SANT JOAN DE LES ABADESSES – A town of legends

Between the Vall de Camprodon Route and the link between Narrow-Gauge Railway Route and Iron Route, we will find the village of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, located in the high valley of the Ter and at the foot of the Pyrenees, history, scenery and art blend together. Since the times of count Wilfred the Hairy, it has been linked to its monastery. The old town has been taking shape from the 13th century over the monastery’s vineyards, around a square and some narrow streets, enclosed by a solid wall.

Main attractions in the surrounding area include the natural landscapes of Sant Antoni, Les Tres Creus, Santa Llúcia de Puigmal and Bac del Covilar, as well as the Ter that flows through the town, and was used to drive the medieval mills in a society based mainly on agriculture and specialised trades.


Kilometers 1,3 km

Slope Variable according to section. Accessible.

Difficulty Minimum

Pavement Asphalt chipboard

Maximum altitude Ruta del Ferro i el Carbó (800 m)

Minimum altitude Gorg de Malatosa (760 m)

Services Stations WC / Tourism Offices / Sant Joan de les Abadesses Picnic Zone /

The industrialisation process arrived late to Sant Joan de les Abadesses -towards the end of the 19th century– due to the fact that it was poorly communicated. It was thanks to the arrival of the railway that a textile industry was started up, led by the Espona and Llaudet factories. This was to bring about the town’s biggest demographic, urban and economic growth.


The name of Sant Joan de les Abadesses shows how the municipality’s history is linked to the monastery. The small town, with its typical medieval street layout, in particular the old arcades of Porxada Square and the gothic Pont Vell bridge, is the setting of a number of legends, such as that of Count Arnau or the Gorg de Malatosca witches.

The itinerary begins at the Pont Vell, where it is said that if you look carefully at the riverbed you might see the Malatosca witches’ gold. Next, continue to the old town, the medieval setting for the legend of Count Arnau and the abbess Adelaisa, where the Romanesque church of Sant Pol still stands, as does the monastery and the Palau de l’Abadia (the Abbot’s Palace). It is worth having a wander around the narrow streets of the Vinyal district, with its hidden arcaded square and fragments of the town wall.

3. El Pont Vell (the Old Bridge). Built between 1128 and 1138, the Pont Vell linked the village of Sant Joan de les Abadesses with the road to France. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1482 and the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), it was repaired at various times before taking on its present architectural form.

4. Església de Sant Pol (the Church of Sant Pol). The Romanesque church of Sant Pol, documented in 1142, was the parish church for the original village centre. Damaged in the Duke of Noailles’ attack (1690), the nave was later remodelled in the baroque style, although it is now in ruins.

5. Monument del Comte Arnau (monument). The Plaça d’Anselm Clavé houses the fountain designed by Josep Camps, topped with a statue of Count Arnau, who had close ties with the town, one of the main settings in the legend.

6. Monestir (monastery). Founded in 887 by Count Wilfred the Hairy, the monastery of Sant Joan was home to a Benedictine community led by his daughter Emma, the first abbess, until 1017 when Bernat Tallaferro expelled them, supposedly for moral laxity.

7. Palau de l’Abadia (the Abbot’s Palace). Together with the church and the cloister, the Palau de l’Abadia is one of the best preserved parts of the Sant Joan de les Abadesses monastery, used as the abbot’s residence as well as for administrative matters.

8. Sant Miquel de la Infermeria (chapel). This is the monastery’s infirmary chapel, built in the 12th century, where mass was given for sick monks who were unable to attend services in the monastery.

9. Plaça Major (main square). From the 12th century, the town of Sant Joan began to take shape as a population centre and, with a concession granted by Pedro I, the market was held in the Plaça Major, built with arcades for displaying a range of products, the most important of which was woollen cloth.

10. Muralles (town walls). The old town of Sant Joan de les Abadesses was surrounded by a wall featuring 24 towers, 6 gates, and houses built up against it, as well as the monastery. Today, part of the wall still stands near the D’en Roca fountain.

How to get there


Línia L’Hospitalet de Llobregat-Puigcerdà (Estació de Ripoll)
C. del Progrés, 49 – 17500 Ripoll, Girona
Reserva de bitllets: tel. 900 41 00 41


Tel. 972 20 48 68


C-26, C-17, N-152


Oficina de Turisme: tel. 972 18 67 08
Informació sobre vols: tel. 972 18 66 00
Tel. 972 20 48 68

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