Penyafort castle

At the foot of Parc del Foix, stands one of the most emblematic heritage enclaves of Alt Penedès.

Penyafort castle

On the edge of Foix Park stands one of the most emblematic heritage enclaves of the Alt Penedès. Almost ten centuries old, the architectural ensemble of Penyafort Castle bears witness to the evolution of a territory that, on a local scale, concentrates some of the most significant events in the History of Catalonia.

Since 2002, its structures have been the property of Santa Margarida i els Monjos Town Council, who began a process to restore and consolidate the complex, currently in force, and which day after day preserves and disseminates a valuable cultural legacy.


The oldest part of the Penyafort Castle architectural complex is a circular tower, probably dating from the 12th century, partially surrounded by several chambers arranged in a semicircle. These are the remains of the birthplace of Raymond of Penyafort (1185-1275), and is a small fortification that reported to Olèrdola Castle. Its interior preserves some interesting mural paintings, and a Gothic groin vault with a keystone displaying the coat of arms of the Espunys, lords of the castle in the latter parts of the Middle Ages and promoters of the subsequent building of the convent.

In addition to this medieval tower, the complex comprises several buildings, arranged in a U-shape and built as of 1602, becoming a Dominican convent, with a single nave church, 30 metres long by 9 wide with side chapels, and two rectangular wings, the ground floor used for agricultural purposes and upper floor for residential use.

The upper floor occupies the front and side of the building. Some quarters are located within the medieval tower building, which communicates with the heart of the church. There is a space given over to the kitchen, bathrooms, a large dining room 22 m in length and a total of sixteen bedrooms, all exterior, measuring between 15 and 22 square metres, covered by lowered Catalan vaults.

The complex is complemented by an attic over the entire residential area, and a large bay window, measuring 11 x 8 metres with arches on all four sides, offering magnificent views over the Penedès plain.

Saint Raymond of Penyafort, son of Penyafort Castle

Raymond of Penyafort was born in what today is Penyafort Castle in around 1185. He soon left for Barcelona, where at the age of twenty he became a professor of philosophy. In 1210 he moved to the Italian city of Bologna, where he received his doctorate in civil and canon law in 1216, and where he also taught. He returned to Barcelona and in 1221 joined the Dominican order.

He was the compiler of the first guide for moralists in the history of the church, the Summa de casibus poenitentialibus (Summary Concerning the Cases of Penance), which was highly influential on the development of the medieval penitential system. He was confessor to king James I and preached in the crusade against Arabs, Jews and heretics. In 1230, Pope Gregory IX appointed him as his confessor and charged him with compiling all papal and council decrees. This work resulted the Decretals, which were considered a basic compilation of canon law, in force until 1917, hence he is the patron of jurists, lawyers and law faculties.

In 1238 he was elected master of the Dominican order, and reformed its constitutions. He dedicated the final years of his long life to conversions, helping to establish the Holy Inquisition in Catalonia. He preached at the crusades against the Saracens, and encouraged Thomas Aquinas to write his work Summa contra gentiles.

He died on 6 January 1275 and was canonized in 1601 by Pope Clement VIII.

Transfretation of Saint Raymond of Penyafort.
Work by Ricard Clausells. 1901

Barcelona. Private collection


Penyafort Castle. The permanence of an ideal
Local historian Joan Torrents i Sivill published the following article on the history of Penyafort Castle and its origins in issue no. 50 of the journal Antistiana, published by the Grup d’Estudis Rapitencs (Ràpita Studies Group) in July 2006.
1.- Penyafort Castle.
We situate ourselves in the early tenth century. In our districts, at that time, the area of Muslim domination was shrinking, while the Christian population was expanding. It was the peasants who featured in the spontaneous colonization of areas that the Christians did not control, where there were few inhabitants who grouped into islets located a short distance from other islets of Muslim population. Colonists, who seeking refuge in caverns and in highland settlements, would be located in different mountainous areas, like Olèrdola itself. Thus in 911 it is already mentioned as ‘urbs Olerdulae’. Olèrdola would become the expression of the Christian presence in opposition to our Islamic Ràpita, as too would Castellví de la Marca in relation to la Múnia.

