This is the interview with Manel Sales, Major of Renau in Camp de Tarragona Region, who opened and showed to us Loreto Hermitage, renovated by the villagers with the help of Josep Maria Jujol as an architect. Read here our full review about Renau.
We first learned about the existence of Loreto Hermitage (officially Ermita de la Mare de Déu de Loreto in the Catalan language) looking for information about Jujol, one of the best known Catalan modernist architects and the main collaborator of Gaudí in many of their most famous projects.
We came once to visit the hermitage but it was closed since there is not a schedule for visitors. But anyhow, we decided to visit Renau itself, a very small village. Manel Sales explained to us that there are actually about 80 real inhabitants living in the village regardless of the official population is about 160 inhabitants. Visiting the village, we saw the village hall and the door was open. We went inside to ask how to visit the hermitage and it came out that the Major himself would open it for us with an appointment.
Manel, the Major, was there sharp on time opening the hermitage for us on the date we agreed. He is a gentle, educated and smart man who dedicated part of his free Saturday afternoon to show his village heritage to a pair of stranger bloggers. He pointed the façade of the hermitage and started to explain directly in English its secrets for us.
Manel – when Jujol came here for the first time he said, “I want a window in this shape here, and I would like the Jujolian white and blue on the walls”. On the top there is the bell. Renau and Peralta were not the same municipality before. But they joined in the eighteenth century, so they could share their one single bell. On the right side, there is the house of the hermit. The house is part of the same building but Jujol wanted to give it a different shape. Actually, Jujol drew some structures of the Hermitage and he explained what to do to the villagers. He did not do anything by himself directly. The people of the village did the job as a popular renovation of the building, following the instructions of Josep Maria Jujol. Same with the paintings, he drew them and explained to Ramon Ferrer who did a great job with that.
BTO – Josep Maria Jujol is a famous character in the village and nearby? Are you proud of his legacy?
Manel – Yes, here he is very well known. In addition, Jujol’s son came here five years ago to explain the story and the origin of the “Jujolian” blue to the people. That was because the chorus of the church was in very bad condition. This is the upper part of the church, which is like a wooden balcony. The insects were literally eating it and the Department of Heritage of the Catalan Government paid a renovation. Consequently, this son of Jujol came when we re-inaugurated the hermitage. Join me to take a look inside!
(He opened the door and we asked if we could have more light to shoot a video. He said yes but carefully since some bats use the doorjamb as their house. And indeed, they were there some bats having a nap.)
BTO – Do you have any help to preserve Loreto Hermitage from any institution?
Manel – The building is the church’s property, belongs to them, but the administration paid for that recent renovation. The church and the village hall have a deal to allow the village hall to show and use the building on special dates. Upstairs, in the old house of the hermit, there is a space we can use for the same events and cultural activities.
BTO – Do you have any plan to promote Loreto Hermitage?
Manel – Yes, we promote it constantly on social media and we participate in the European Heritage Days and during this weekend the hermitage is open and everybody can visit it. Currently now, we don’t consider the option of opening more often for tourists.
BTO – So it will be for a while a hidden gem!
Manel – Actually yes, but as you see if you are interested in it you can visit it.
BTO – This is very true. Moreover, It has been a pleasure to visit the place with the major of Renau. Do you think we could take more advantage of Jujol heritage?
Manel – We thought about joining with other villages where there is Jujol heritage to make some routes for scholars or visitors in general. We have not big capacity to do things by ourselves but indeed Jujol deserves much more.