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Fifty works of Romanesque and Gothic Art from the Alt Urgell County are exhibited in the National Art Museum of Catalonia

The National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) has the greatest collection of Romanesque Art of the world. Highlights from the Alt Urgell series include the altarpiece of St. Michael and St. Peter.

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01 September 2011 11:44 PM

by

ACN / Ferran Garcia

La Seu d'Urgell (ACN) .- Fifty Romanesque and Gothic works of art from Alt Urgell County (in the Catalan Pyrenees) are to be displayed in the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC). The MNAC has the greatest collection of Romanesque Art of the world. The head of the Department of Activities of the MNAC, Damià Martínez, explained in a conference in La Seu that the new artefacts, despite only forming a small part of the museums collection, which has over 250,000 pieces, it is of great importance. The Altar Frontal of the Apostles of La Seu d\u2019Urgell\u2019s Cathedral\u2019s and the Gothic altarpiece of St. Michael and St. Peter are of particular historical interest. Martínez also reviewed the history of the MNAC and explained the origins of their collections.


"The Altar Frontal of La Seu, or the Altar Frontal of the Apostles, is a painting on wood and it is one of the most important works of Romanesque Art," said Martínez. It dates back to the second half of the twelfth century. From the entire works of Bernat Despuig and Jaume Cirera, master craftsmen of Gothic altarpieces, the MNAC previously held a collection of seven altars. To add to this, the Spanish Ministry of Culture recently bought the remaining nine tables from a private collection in Belgium. Martínez said that the latest addition to the Museum\u2019s exhibition "is the largest altarpiece in size of the MNAC, the only missing part of the altar is in a museum in Mexico and it will be very difficult to recover."

The MNAC collection

The museum has 250,000 works from all disciplines of which there are some 4,000 works on display. The head of the Department of Activities of the MNAC explained that one of the most important painting  is \u2018The dispute and arrest of St. Catherine\u2019. "The MNAC has acquired, not long ago, the painting that has now joined the permanent collection," says Martínez. This work, from the chapel of St. Catherine's Cathedral in La Seu, came with two other paintings, one from the Episcopal Museum of Vic and the other from a private collection in Switzerland.

Martínez explained that these works are now in the museum because of the interest of Catalan civil society, in particular thanks to the efforts by the Museum Board of Barcelona. Historically, due to the theft and sale of paintings and other artefacts from isolated churches in the Pyrenees, many pieces of Catalan heritage ended in the hands of private collectors both here and abroad.  At the beginning of last century a process of recovery began to return this inheritance to Catalonia and bring it into Barcelona. This prevented the theft of the most attractive pieces and their sale in antique markets.

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  • The Altar Frontal of the Apostles, from La Seu d'Urgell (by MNAC)

  • The church of Sant Climent at Coll de Nargó (by F. Garcia)

  • The Altar Frontal of the Apostles, from La Seu d'Urgell (by MNAC)
  • The church of Sant Climent at Coll de Nargó (by F. Garcia)