Border lands that would soon be the target of the noble elites. Olèrdola, set in a privileged strategic location to control and defend the territory, experienced the coming of more men and women, the farming of land as part of a policy of colonization driven by the counts of Barcelona. It is for this reason that the son of Guifré el Pelós (Wilfred the Hairy), Borrell I of Barcelona, crossed the Llobregat river and reached the Ordal mountains. Subsequently, Sunyer, his brother and successor, decided to advance further south, to the Penedès. Thus, around 929-930, the castle of Olèrdola was erected, confirming the dominance of a strategic position from which to command over a territory of 250 square kilometres – the largest of the County of Barcelona demarcation – and the highest population density in the land, at least until the eleventh century.

Now there was no going back, despite the razzias by one and the other side, the command over those lands would pass definitively into the hands of the county of Barcelona. Thus, although they were devastated during the great expedition of al-Mansur in 985, Olèrdola was quickly reoccupied and reorganized, and in 991 a larger church than the previous one was consecrated. The permanent presence of the Saracens came to its end.

Likewise, a series of small castles was configured, formed by a tower and a stable house, like in Moja (mentioned in 981), Canyelles (992), and Penyafort (possibly built in the eleventh century), whose purpose was to act as advanced positions to prevent attacks on the castle of Olèrdola and also to create nuclei to protect against colonizers. Castellans or officers were appointed at the head of each of them. After the death of Mir Geribert (who had come to proclaim himself Prince of Olèrdola), and above all, with the progress of repopulation, at the beginning of the twelfth century, they became independent, and especially when between 1107 and 1108 there was one of the last Almoravit incursions, which devastated the Penedès as far as the castle of Gelida and led to the renewed destruction of the castle of Olèrdola. Even count Ramon Berenguer III granted privileges and freedoms to all those who settled within the territory of the castle of Olèrdola.

In the 12th century, Penyafort tower was already cited, thus revealing the presence of this family. In fact, towards 1185, in what was first a tower and later Penyafort Castle, the child Raymond, son of Pere Ramon i Saurina, was born.

Raymond of Penyafort, de natione cathalanus, according to the Vita Antiqua, received meticulous training in the humanities, in Barcelona. Between 1210 and 1218 he belonged to a group of young Catalans reading jurisprudence in Bologna (Italy). He finished his stay there obtaining the degree of Doctor in decretis Bononiae. Around 1222, his life took an unexpected turn. He entered the order of the Friars Preachers. He knew about them from Bologna, where he was able to meet and deal with the founder himself, saint Dominic de Guzmán.

In 1229, obeying a commission by the pope, he preached the crusade against the Muslims for the conquest of Mallorca as Master of the Dominicans (1239-1240); retired again to his convent, he was counsellor to King James I and intervened in the country’s ecclesiastical affairs. From this last stage, a legend has reached us today that gained great popularity. It alludes to the miraculous journey by saint Raymond from the port of Sòller, in Mallorca, to the port of Barcelona. Summoned by the king, he had accompanied him to the island on one of his voyages, but on the condition that the sovereign rejected the state of adultery in which he was living. The king made a promise to do so, but did not keep it. Friar Raymond could not accept this and chose to return to his convent. The king, however, forbade the returning ship to allow him to embark. Saint Raymond entrusted himself to God, threw his cloak into the sea and jumped onto it, and in that mysterious boat he reached Barcelona in a matter of hours.

Raymond of Penyafort died on 6 January 1275. His funerals were presided over by the kings of Catalonia-Aragon and Castile, accompanied by several royal offspring, many bishops, numerous clergy and a large crowd of inhabitants of Barcelona.

It seems that according to the documentation consulted, the lords of Penyafort would continue to be the masters of the castle until the middle of the fourteenth century. In fact, in 1337 there is still mention of the domum nostram dicta de Penaforti, whose owner was Bernat of Penyafort, grandson of Pere of Penyafort. In 1356, Arnau de Montoliu, the last descendant of the Penyafort family, sold the house then called “Bella Vista” to Pere de Crebeyno. From then on, the castle passed through several hands, until in 1586 the Diputació del General de Catalunya took the properties (possibly to cover debts) from Pere and Pau Riu. In 1601, the Espuny family of Vilafranca del Penedès, more specifically Martí Joan d’Espuny d’Argençola, bought it at a public auction, thenafter being known as lord of Penyafort and of Pacs.

