Monasterio de Obarra, Spain – Monastery in a valley

In the foothills of the Pyrenees near Roda de Isábena lies a Romanesque monastery. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Santa Maria), mountains surround it on all sides and you can only access it by hiking or through a small road that goes between Ballabriga and Bonansa. Because it is difficult to access, not many tourists visit it each year, making it a perfect place to get away from the masses!


The monastery dates back to the 11th century when Lombard masters began construction. The name Obarra comes from the Basque language and means a hole between rocks, which is an apt name for this small area next to the Ribagorza river, surrounded by high rocky cliff edges on almost all sides. The monastery is a classic example of the Lombard style, incorporating the numbers 3 (the trinity) and 7 (the holy spirit, eternity, the apocalypse) into many aspects of the monastery, such as three windows in the central aspe and seven windows in the three other aspes. The monastery also features blind arches. Although it was constructed for the Christian faith, it has Muslim and Arabic (Moorish) influences, which can be seen in the rhomboid cells in the central aspe.

I think what adds to the charm of the monastery is its natural surroundings. The monastery has an orchard (the trees in the image above are part of it); it is a great place to have a picnic! You can also enjoy the small river nearby. Take a dip into the icy cool waters. While we were there, there were several local families who were doing just that! You can access the monastery via a stone bridge. It fits perfectly with the surroundings, lending to the ambience of the location.

Here are some more photos of the area:

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