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Castell Monestir de Sant Miquel d'Escornalbou

relevance for the project

It is relevant for architectural and environmental issues and for touristic routes.


The monastic complex of Sant Miquel is located within the municipality of Riudecanyes (Baix Camp, Tarragona) and on the mountain of Escornalbou, situated in the eastern spur of Sierra de l’Armentera. Its construction is related to the donation made by King Alfonso el Castro to the canon Joan de Sant Boi in 1170 of the Andalusian origin castle located in this place with a fourfold mission: restore the fortress, repopulate the surrounding territory, build a church dedicated to St. Michael and establish an Augustinian canonical. Converted into the barony of Escornalbou, the canonical imposed its jurisdictional dominion over a vast territory, from which were collected the necessary censuses for its sustenance. Since the XIV century, the community entered a long period of turbulence, which affected both the maintenance of the buildings and the configuration of an increasingly small community, which in 1574 had just one canonic. Thus, at the time of the rise of the Franciscan reform in Europe, the bishop of Tarragona gave the place to the Franciscan Recollects first (1580) and later to the Observants (1686), who knew how to establish an enduring community in this place. Subsequently, the convent also became a Franciscan school specialised in the formation of missionaries: in this way, it survived until its exclaustration in 1835.
From the original monastic building, only a few structures have been well preserved: the Romanesque church of Sant Miquel and a part of the cloister, as well as the al chapter house, located in the east wing of the cloister and the sacristy, adjacent to the apse of the church. The characteristic red stoneware in all the buildings shows a constructive unity that we must date between the late XII century and the beginning of the XIII century. The monastic complex also has a set of caves and hermitages connected through the path known as the “walk of the friars”, which offered the monks both a physical and spiritual path, whose transit allowed them to develop an inner search, meditative and individual. This double spacial configuration - the main buildings and the caves or hermitages - is analogous to other Observant monasteries of medieval and modern times, such as the convents of San Francesco de Chelva (Valencia, Spain) or San Vivaldo (Tuscany, Italy). In the case of Sant Miquel d’Escornalbou, the path leads to the chapel of Santa Barbara, located at the highest point of the mountain, although its construction dates from the XIX century. All the characteristics of this monastery, in the framework of an exceptional place which establishes a direct dialogue with nature and the forest, are an excellent ally in the Observant will of spiritual isolation.
The current appearance of the monastery of Sant Miquel d’Escornalbou is due to the diplomat and egyptologist Eduard Toda (1855-1941), who invested a part of his fortune in buying this place. The monastery was, in fact, restored and transformed into a residence, gathering inside a rich library, furniture and other collections that are still partially preserved. The traces of the long process explained up to here have marked the composition of the current buildings. Nowadays is not easy to distinguish between medieval and modern stages and the events of the last contemporary centuries, including Toda’s restoration (or, rather, reconstruction). In the development of his project, the diplomat was moved more by his romantic fascination for the exoticism of the medieval world than by the intention to recover the shapes of the original buildings, turning the place into a fantasy castle and away from its medieval architectural structure. It was at this time that the church’s bell tower was destroyed, and the medieval cloister, which was in terrible condition, was dismantled piece by piece to be converted into a garden, and part of the construction was used as a spectacular overlooking to the countryside of Tarragona. Undoubtedly, this particular reconstructive process makes the historical and architectural analysis of the place extremely difficult. Since 1983, the complex of Escornalbou has been owned by the Diputació of Tarragona and the Generalitat de Catalunya, which manage the wealth of heritage of the place and allow the public to visit the monument.


Bolòs J., Puigferrat C., Gort E., Adell J., López D. (1995). “Sant Miquel d’Escornalbou”, Catalunya Romànica, vol. XXI. El Baix Camp. Barcelona, Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 240-249
Soler, M., Jornet, N., Garí, B. (2021). "Promover la observancia franciscana. Modelos reformistas en la Corona de Aragón entre la Edad Media y la Edad Moderna (siglos XIV-XVI)", International Congress: Political and Ecclesiastical Agents in the Reform(s) of the Religious Orders in Europe during the Late Middle Ages (Salamanca-Madrid, Universidad de Salamanca / Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 24-26 de noviembre de 2021)
Coll, Marca, F., Martí Mayor, J., Sánchez Gil, V., & Meseguer Fernández, J. (1981). Crónica de la provincia franciscana de Cataluña. Editorial Cisneros.
Costa, X. (2013). La implantació i evolució de l'Ordre Franciscà a la Corona d'Aragó (1220-1567)(Treball de fi de Grau, Universitat de Barcelona, Catalunya).
Cercador Inventari del Patrimoni Arquitectònic. Fitxa. (s. f.-d). invarquit.


Riudecanyes, Catalonia, Spain

0.91585, 41.12736


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