2.- The foundation of the convent of Saint Raymond of Penyafort
1601 was also the year of the canonization of Saint Raymond of Penyafort. And this was to be an essential element that would bring about the foundation of the convent by father Pere Joan Guasch, there where the saint’s house had been: “On a very high, steep-sloped cliff, at the foot of which said stream passes, was located Saint Raymond ‘s parents house; but due to the ravages of time only a tall, thick-walled tower appeared, placed in the middle of different enclosures that when opening the foundations of the convent bore obvious signs of the greatness of the house; because it was clear to see that it was not just a country house, but a fortress against the Turks who occupied the plains, the tower serving as a watchtower to prevent their approaches and give notice to the inhabitants of the surrounding mountains…”.

Canonization signed by pope Clement VIII on 29 April 1601, but recognition of which had been requested since shortly after his death and now under the protection of the Counter-Reformation was finally accomplished. “It seems evident that at the grassroots level the news had been long awaited, as attested by the numerous poetic productions directly related to the brotherhoods, especially the brotherhood of the Rosary”.

“On 24 May there were celebrations in Barcelona in honour of Saint Raymond, especially a solemn procession attended by all of the bishops of Catalonia, all the rectors of the bishopric of Barcelona following orders of the bishop called in robes, all the religions of the city, all the musicians and minstrels of Catalonia with troubadours placed on platforms along the route of the procession, all the people of the city and many from Catalonia… there were all the people of Catalonia”.

Also “the people of Vilafranca responded with splendid festivities and a procession to Penyafort Castle”. The faithful who, having arrived at the tower of Saint Raymond, celebrated mass in a “wooden church with a roof as big as ours, inside which they found a very ornate altar, with lots of silver and illuminations. And said church adorned in silk and satin cloths, and outside with poles, on which they had placed a large cover, and with chairs and many benches to sit the priests and the gentlemen of officers and jurors. Noting that all these things were carried out by order of Mr. Martí Joan Despuny, and with his monies and at his own expense father Pau Roig, of the present town, as attorney to said gentleman so did: As he also had bridges made over the irrigation channels”.

The repercussions on the one hand led Martí Joan d’Espuny to request permission to build a stone chapel and on the other led father Pere Joan Guasch, born in Vilafranca in 1553 and prior of the Dominican convent of Puigcerdà, to wish to erect a convent at the birth house of Saint Raymond of Penyafort, and so he tells him: “that said Chapel that he wishes to build in Penyafort should be well capacitated and great, because let it be known that it is to be a convent of the friars of Saint Dominic. And do not doubt this whatsoever, and remember in which place I tell you; Father fr. Guasch, answered him, our Lord can change my mind, but for now I wish just to build a chapel in that place”.

This initial conversation was followed by others, both private and in meetings of the community of Saint Catherine, and finally an agreement was reached with Martí Joan d’Espuny (it seems with the intercession of his wife, Agnès Espuny i d’Alemany) who granted it to them under certain conditions: first, that Espuny “should give us some sites to build some buildings, as a Church, and cells to house the brothers (…)”. Secondly, that the Espunys, they and their descendants should participate in the activities carried out in the convent: masses, prayers, penances, etc. “to serve them to redeem their punishments, that they might suffer in purgatory”. Thirdly, that “being that house and place of Penyafort so yours as we know; we promise to perpetually recognize you as being the legitimate founder and successively your heirs, offering main mass perpetually for their souls and the preservation of their state (…)”. The fourth point determines that “as there is much reason for there to be perpetual memory of the first founders, we would be particularly happy, that the most visible places should display the arms of the house of Espuny, and together choose the place, that you consider best for the tomb of your descendants”.

