Histories and secrets of Penyafort Castle

* The authors are part of the community of La Vanguardia readers.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
21 September 2023 Thursday 16:57
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Histories and secrets of Penyafort Castle

* The authors are part of the community of La Vanguardia readers

At the foot of the Foix Park stands one of the most emblematic heritage sites of Alt Penedès, portrayed in this report in La Vanguardia's Readers' Photos. With almost ten centuries of existence, the architectural complex of the Castell de Penyafort testifies to the evolution of a territory that concentrates, on a local scale, some of the most transcendental events in the history of Catalonia.

This convent was established on the site of the old fortified house or castle of Penyafort, with a round tower and medieval walls. It was the house of the lords of Penyafort and, according to tradition, the famous Dominican ecclesiastic Ramon de Penyafort was born here around 1185.

It is known that in 1405 it was semi-destroyed and that, at the beginning of the 17th century, the place was property of the Espuny family. Martí Joan de Espuny and his wife gave it to the Dominicans and in 1601 Brother Pere Joan Guasch obtained authorization to build a chapel in honor of the saint who had been canonized at that time.

A few months later, permission was requested to build a convent and, in 1603, it was inaugurated with the arrival of the friars from Santa Caterina in Barcelona. The Dominicans built a new church and conventual buildings.

It was an establishment with a very small community, which survived until exclaustration. Later it passed into the hands of different individuals, during the civil war it was used as a republican prison.

The oldest part of the architectural complex of Penyafort Castle is a circular tower, probably before the 12th century, partially surrounded by several chambers arranged in a semicircle.

It is the remains of the birthplace of Raimon de Peñafort (1185-1275) and is a small fortification that depended on the Castle of Olèrdola.

Its interior preserves some quite interesting mural paintings, and a Gothic groin vault with a keystone that shows the Espuny coat of arms.

In addition to this medieval tower, the complex includes several buildings, arranged in a U shape and built from 1602, becoming a Dominican convent, with a church with a single nave, 30 meters long by 9 meters wide with side chapels, and two rectangular wings, with the ground floor intended for agricultural uses and the upper floor for residential spaces.

In the 12th century, there is already talk of Torre de Peñafort, which would show us the presence of this family. In fact, around 1185, the boy Raimon, son of Pere Ramon and Saurina, was born in what was first a tower and then a castle in Peñafort.

Raimon de Penyafort, of natione cathalanus according to the Vita Antiqua, received a careful humanistic training in Barcelona.

Between 1210 and 1218 he was part of a group of young Catalans who were studying jurisprudence in Bologna (Italy). He finished his stay with the degree of Doctor in decretis Bononiae. Around 1222, his life took an unexpected turn. He entered the order of preaching friars. He knew them from Bologna, where he was able to meet and treat the founder himself, Saint Dominic de Guzmán.

It seems that, from the documentation consulted, the lords of Penyafort will continue to be the owners of the castle until the middle of the 14th century. In fact, in 1337 there is still talk of the domum nostram dicta of Penaforti, whose owner was Bernat de Penyafort, grandson of Pere de Penyafort.

In 1356, Arnau de Montoliu, the last descendant of the Peñafort family, sold the house then called "Bella Vista" to Pedro de Crebeyno.

From then on the castle would pass through several hands, until in 1586 the same Provincial Council of the General of Catalonia took away their properties from Pere and Pau Riu (possibly due to debts).

In 1601 the Espuny family of Vilafranca del Penedès, and specifically, Martí Joan de Espuny de Argençola, bought it at a public auction, going on to be called since then Señor de Peñafort y de Pacs.

Currently, the monastery of Sant Raimon Penyafort is public property of the City Council of Santa Margarida i Monjos, being in the process of rehabilitation.