Situated on a gentle slope amongst the vineyards an hour and a half by car to the west of Barcelona is the Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet. Poblet Monastery is one of the largest and most complete Cistercian abbeys in the world. Inside its fortified walls are a royal residence, a church, and the burial tombs of the kings and queens of Catalonia and Aragon. Indeed Peter IV of Aragon made it a condition, confirmed under oath at the moment of crowning, that all the Aragonese kings be buried at Poblet. Only Ferdinand II of Aragon broke the oath.
Cistercian monks from France founded the Poblet Monastery in the 12th Century on lands conquered from the Moors. Between the 12th to 15th centuries the abbey complex was constructed. Together with three nearby sister abbeys, the Poblet Monastery helped consolidate power in Catalonia in the 12th century.
Today the Poblet Monastery, after ruin and repair, sits in a quite spot at the feet of the Prades Mountains. As with the other Cistercian abbeys we’ve visited, Poblet is simple and basic on the inside. Well buffered from the rest of the world, Poblet is peaceful. In this sense Poblet is much like the rural Cistercian abbeys at Pontigny and Fontenay. But unlike Pontigny and Fontenay, the Poblet Monastery is still active. The 29 monks who live and work at Poblet co-exist with the sightseers who make the effort to reach the monastery.
Poblet Monastery was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1991.