The site

The Church of Sant Julià is located some two hundred meters away of the town of Vallfogona de Ripollès, in a district north of Catalonia, in Spain. The village is enclosed by magnificent mountains covered in forests and soft flowery meadows. This region is famous in Hispanic folklore, having been the location for ancient tales and songs of chivalric heroes and their deeds.  

The site of the church in Vallfogona de Ripollès is documented for the first time in the year 900 in numerous contracts of sale and donations in favor of the monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses. It is precisely her abbess Ranio, who ordered the construction of the Church of Sant Julià. It was consecrated on April, 23rd, 960 in the presence of bishop Ató de Vic.

Later in 1200, the church was rebuilt by the Lord de Pinós. From that period one can still appreciate the Romanesque entrance, with two columns on each side containing sculptured capitals holding the gradient arches.

In 1355 the castle of Vallfogona de Ripollès was built. This caused a gradual demographic increase in the area. The growth in importance of the village eventually led to the decision in 1756 to rebuild the church in accordance with the aesthetic tastes of the time, and to equip it with three naves. Construction began on the headwaters, but work was never finished for unknown reasons.

For this reason, the ensemble now offers a unique appearance, as the Baroque head is large and contrasts with the sobriety of sizes of the Romanesque part, corresponding to the feet of the nave. There has been no restoration or other relevant intervention since the 18th century.

The church was burned down during the Spanish Civil War, and the high altar was lost. It was replaced by a tabernacle in the early 1940s. Later, in the late 1960s, a lightning struck and caused the partial collapse of the Baroque part, leaving the church in a ruinous state.

Since then another church has taken over as the role as main parish church of the village, the Church of Sant Julià is now in a dilapidated state, the Romanesque part being the best preserved. The European Heritage Volunteers Project is therefore an important step forward in the rescue and later restoration of this important historical component of Vallfogona de Ripollès’ monumental heritage.


The project

The project aims to help recondition the Church of St. Julià in order for it to be used again by the local community. The works will be done progressively and this year’s project will attempt to bring this aim closer to completion.

The main task will be to reestablish the floor of the entrance area to the church using the original tiles which have been saved by the congregation. For this purpose it will be necessary first to clear up the area, reveal the current state of the floor tiles and clean them carefully. Secondly the participants will document the floor area and level the ground. Once the area has been prepared, the original tiles will be set in place following the historical design in order to guarantee the safeguarding of the authenticity in the restored floor.

A second task will involve the participants in cleaning work to mitigate the water drainage problem which is damaging the structure of the northern wall. This will require the removal of debris and dig out excess soil from the slopes of terrain surrounding the structure. By leveling some of the slope in the adjacent hill, the water will be redirected and therefore won’t impact directly the wall when it rains. If necessary, a layer of gravel will also be placed.

The work of conserving an ancient structure involves paying close attention to the small ailments impacting the walls, which in time come to represent a major hazard in the stability of the construction. For example, the vegetation rooted in the walls must be carefully removed. Work will also be necessary to reappoint eroded mortar joints.

The works will be supervised by a local craftsman and by representatives of the Association ReStructure. They will provide valuable information on traditional techniques for masonry work as well as in technical instruction for structural preservation applied to historical buildings. It will be the perfect occasion for interested participants to learn about the properties of historic mortar, about the hazards of water filtration in historical structures as well as in architectural documentation.


The project will take place from August, 2nd, to August 15th, 2020 and is organised by ReStructure Association & Municipality Vallfogona de Ripollès, in cooperation with European Heritage Volunteers.

European Heritage Volunteers