You’ve seen Poblet and Vallbona de les Monges, leaving just one more monastery, Santes Creus, to visit. Unlike the other two, at Santa Creues (which is in the county of Alt Camp), there is no longer an active monastic community – indeed, it came to an end back in 1835. The fact that it is uninhabited, however, means that visitors can move more freely around the complex, while some parts of it have been converted into exhibition spaces, such as two rooms which provide an excellent audiovisual guide that takes you back to the early days of the monastery.
To get to the entrance of Santes Creus, you have to cross the long square of Sant Bernat Calbó, which has a 16th-century fountain dedicated to this saint. The buildings there are very interesting and a haven of peace, and you can wander around the Abbot’s Palace and enjoy its small cloister.
Once inside the monastery itself, the main cloister – a beautiful place with capitals that’s worth a close look – works as a point of access to the different parts of the building: the chapter-house, the kitchen, the dining room, the church (which retains some original windows from the 12th century, possibly the oldest remaining on the whole continent)... In Santes Creus, you can visit a second cloister, which is older and more humble, with a cemetery that has just one cross. This is because, despite the grandness of the buildings, the life of the monks was also austere, and if it wasn’t for the visits that kings sometimes made there, doubtless some elements (such as the previously mentioned capitals) would be much simpler. Talking of kings, in the church there are the remains of Pere II the Great and Jaume II the Just. The latter is accompanied by his wife, Blanca d’Anjou, while the former lies close to Admiral Roger de Llúria following the express wishes of the second man. The dormitory is also impressive, 46 metres long with diaphragmatic stone arches, which might remind you of Drassanes or Saló del Tinell in the Palau Reial Major, both in Barcelona. This is certainly a place worthy of seeing before you head home.