Thus, after some difficulties that are inherent in all affairs of some significance. “On 3 January (1603) father Guasch and Vicenç Ferrer departed from the present convent of Saint Catherine “to found and establish convent and monastery in the old house and first family home, which is known as that of saint Raymond of penya fort between Vilafranca del Panadés and the town of Arbós in the parish of Sa Margarida of the present bishopric of Barcelona”.

After a somewhat difficult journey, given the communication difficulties of the time, they reached their destination “taking only the old walls, and a pigeon loft and tower almost demolished without provision of axarxia (earth) to make dwellings but total poverty” for the purpose of building modest rooms and get the necessary land for the emplacement of the new convent.

It was the month of January 1603 and in February, the snow covered the Penedès. This can happen a few times every century, “people were shut in their houses, to pass through the streets and roads they cut paths with shovels, and it was icy cold and the snow froze, something never heard of nor seen by neither the old nor the young of these parts… the snow and frost killed off much wheat and livestock in Sagarra and Urgell, and in Sant Joan and Llacuna the harvest was poor (…), in the Panades of two of three parts has been saved, a sufficient harvest”.

The attempt to found a convent in Penyafort did not please the rector of Santa Margarida, Maties Papiol who, believing that his interests and parish rights were affected, put every hindrance in place, such as preventing them access to the wooden chapel. The situation degenerated until one day, letting himself get carried away by his temper, he sparked it off with Father Guasch: “When ceasing to give mass while the latter was kneeling before the altar, he entered with the devil’s rage, and when he stood up in view of the many people present, he gave him such a sharp punch in the face that he then numbed his jaw, leaving him tame, as he refers”.

This situation simmered for a time, until an agreement was reached on March 10, 1603: “Thus as the Rector had executed the most fearful atrocity of the temporary punishment that was dawning, that of God whom so gravely he had offended, he departed for Barcelona concealing the happenings that were not known there… he agreed with Prior and convent which promised to give sixty payable respectfully for the day of Saint Raymond, for the hand-kiss; and when someone was buried in the convent if from the parish, he was given half of his duties on the day of the burial but of the other less important days, after a year they would not have to give him anything, but if from outside the parish the deceased only for the day of burial they would give him one quarter part, nothing the other days”. Payments that would continue later: “… the amount of six pounds … paid by… the convent of Saint Raymond to the Rector of Sta. Margarida by virtue of concord between the convent and the Rt. Rector of Sta. Margarida pays … for 1707 …”.

Once the agreement was finalized, on 29 April 1603, Martí Joan d‘Espuny made a donation of the tower and annexed quarters to the Dominicans. “After the concord had been signed… Mr. Espuny in his letter then made the donation of the site and tower… By virtue of which they took entire possession of the site and so forth to start building on the second anniversary of the solemn canonization of Father Saint Raymond”.

3.- The building of the convent
Once the conflicts were over, the friars prepared to carry out their work, so they adapted the enclosure to their needs and the first thing they did was to build the stone chapel and some annexed quarters. The chapel occupied the space that today houses the entrance hall to the convent, and in the construction of which we can observe some architectural characteristics corresponding to the late Gothic period. Given the date on the inscription of the slab of the entrance to the enclosure it seems that it would have been finished in 1613.

That same year Fr. Pere Joan Guasch died: “Today, Thursday 4 of the present month of September, the nou lliçons de morts was solemnly sung with the body present, the requiem mass for said father was given by the prior. And we had already rigged a high tumulus with the insignia of master and with six altar candles. And half-way through mass Pe Pntat Fr. Hypolit Barber preached the very particular things. The attendance by the people is a wonderful thing. And having said mass and sung, a general absolution was held at said tumulus that was in the heart of the Church over the grave of the brothers”.

The construction of a passage around the tower may correspond to this period, in order to protect some stones where there was an inscription about Saint Raymond, as expressed by an Aragonese Dominican friar who must have visited the convent, we calculate, at the beginning of the eighteenth century: “On the walls of said tower are some large stones, sculpted but worn, partly thanks to the ravages of time and partly to the devotion of the faithful, who had the great fortune to be able to take away a small part of them, like a shell that had enclosed the pearl of Raymond, to experience that in their powders they achieve the effects of becoming healthy from their ills (…) [as] they achieve with those of their Holy Sepulchre of Barcelona. So there was a need to surround it from outside by a fence, 12 spans wide, with an entrance through the sacristy, so that no one without the assistance of the brothers could approach it. One enters the hollow of the tower through the presbytery of the old church which today serves as a porch, there is a most curious altar, that sets the heart of the devout on fire, of those who pass through the door to visit him”. In fact, this miraculous nature of the stones was also attributed to the water, which was considered capable of curing fevers, for this reason it was given profusely to everyone who asked for it. Many people came in search of it.

