Dedicated to San Vicente and San Valero, it is located in the village of Roda de Isábena which is situated on a vantage point overlooking a large part of the course of the Isábena River in the province of Huesca and which was once the political and religious capital of the county of Ribagorza. The name of Roda seems to derive from Arobda, which means advanced sentry, so it is assumed, given its location at the top of a hill, that the village itself was a guard post. The beginning of the history of the Cathedral of Roda de Isábena takes us back to the 9th century when Bishop Sisebuto consecrated the church in 819, but it was with Count Ramon II, who strove for the county house to have its own diocese, that it acquired the rank of cathedral in the 10th century, its first bishop being Odysseus, son of Count Ramon II. In August 1006, Abd-al-Malik, son of Almanzor, destroyed this first cathedral church which was rebuilt and consecrated in 1030. In the 12th century, Ramon Berenguer IV, who was Count of Barcelona and Prince of Aragon, after reconquering Lerida from the Muslims, moved the Episcopal see that had been in Roda-Barbastro to that city.
The cathedral of Roda de Isábena, which began to be built in Romanesque Lombard style, has suffered numerous ups and downs throughout its history; destroyed, rebuilt, reformed and plundered, it has been a National Historical Monument since 1927. The cathedral stands on the remains of a castle. The first construction could also have been the castle's chapel of which some remains are preserved in the chapel of San Agustín which is found together with the cloister on the north side of the cathedral; as you walk around this beautiful cloister, its columns with historic capitals and funerary inscriptions are striking, being the most important in Europe as far as these types of inscriptions are concerned; the chapel of San Agustín shows the remains of the Romanesque mural paintings that decorated it in its time. From the square where the cathedral is located, you can admire the doorway that was built in the 13th century, but it was many centuries later, in the 18th century, when the portico was built to cover it and the current tower that, on Romanesque foundations, houses seven bells each with its own name: Santa María del Pilar, San Miguel, Santa María, Santa Bárbara, María Vicenta, María Ramona and a last one that was cast in 1997.
Inside the church, what is surprising is the different levels it has; almost at the same level as the central nave, a large open crypt, the one of San Ramón that keeps his sarcophagus, and above it the High Altar. Another two crypts, one, under the sacristy, called the Treasure Room or Archive, where the remains of San Valero rest in a sixteenth-century enameled chest, is a small Sistine Chapel of Romanesque art. In one of its friezes you can see an agricultural calendar in which each month of the year is represented by a character performing some task in keeping with the theme. The other crypt, located on the south side, is much simpler and smaller than the other two. Walking around the contours of the cathedral we find the base of the castle of Roda or "Torre Gorda" from the 11th century and the palace of the Prior from the 16th century, although the whole village itself is a real treasure trove of narrow streets and cobbled full of mansions, towers and viewpoints. This historical complex is considered a Site of Cultural Interest.
The parish church of San Vicente and San Valero, the cathedral of Roda de Isábena, although it lost its status as an Episcopal see, continued to retain its cathedral title and being known as such, the oldest version of the so-called Chronicle of Alfonso III, known as the Rotense Chronicle, was apparently written in the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla between the 10th and 11th centuries.
Shortly before reaching Roda de Isábena, a sign on the road indicates access to the Romanesque bridge, which has a single eye and a semicircular span, and which resists the passage of time over the Isábena River. The width of the bridge selects the passage to only pedestrians, two-wheeled vehicles and cavalry and standing on top of its arch itself is already quite an experience.
On December 7, 1979 the inhabitants of Roda de Isábena had a sad awakening. The light of the day left them with the news that that morning Erick "The Belgian" had perpetrated the theft of valuable pieces of art that were kept in the temple, among them the chair of San Ramon from the 9th century that was chopped up and from which some fragments could be recovered or the enamels from Limoges that decorate the casket of San Valero and that some were also recovered. As a curious note, San Valero was a stutterer and the deacon Vicente was in charge of transmitting and expressing what he wanted to say. Many centuries later, popular devotion still keeps them together.
We arrive at Roda de Isábena by following the A-1605 road that goes up the Isábena River from Graus until it joins the N-260 from Castejón de Sos, shortly before it reaches the junction with the N-230 that links Lérida with the Aran Valley. We also have the possibility to access from Campo in the middle of the N-260 through a beautiful mountain road.
Vehicle access to the town of Roda de Isábena is restricted, so once we have travelled the short stretch of road up to the town from the A-1605, we will have to park ours in the large car park set up for this purpose just at the entrance to Roda de Isábena and from there walk to the cathedral.
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