A young shire in an ancient land

El Moianès has seen prehistoric human beings live in caverns, farmers earn a living, knights build castles and the proletariat leave the factories to get back to the pastures.

El Moianès has been an inhabited land by humans since immemorial times. It is known that 100,000 years ago the prehistoric man already recollected around the shire’s woods and there are evidences of human presence in the Toll caves 50,000 years ago.

The Toll and Teixonera Caves belong to the municipality of Moià, however, they are located at six kilometres from the village. These caverns were inhabited during the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic when human beings still subsisted thanks to recollection and hunting. Although in the inside many silex tools have been found, these caves stand out for being one of the richest in Europe in Quaternary fauna, such as cavern bears, lions, rhinos and hippos. Nowadays, these bone remainders, beside the human-made discoveries, can be visited in the Paleontological Museum of Moià, located in the centre of the village. Moreover, the action of the river that crosses the cave has provided the cavern with a majestic beauty along its 1148 metres.

On the other hand, in the Toll Caves complex some prehistoric huts have just been restored, which date back to the Neolithic and would belong to the age when the first Moianès’ inhabitants become farmers and shepherds.

Since then, the region’s population started farming and herd the animals, transforming the natural landscape into a farmland sprinkled of small rural villages. These municipalities would grow with the arrival of Christianity and Feudalism. From 10th century on, the construction of castles and churches was promoted all around Catalonia. A great deal of municipalities from El Moianès are flanked by a castle built during the high medieval age, like Moià, Castellterçol or la Granera. Without any doubt, if a castle must be highlighted, this would be the Castellcir Castle, more known as Castell de la Popa (Castle of the Poop), because of its similarity to a boat’s poop. Straighten during the 11th century, this Romanic castle was inhabited until the 20th century. Nevertheless, although presents an advanced degree of damage, it keeps runes of the main building, fragments of the wall and parts of the chapel of Sant Martí de la Roca.

About religious constructions, the most important of all them – and with difference- is the monastery of Santa Maria de l’Estany. This place of worship was initiated near a pond 900 years ago, when a small community of canons set to live according to the Saint Agustin’s Rule. As time went by, more and more inhabitants gathered around the monastery and the pond that would give name to the new village.  Nowadays, the monastery’s Romanic cloister is not just the joy of this sanctuary, but a Catalan cultural heritage’s jewel. The cloister’s north wing is the oldest one, since it was built in the middle of the 12th century, and in its capitals the life of Christ is represented. The east wing, as not only depicts religious passages, but profane scenes too, is iconographically much richer than the previous one. Among its portraits stand out an ox playing a musical instrument and a girl counting her hair. The rest wings’ capitals are decorated with geometric and heraldic shapes or with vegetal and bestiary themes. The south wing is the most modern one, as it was finished between the 13th and 14th century.

However, in the shire of El Moianès, there are lots of religious constructions, such as the Romanic church of Santa Coloma de Sasserra, built next to a huge oak; the parish of Sant Feliuet de Terrassola; or the chapel of Sant Jaume de Vilanova, which although nowadays is attached to the Vilanova country house, it’s one of the few of Romanic buildings with circular plant in Catalonia.  Despite many of these parishes are well-kept, in the municipality of Santa Maria d’Oló stand out the Sant Joan Vell (Old Saint John)’s runes, another Romanic church from the 11th century that was abandoned in 1643, when the new church was inaugurated in Sant Joan d’Oló. This one is known by the nickname of Sant Joan Nou (New Saint John).

In Santa Maria d’Oló’s historic centre, over the hill, beside the old castle’s leftovers, there is the Old Church, which keeps a baroque retablo dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and produced between 1663 and 1673 by the sculptor Pau Sunyer.  

Still, the parish church of Santa Maria d’Oló isn’t the only baroque church in El Moianès; the very shire’s capital is set around the baroque church of Santa Maria de Moià. Although it was consecrated in the 10th century, there are no remains of the Romanic church that stood before. The current one was built between the renaissance and the baroque and it became a big church, as it was appropriate for the importance of the town. The church of Santa María de Moià is formed by three naves and a transept crowned by a cupola.  Apart from the svelte bell tower, the church stands out for its main façade, decorated sculpturally with adorned columns and the representations of Sant Pere de la Cadireta, Sant Ponç de Planella, Sant Josep de Calassanç and, above all, the Virgin Mary.  This façade, beside the lateral one, is one of the most extraordinary exponents of the Solomonic baroque in stone of Catalonia.

Beyond the municipalities, among the woods and fields that form El Moianès, there also are tracks of historical human activity. A clear example is el Roquer, a wool washing structure located near Castellterçol. Although not many references are known, it is believed that it was used from the 16th century to the end of the 19th. Other hallows that are kept in the shire are the ice-wells that can be found scattered all around the land. During the 18th, 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, in this region many ice-wells were built. The land’s relief, the cold weather, and the closeness to Barcelona, provided the surroundings of Moià with the capacity to trade ice with the city (Barcelona). Generally, the water streams were used to build circular stone structures crowned by a dome which let the creation and storage of ice. The water mine from l’Estany should also be highlighted. Built originally in the 18th century to make easier the drain of the swampy waters that marsh the village’s fields and transformed the pond into a mosquito nest, the mine is still used for the same finality than 250 years ago.

At first sight, it seems as if El Moianès has been trapped in time. It is true that this land has ancestral traditions and that many of its attractions remain still in time, but it isn’t an immutable land. Despite time provokes change and a slow and soft evolution, this shire, although it moves towards the future, it always keeps its glance on the past.


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