In 1641, the murals that can be seen (in poor condition and pending restoration) were painted on the western wall of the old sacristy, where father Pere Joan Guasch, the founder of the Dominican order, Saint Dominic de Guzmán, and Saint Reynard are represented. It is also said that there were some paintings there that are now no longer there in which “the education of the Saint is depicted, no doubt put there by the brothers, in memory of the foundation of the convent; whence the tradition of its inhabitants has emerged, that as something so unique, although 328 years had passed since the death of the saint until that day, the agreement passed from one to another”.

Once the part that Espuny ceded to them was arranged, there was a need for more land and since this was not possible on the north side as there was the ravine and the river, nor on the eastern side, where there was the road, it was only “southwards and westwards that there was land able to house a large edification, the servant of God was not discouraged from achieving it. It was the house of a farmer further into the mountains, Pedro Soler of ‘white houses’, as it is now called, he was made to understand the need of some of those lands to build the convent, to which he would not bend, no matter how much they begged him; then both the Lord and father Saint Raymond entered his heart, that not only did he give what land they asked him for with a duty as tenuous as two ‘sueldos’ and two measures of oats, and he would even have given them his inheritance if they had wanted or been necessitated of it” the convent “there where the Saint had been born, there he was venerated by the brothers of the same order and the devout from all over the county”. In other words, the peasant must have had little desire to sell, but in the end he felt forced to.

It was from the establishment of this duty that the construction of the new church and that of the cellar began: “With this extension, the lines were drawn to create a great convent like the Prior said it should be, and this can be seen; because for one hundred and one years it has only been upkept thanks to the alms of the faithful, however work has progressed with two very good bedrooms, an extensive garden, the new church built and completed at the expense of general master Ripol, who donated to complete said church 1,400 pounds in the currency of Barcelona, Nº Rmo seeing that the devout were unable to attend due to the times being of such misery; it is still admirable that by begging with the saddlebag enough is found to support the brothers it maintains; and lately Nº Rmo Gl. has been worthy enough to build the sacristy, who last year, 1732, gave 400 pounds in Barcelona currency to build the sacristy of said convent, as the devotees were so incapacitated. And also the Rmo has made a large painting of Saint Raymond, which today serves as the High altar”.

By 1724, the northern wing of the convent had been completed as reflected by the lintel over the door that leads out to the garden and orchard, which bears the date and the name of F. Crisòstom Soler.

It seems that the works to build the new church would have been completed by 1730, as expressed by the lintel of the current access door, thanks to the financial contribution by father Tomàs Ripoll, general master of the order between 1725 and 1747 (previously he was prior of Saint Catherine -1698 to 1723- and was in contact, repeatedly, with the friars of our convent of Saint Raymond, according to Cayetano Barraquer). Between 1732 and 1733, the sacristy of the new temple was built on the east side of the presbytery, also as a donation by father Ripoll, as well as the large painting of Saint Raymond that presided over the high altar. The end is marked by the definitive resting place of father Guasch who, despite his body having been transferred to the new church in 1697, it was not until “24 May 1739 […] the licence had been sent from Rome so that the Box could be transferred to where his body is. Fr. Pere Joan Guasch where the Old Church to the New; if it seemed to them timely, said transferral would take place on 25 May 1739, and all responded that they thought it most correct”.

