It stands at the bottom of a valley blocked by the La Croqueta gorge, at the foot of the western end of the Sis mountain range in the Pre-Pyrenees, in the town of Calvera in the municipality of Beranuy, in the region of La Ribagorza in Huesca. According to a late-Roman inscription from the first century A.D., there was a settlement in the area and although the origins of the Monastery of Santa María de Obarra are dated to the ninth century, some people attribute an earlier origin to it, perhaps Visigothic, there are two Visigothic capitals on the southern façade, in addition to the four that decorate the main altar and the baptismal font, which are estimated to be from the same period. During the 9th and 11th centuries it played an important role in the Ribagorzano county. With the death of Abbot Galindo, a period of decadence began and in the year 1076 the monastery, until then Benedictine, became a priory of the Cluniac Monastery of San Victorián. Nothing remains of the constructions prior to these centuries, as they were possibly razed to the ground by the son of Almanzor. The protection of the Barons of Espés in the 13th century and of the Mur de Pallars in the 16th century gave the monastery certain moments of fortune and importance that ended in the year 1571 when the bishopric of Barbastro was re-established, which caused the disappearance of the priory and a mortal decadence although the monastic life survived in the monastery until the 19th century.
With the disentailment it was abandoned and part of its vaults sank in 1872. Although it was declared a National Monument in 1931, its reconstruction did not begin until the 1960s. In order to reach the enclave of the monastic complex, the Isábena River must be saved. Previously, this was done via a Gothic bridge that persisted over time until a flood in 1963 completely destroyed it.
The bridge that is crossed today to reach such a magical and emblematic place is a replica of the previous one, and was built in 1978 a few hundred meters below the location of the primitive. Close to the river, an old flour mill, today a youth hostel, serves as a prelude to the countryside where the church of Santa María, the chapel of San Pablo and the prior's palace are located. The latter, in ruins, was ordered to be built by the prior Pedro Mur in the 16th century. The hermitage of San Pablo is from the 12th century and on its front there is a Trinitarian Chrismon, the hermitage was possibly used by the pilgrims and the caretakers of the monastery and before the reconstruction of the year 1978 it was used as a loom. The church of the old Monastery of Santa María de Obarra, dating from the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century, is of the primitive and initial Lombard Romanesque style and is one of the most relevant constructions, of this kind, of the Spanish patrimony. According to the monastery's information panels, the proportions and ornamentation of the church of Santa María de Obarra "was subjected to the so-called musical harmonies, the most widely used architectural proportional system in the High Middle Ages.
The numbers 3 and 7 are repeated throughout the temple and represent respectively the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit, the totality of time and the Apocalypse; three naves of seven sections with a relationship of width 2+3+2=7; three windows in the central apse and seven in the three apses... Other symbolic numbers in the building are 12, the apostles or judges of the final judgment, and 5, salvation. This numerical rigor is interpreted as a symbolism in which the Heavenly Jerusalem of the Holy Scriptures is represented in this church. In addition, the architecture of the temple is said to allow for astronomical observation while displaying a perpetual Christian calendar, marked by the entrance of moonlight through the central window of the apse, at the second autumn full moon, just 21 weeks before the Passover of the following year. Also in the months surrounding the summer solstice, a first ray of sunshine illuminates the altar and presbytery at the hour of Terce, when the monastic mass was celebrated". Inside the church, at the foot of the north nave, is Visigothic-style, the square baptismal font. And always vigilant and protective, in the centre of the main apse, is the image of a polychrome stone carving of the Virgin of Obarra from the 14th century which replaced a previous Romanesque one. The temple does not have a bell tower, as the one that was started only reached a height of three metres. The monastic complex and the enclave surrounded and guarded by high cliffs are sure to leave the visitor with a pleasant sensation.
The annual pilgrimage to the monastery of Santa María de Obarra on August 15 is traditional.
The church of Santa María de Obarra is also dedicated to San Pedro, San Esteban and the Holy Cross.
Legend has it that many, many centuries ago, when the Barons of Espés ruled over these lands, one of them fell in love with a young novice from the monastery of Obarra and began to lavish her and the monastery with gifts and perks. This situation was not to the liking of either the novice or the friars, much less the local people, who were also suffering in their flesh from the tyranny of the Baron. One day, the young man went out to hunt, as usual, with the intention of approaching the monastery. While he was in the mountains, a witch from Turbon approached him to warn him that if he persisted in trying to make the nun his wife, he would pay dearly. But he ignored her warning and continued his journey into the ravine. That night the Baron did not return to his palace, and when they went out to look for him the next day they found him dead, surrounded by stones thrown at him from somewhere, and three large dogs torn to pieces beside him. It was never known who the author of the crime was, but the legend began to spread. Were the Turbon witches?
To get to the Monastery of Santa María de Obarra, we must follow the A-1605 road that goes up the Isabéna River from Graus to the monastery. This same road but in the opposite direction joins the monastery with the N-260 in the section coming from Castejón de Sos shortly before this national road joins the one going up from Lérida towards France.
The Monastery of Santa María de Obarra is on the opposite side of the river from where we are travelling, so we will have to park our vehicle in the parking area set up for this purpose next to the road and descend to the monastery on foot following the path that connects it to the road.
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