Catalan National Art Museum – Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
An Unsurpassed Collection of Romanesque Art
Housed in the imposing Palau Nacional (National Palace), the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya houses the world’s finest treasure trove of Romanesque and Gothic paintings, sculpture, and metalwork. More than twenty-five works have been transferred here from churches and monasteries in Catalonia and displayed in simple settings that re-create their original locations.
The sobriety of Romanesque churches often contrasted with the richness of the art within. Exhibited in sequential order, the master artworks offer a fascinating journey through the evolution of primitive Romanesque style to its zenith between the 11th and 13th centuries and the early stages of Gothic art that followed.
A highlight is the Pantocrator from the main apse of the Church of San Clemente de Taull, dating from 1123. Installation of these magnificent frescoes—which depict a majestic Christ holding a book with the Latin inscription “Ego sum lux mundi” (“I am the light of the world”)—was overseen by the director of the Sistine Chapel restoration.
The austere setting and overall effect here are no less powerful. Built for the 1929 World’s Fair and reopened in 1995 after a major renovation overseen by Milanese architect Gae Aulenti, the imitation Renaissance-Baroque National Palace is often referred to as the Prado of Romanesque art.