4.- The end of the convent
Although the community of friars was not very large, four initially, as reflected in a memorial of the parish of Santa Margarida del Penedès from the beginning of the seventeenth century, “…Next to the old house of Saint Raymond of Penyafort of said parish a chapel is built under the invocation of said Saint with a community in which four friars of the order of preachers live…”. We do not believe that subsequently the figure increased substantially, simply because the number of cells and the space of the bedrooms does not so allow. We have news that in 1832 there were 4 brothers and three students.
However, Dominicans are an order of preaching (de die, in nocte, in domo, in itinere) and the needs of the region are limited. The other occupations are religious consecration, participation at mass, devotion to prayer or study. Thus, throughout the week, each of these aspects must be met. And on Sundays too:

Dominicas or Sundays throughout the year, obeying the following schedule: At 11 o’clock awaken for Matins: and at a quarter to 12 to the Choir. Close to a quarter to 6 awaken for Prime and at 6 o’clock to the choir. At half past 8 to Terce and conventual mass: then Holy Sext in the Cell. At around five-and-twenty to 11 to Main Sext, Refectory and Nones: then Holy Nones in the Cell
At a quarter to 2 awaken for Vespers; and at 2 to Choir if there is a walk; and if not, at half past 3”.
They were also authorized to dress in habits, examine and have novitiates. This authorization, which in the province of Aragon was only enjoyed by four more convents, which were those of Barcelona, Valencia, Saragossa and the City of Mallorca, that is, the four capitals of the kingdoms that constituted the Crown of Aragon: “On 19 October 1708, the Rnt Pe Prior proposed to the PP.
of the Council of St Raymond that in view of the Privilege of this Convent of Saint Raymond to dress in habits and have Novitiate, attending the P. Prior to the obligation to propose the appointment of a master of Novitiates to raise and educate them according to our sacred Constitutions, the P.P. of the Council appointed Rnt Pe Fr. Thomas Güell for such a commission”.
But there was an interest in stripping the convent of Saint Raymond of these prerogatives. The friars knew how to cope with such intention and so decided to send to the ecclesiastical authorities a document that, according to Mossèn Coy, bore this title: “Authentic papers of the power of this Convent of Saint Raymond of Penyafort order of Pedicators, to dress in habits and have Novitiate, which to instruct those who will come to continue put in order this year of 1708 by me Fr. Alberto Massalva, Prior”. This document argued the birth of Saint Raymond and the age of the convent to uphold the suitability and maintenance of its privileges. These explanations were successful and the exercise of the above-mentioned attributions could be resumed quite as normal.

If the eighteenth century was one of stability, the nineteenth would prove quite the opposite, in fact it began with rather a cruel war: the Peninsular War. The Book of Objects of the Parish Archives of Santa Margarida i els Monjos says: “1809. 21 March near the convent of S. Raymond of Penyafort, Francesc Tuya was killed by the French, a 44-year-old native of Mediona, was the husband of Maria Rosa Coll and lived in the Parish”. Given the situation and the wealth of the Convent, the French came often to plunder and rob them. The most notable loss was the famous painting of Saint Raymond, which occupied the entire high altar. In 1811 they had to sell all the silver they had and so they could then put up a new altarpiece and continue with the convent life.

The major changes of the first half of the nineteenth century altered the structures previously in force everywhere. The Church as a proprietary institution was the sector that had the most difficulty in prolonging its situation of power within the new political and social framework. The truth is that as soon as the reign of Elizabeth II began, the confiscation or forced sale of ecclesiastical property was decreed (1836), that is, the properties of the Church were declared state property and subsequently reprivatized through auction. In 1851 Miquel Puig bought the ownership of the convent from the State through the notary Manuel Clavillart.

5.- Residential House 1 - Puig-Amat Family
In 1858 it is recorded in the Parish ‘Consueta’ book of customs that: “The Church and convent of Saint Raymond of Penyafort were property of the Dominican parish priest. With the brothers having been expelled it was all sold by the government and bought by a private individual and then to another and so it is currently private property.
The church despite being privately-owned is under the domain of the Rt Rector of Santa Margarida as it falls within the parish.
Its conservation and cleanliness are taken care of by its owner”.(4)

Miquel Puig passed on ownership to his son, Josep Puig i Llagostera (1834-1879). He would give an air of splendour and celebration to the castle, thanks to his dual status as an industrialist and a politician of considerable influence in the Catalan and Spanish society of the times. By way of example, let us say that in October 1879 he received a visit in Esparreguera by Cánovas del Castillo, accompanied by the general staff of the conservative party in Catalonia to speak of the route that the railway will follow as it passes through the Penedès. It is by no means an exceptional case, in this respect.

