The Hungarian Queen of the Vallbona Abbey

About the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona

Vallbona Abbey, otherwise the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona (Catalan: Santa Maria de Vallbona de les Monges; Spanish: El Real Monasterio de Santa María de Vallbona), is a Cistercian nunnery in Vallbona de les Monges, in the comarca of Urgell, Catalonia, Spain.

Founded in the early 12th century, and built between then and the 14th century, it is one of the most important monastic sites in Catalonia. Its church represents an example of the transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The abbey was declared a national monument on 3 June 1931. Together with the monasteries of Poblet and of Santes Creus it forms part of the Cistercian Route.

The abbey’s library together with the scriptorium achieved great fame. Fourteen codices from the 13th century were copied and illustrated by the old nuns and are kept in the archive with numerous old documents of great interest for regional and national historiography. The pharmacy, which supplied all the villages of the barony, has surviving documentation from the 15th century.

The Hungarian Queen of Aragon

Violant of Hungary (Hungarian: Jolán; Catalan: Iolanda or Violant d’Hongria; Spanish: Yolanda or Violante de Hungría; c. 1215 – c. 1251) was the queen of Aragon from 1235 until 1251 as the second wife of King James I of Aragon. A member of the Hungarian House of Árpád, Queen Violant was a valuable and influential advisor of her husband. She remains in folk memory in Catalonia and Valencia. Violant was born at Esztergom circa 1215, the only child of King Andrew II of Hungary and his second wife, Yolanda of Courtenay. Violant married King James I of Aragon in 1235 and they had ten children.

Queen Violant was a woman of talent and character. Next to King James I, she had an important political role in the Crown of Aragon. She was one of the most valuable advisors of the king, on whom she had a strong influence. She intervened decisively in international agreements as important as the Treaty of Almizra with Castile (1244). It was signed with the condition that Zayyan ibn Mardanish surrender of the city of Valencia, into which she triumphantly entered with her husband on 9 October 1238.

Violant and her daughter Sança’s remains are at the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona. Violant chose burial in that monastery as she was a benefactor. Her tomb, placed along the wall on the right of the chancel, is fairly simple. It is raised on two pillars decorated with individual gold crosses inscribed in red circles and has a gabled lid of white stone. In the center of the lid is a cross with the same characteristics as those on the pillars, but larger and without color. The only ornamentations on the box itself are three depictions of her husband’s royal coat of arms – one on the visible side and one at each end.

The Queen’s remains were moved to the tomb in 1275, as indicated by the inscription on the visible side of the box: Fuit Translata Donna | Violán Regina | Aragonum | Anno 1275.

In 2002, the Hungarian government financed a restoration of her tomb, costing 12,000 euros, but the monastic community denied permission to study its interior. Violant is the only member of the Árpád dynasty whose remains are undisturbed.

Since the nineteenth century, streets have been dedicated to Queen Violant in Barcelona, Zaragoza, and other cities in the counties and kingdoms of the former Crown of Aragon. 9 October is the national day of the Valencian Community, which commemorates the Christian reconquest and the day on which James I and Violant entered the city. The celebration is known as the Mocadorada of Sant Dionís, since 9 October is the feast day of Saint Denis of Paris. Men typically give their partners a scarf (mocador) containing candied fruits and vegetables made of marzipan; these candies represent the fruits and vegetables that Valencian Muslims offered James and Violant when they entered the city, according to legend.

How to get to Vallbona de les Monges

  • From Zaragoza: on AP-2 it takes approx. 2 hours – 191 km
  • From Lleida: on A-2, it’s approx 1 hour – 52 km
  • From Barcelona: on A-2, it’s almost 2 hours – 131 km

Where to stay in Vallbona de les Monges

  • In the Monastery – you might be surprised, but indeed you can stay in the Monastery for a couple of days. Here you can find more information about the conditions.
  • Can Sulo – there are not a lot of options in Vallbona, and presently this is the only available accomodation on Booking. However, in the surroundings and neighbouring villages, you should also take a look!

What to visit around Vallbona de les Monges

The territory around Vallbona de les Monges has many things to offer. Together with the monasteries of Poblet and of Santes Creus it forms part of the Cistercian Route.

The Cistercian Route follows the GR175 Trail, a network of marked trails, along more than 105 kilometers of the circular route. Depending on whether you usually practice hiking, biking, or whether or not you go with children, the path can be adapted and done in more or fewer stages. In any case, it is essential to have good shoes, water to quench thirst, and some fruits to eat.

Besides that Vallbona is easily accessible from Zaragoza, and the wineries of the Penedés region are also welcoming you. Take a look at our below program selection in the territory!

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