th century and has a Latin cross plan. Of note are the five rectangular apses, four of which are in the transept and do not differ from the outside. The bell tower, two storeys high above the dome, gives dynamism to the architectural ensemble. The great simplicity in the construction of the building and the little decoration we can find in it bring it closer to the Cistercian order, in which sobriety is elegance.

Monastery of Sant Miquel de Cuixà

Sant Miquel de Cuixà is a Benedictine monastery located at the foot of the Canigó, in the valley of the river Llitera or riverside of Taurinyà, in the municipality of Codalet, in Conflent. It was founded by Archpriest Protasi in 879. It was with the abbots Garí and Oliba that it became one of the most important spiritual and cultural centers in Catalonia in feudal times. It is the most interesting monument of pre-Romanesque or early Romanesque architecture. The current monastic complex is the result of three constructive moments: the temple consecrated in 974, the reforms and new constructions of the abbot Oliba during the first half of the 11th century, and the cloister corresponds to the time of the abbot Gregori. The Monastery of Sant Miquel de Cuixà has been chosen by popular vote as one of the Seven Wonders of the material cultural heritage of Catalonia.

Monastery of Sant Martí del Canigó

The abbey of Sant Martí del Canigó is located at an altitude of 1,094 m, behind a rocky outcrop of the Canigó massif, at the height of the small village of Castell de Vernet, in Conflent. It is around the year 997 (first mention of this abbey), on the initiative of Guifré II of Cerdanya, count of Cerdanya and Conflent and great grandson of Guifré el Pilós, that the construction works of the abbey are undertaken. of Sant Martí del Canigó in order to bring in a community of Benedictine monks. The first will come from the abbey of Sant Miquel de Cuixà, in Codalet, in El Conflent. The donations of the counts of Cerdanya quickly boosted the growth of the abbey, which became one of the main monasteries in the region, which rivaled that of Sant Miquel de Cuixà and Arles. The capitals of the cloister date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The earthquake of Catalonia in 1428 destroyed the monastery. The religious community abandoned it between 1783 and 1785. The abbey of Sant Martí del Canigó is a place where religious life is still maintained, governed by a Catholic community.

Refugis del Torb’s literature

We would like to mention here some books that we have a lot of love for, and that are somehow related to the spirit of Refugis del Torb. And they are because of their roots and connection to the territory, because they are geographically developed in these areas, and because they show the Catalan sociocultural unity on both sides of the border. We recommend that you read it while traveling.


“Canigó” by Jacint Verdaguer.

After L’Atlàntida (1877) and Idil·lis i Cants Místics (1879) and two volumes on the Montserrat theme (1880), Canigó’s publication (1885) meant the confirmation of Jacint Verdaguer’s poetic genius (Folgueroles 1845 – Vallvidrera 1902 ) and the culmination of our literary renaissance. Conceived as a romantic legend, Canigó has elements that allow a symbolist reading, within the context of the new poetry of the moment. Its mythical-patriotic component, and its exceptional linguistic and formal successes, make it an inescapable work of reference in contemporary Catalan literature.

“Memories of a Hiker” by Carles Bosch from La Trinxeria.

The Narratives of Memories – halfway between romanticism and realism, and with a strong customary component – are currently a read that can attract many readers, because it can be a book of excursions, a collection of customary stories, a source for find new itineraries, and much more. Pla i muntanya (1888), L’Hereu Noradell (1889), De ma collita (1890), Montalba (1891), L’Hereu Sobirà (1891), Tardanies (1892) and Lena (1894) are the works that, with Memories of a Hiker (1887) form the literary production of Carles Bosch de la Trinxeria. A production that sees the light at a key moment for the formation of models of modern Catalan literary prose.

“Pastoral”: text and photographs by Olivier Cazes, former guard responsible for the Merialles Refuge.

Very photographic book of the shepherds of the area of the Canigó Massif and surroundings, after long conversations in the summer mountains. Pyrenean images, drawings and fables, stories lived with shepherds, known or invented legends. All images are on display at the Merialles refuge.

If there are more books that seem worthy of being present in this section, we encourage you to comment on them through our social networks.