He was born in Vilafranca del Penedès in 1834. His family must have settled shortly afterwards in Barcelona, where his father set up the yarn factory. He was a man “of little study”, as he would say unashamedly. He took Nautical Studies at the school of La Llotja, but such knowledge hardly served him for the Esparreguera factory or for his political campaigns. He was a correspondent for the family business in London, where he was living when his father died. This forced him to return to Catalonia to take over the company.

He married a young factory worker, Rosa Amat, with whom he fell madly in love, not however, until she had, received instruction, since within the working world illiteracy was widespread. When she was considered ready, he presented her in society.

Following a brief illness and just 45 years old, he died. On the one hand, the Esparreguera factory would change its name and pass into the hands of a political party comrade: Antoni Sedó i Pàmies. He would give a new boost to the factory and expand the colony, thus becoming the biggest factory in the municipality, employing 1,968 people in 1902. And on the other hand, the convent, after renovation and extension with new buildings, as well as the corresponding lands, would remain for his wife, Rosa Amat. This was to be her place of residence throughout her life.

In 1915, much of Penyafort’s book collection was still preserved there. In fact there was a room given over exclusively for this purpose. It consisted of several dozen very rare and interesting books, as well as a great deal of documentation concerning property, duties and tithes.

When the civil war broke out, the church was looted and religious objects were burned. Later it was converted into a prison. There were up to 40 or 50 prisoners there, all working on the construction of the patrolled compound. Despite everything, the owners and farmers continued to live in the residential building.

Rosa Amat died in 1943 and was buried in the cemetery of Santa Margarida. She was succeeded by her son Miquel Puig Amat until 1947 when it passed on to his children: Miquel, Rosa and Josep. They would decide to put the property up for sale.

5.- Residential house 2 - “Me, to have a castle in Spain!”
The black market, unemployment and the beggars who lived off refuse became everyday realities. Even in 1950, half the meat was consumed compared to 1936, although workers spent around 70% of their wages on food.

As of 1956, the situation became unsustainable. These circumstances made selling the property a difficult task. It was not until the arrival of the new Opus Dei government in 1957 that a series of economic reforms was promoted, including abandoning the autarchy, and on the other hand thanks to the arrival en masse of tourists, the foreign exchange sent home by emigrants and foreign capital investments, which would lead to the economic growth of the 1960s. Thanks to this liberalization, in 1959, an agreement was reached with an American residing in Sitges, James R. Halloway who, accompanied by another American, John, a Mexican boy and a Siamese cat he always had with him, settled in the castle. They restored all the rooms, bath chambers and also the Church for an amount, it is said, of some 3 million pesetas, to set up a hotel.

James, a supporter of the American Democratic Party (in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he had moved to the United States to support him), led here a life, though respectful towards the farmers, strongly devoted to his homosexuality. He and his companions organized “crazy” weekends, with guests who even came from the American bases of Torrejon de Ardoz or Saragossa. It was quite dramatic to observe the contrast of the cars in which each of them arrived, with the poor boys who came from Barcelona, wearing velvet trousers in the height of summer arriving on the half-past seven train. It was another sign of the misery that Francoism had blessed us with.

This period was followed by years of even more accentuated plundering. Foreign speculators saw the possibility of doing big business, first the Russian Dimitri Nicholas in 1966 and then in 1971, the Americans, Martin Fainberg and Oliver Johnson who acquired it to dedicate it to wine businesses. It did not last long, for the latter had half auctioned off which was bought by Paloma López Benítez. All in all, it left the convent empty of memories and full of yearning for all the images, objects, documents, books: nothing came. It is years of plundering, of taking things to their countries of origin, while the Francoist authorities of the times, more worried about hiding their own shame, hid their heads in the sand.

This frenzied rush to oblivion came to a halt in 1980 with the purchase of the auctioned half by Jordina Gallemí, completed in 1983. Different cultural, religious or social activities have been carried out under her patronage, as well as the gathering organized every year in memory of the canonization of 1601.

Finally, on 11 September 2002, Santa Margarida i els Monjos town council bought the convent of Saint Raymond of Penyafort from the last owner.


Guided tour
The bourgeois leisure at Penyafort Castle

The visit takes place every 1st Sunday of the month at 12pm and also by reservation for private groups.

+ info

During this visit we will embark on a long journey through time, starting with the Catalan reconquest, to continue with the implementation of the Catholic counter-reform, the confiscations and the industrial revolution, until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936 and the subsequent arrival of the first American tourists.

Guided tour

Bourgeois leisure at Penyafort Castle

The visit takes place every 1st Sunday of the month at 12 noon and also by reservation for private groups.

+ info

Amb aquesta visita ens endinsarem en la vida, costums i oci de la burgesia industrial catalana. El castell de Penyafort que havia funcionat com a recinte conventual durant dos segles, finalitzà la seva vida monàstica l’any 1836. Després de la desamortització de Mendizábal, l’industrial Miquel Puig, fundador de la Colònia Sedó d’Esparraguera, esdevingué el nou propietari de la finca. Uns anys més tard, la propietat fou heretada pel seu fill Josep Puig i Llagostera, qui reconvertí la propietat en explotació vinícola i residència estival.

En acabar la visita guiada, s’oferirà un vermut per als assistents.

Combined visit

Memorial of the air war

The visit takes place every 4th Sunday of each month at 11am and also by reservation for private groups.

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During this visit we will embark on a long journey through time, starting with the Catalan reconquest, to continue with the implementation of the Catholic counter-reform, the confiscations and the industrial revolution, until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936 and the subsequent arrival of the first American tourists.
CIARGA + Penyafort Castle combined activity.

Guided tour

The kitchen of the friars

The visit takes place every 2nd Sunday of the month (autumn-winter) and also by reservation for private groups.

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With this guided tour and through sampling and tasting, we will experience what and how the Dominican friars of Penyafort Convent (1603-1835) used to eat, entering a gastronomic universe that still persists today absorbed into the modern Catalan cookbook.

The visit will feature tasting three convent meals, accompanied by wine or must (grape juice).

School visits

Activity: Discover the castle!

Visit to Penyafort Castle
Level: Upper Primary

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Penyafort Castle, one of the most important places in the Penedès. During this activity we will find out where it is located, its history and its role and uses over the years, and we will understand why it is important to visit and conserve it.

The explanations at each stop will be accompanied by visual, artistic exercises and information processing to allow students to gain a basic knowledge of the place.

  • Duration: 90 mins
  • Price/group: €75 (30 pupils)
  • Max. 60 pupils per turn
  • Further information and bookings: 669 287 539

Activity: History of a thousand-year-old building

Visit to Penyafort Castle
Level: ESO and Baccalaureate (lower and upper secondary)

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This visit allows students to discover the history of the building that best explains the history of Santa Margarida i els Monjos: Penyafort Castle.

A journey in time that begins with the Catalan county reconquest of the lands of Al-Andalus, to continue with the implementation of the Catholic counter-reform, the confiscations and the industrial revolution, until the outbreak of the Civil War and the arrival of the first American tourists.

  • Duration: 90 mins
  • Price/group: €75 (30 pupils)
  • Max. 60 pupils per turn
  • Further information and bookings: / 669 287 539


Airfields, people and shelters.

Combined guided tour:

CIARGA + Penyafort Castle
Levels: ESO and Baccalaureate

+ info

Through this activity, we propose that students should get to know three key spaces to understand the events, main players and consequences of the aerial war in the Penedès: the remains of the old Penyafort Castle prison, els Monjos airfield with a visit to the CIARGA and to the Serral air raid shelter.

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Price/group: €135 (30 pupils)
  • Max. 90 pupils per turn
  • Coaches are required to travel between the centres
  • Further information and bookings: / 669 287 539

Important information

Information centre opening hours

Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and long weekends
from 10 am to 2 pm

Schedule for guided tours

Every Sunday at 11 am and 12 noon with prior booking.


Contact phone number: 93 818 61 28