S. Pere de les Puelles
Community ID
Medieval Location
The old city
Modern Location
Sarria (Barcelona)
Corporate Status
Saint Peter
Date Founded
Date Terminated
1835, but the community re-formed in a new location after the supressions of 1879.
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The site was originally a chapel dedicated to the bishop and martyr S. Sadurni that had been built in 801 to serve the spiritual needs of Charlemagne's troop. A group of young daughters of noble families retired to this chapel in the late 9th century to form a community dedicated to the contemplative life. The community did not have a rule until 945, when Countess Riquilda of Barcelona (wife of Count Sunyer) reorganized the community under the Rule of S. Benedict. It was at that time that both the monastery and a new church were built. Al-Mansur's troops destroyed all of the original buildings and either killed or sold into slavery all of the nuns during the 985 raid on Barcelona, but Count Borrell II and Bishop Vivas of Barcelona re-founded the community the next year.

Notable Heads

945 - ??: Adelaida, probably daughter of of Count Sunyer of Barcelona and widow of Count Sunifred of Urgell. She may have also been abbess of S. Joan de les Abadesses, possibly even simultaneously. // 986 - c. 996: Adalet (also called Bonfilla), sister of Count Borrell II. // 996 - ??: Ermelda. // Giulia de Llobregat was abbess when the new church was consecrated in 1147. Ten women served as abbesses of the community in the 12-13th centuries; half remained in office for over 20 years and 2 served as abbesses for over 40 years (McMillin, 219). Elicsenda, abbess from 1181-1224 locked a bishop out of her parish church in Montmeló after he excommunicated clerics she had appointed. Guillema de Vilagrant (1227-1246) represented the convent in person at a litigation and called her opponent a liar several times despite his clerical status (!) (McMillin, 220). Ermessenda Pax was elected abbess in 1246 by the compromise method. Zaragoza Pascual has a complete list.

Population Counts

In 986, the community consisted of Abbess Adalet and four other nuns (Ermelda, Argudamia, Xintello and Ermentruit). There were 12 nuns by the end of the 10th century, and 20 during the 11th. Documents from the year 1246 provide three identical lists of 49 nuns. A sale in 1286 contains the names of 45 nuns. According to McMillin, 68 names appear in documents from the 12th century and 198 from the 13th century. The average number of nuns in the convent thus hovers between 40-50 from 1240 through 1300. In August 1253 an upper limit of 50 members was set (McMillin, 204-205).

Priveleges & Papal Exemptions

The convent came under papal protection in 1072; a privilege renewed in 1193. Because the convent came under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See, the nuns had to seek papal confirmation for their abbesses.


The convent came under royal protection in 1183. The Materó family served Sant Pere as bailiffs and procurators for several generations in the 13th century. The Rosanes and Vilafrancha families made donations to the community during the 12-13th century on behalf of family members within the convent. Various other catalan counts, bishops and nobles donated large amounts of property, located primarily in the Vallès Oriental.

Secular Political Affiliations

Received an exemption from Count Ramon Berenguer and Countess Guilia in 1028.

Social Characteristics

Daughters of noble families and wealthy bourgeoisie. The signature lists on documents of the community also provide evidence of the nuns' longevity. Of the nuns in the 12-13th centuries, 66 can confidently be said to have resided within the convent for at least 20 years. Arsenda de Vilafranca lived at Sant Pere for at least 60 years, while Guillema Petra resided in the convent at least 55 years (1191-1246); Brunisenda Sant Cabrià, Constança Vilar, Elicsenda de Sancto Litero, and Sibilia Vilafranca all lived in the convent for 49 years. None of these women held offices (McMillin, 206). The families of Vilafranca, Pax, and Materó had several daughters in residence at Sant Pere.


It is not known what properties the house possessed before 985, as the community's archive was destroyed in al-Mansur's raid. To remedy this situation, a judgement regarding the community's rightful properties was rendered in 991. It appears that this new judgement redounded to the community's benefit, leaving them with considerably greater holdings than they had previously had. According to McMillin, in addition to land-holdings, the convent's endowment included mills, ovens, urban buildings, and at least one market (McMillin, 202). In 1201 Ermessenda joined the community as a nuns, bringing with her a country house with land inherited from her father and 460 sous (McMillin, 207). In 1100 Arbert Bernat and his wife, Ermendgarda, donated four vineyards and their daughter, Ermessenda, to the convent. Bernat Guadalguadi and his wife Adalaide donated a farm and their daughter Sicardi in 1107 (McMillin, 208). The richest donation on behalf of a woman entering Sant Pere occurred in 1262 when Bernat Mataró and his wife Maria gave their daughter Elicsenda with her paternal and maternal inheritances, 6 vineyards, a piece of land, and 200 morabatins (McMillin, 209). In 1227 Guillem Rosanes donated 3 tracts of land to the community. Pere and Gullema Vilafrancha donated a mansum and one day's income per week from a mill on behalf of their daughter, Arsenda. Ferrera and Pere de Vilafranca gave the monastery 8 pieces of land along with annual rents of money and grain in 1216. In 1247 Ferrer de Vilafranca donated to the convent an annual gift of 10 quarts of grain from a mill, when a third Vilafrancha daughter entered the convent (McMillin, 210).


The convent was involved in litigation over its holdings. The largest controversy involved the parish of Santa Maria of Montmeló. The village of Montmeló was a dependency of Sant Pere. In addition to tithes and first fruits, the abbess had the right to appoint clergy in the local parish. The rights to income and appointment were challenged in the early 1200's by the bishop of Barcelona both in court and in an armed confrontation (McMillan, 202). The convent also entered into litigation over the inheritence of the estate of Lady Saurina, a widow of Ferrer Suau who became a nun in Sant Pere along with her daughter. Her will divided her estate equally between her three daughters and the convent of Sant Pere. The document was subject to arbitration between the two married daughers and the convent of Sant Pere. In the end, the convent agreed to give up the rights to any land or property that it held because of donations, wills, or entrance gifts from Lady Saurina, but it retained the full paternal inheritance of her daughter, Berenguera, (McMillin, 213-214).

Architecture & Archaeology

S. Pere de les Puelles, group of arches, S. Pere de les Puelles, column capital (detail), S. Pere de les Puelles, church, S. Pere de les Puelles, column and capital. The building of the church and monastery have suffered many changes. The 10th century chapel and convent were built in the pre-romanesqe style, but were destroyed in the raid of 985. Members of the community resided around the origina chapel of s. Sadurni between 986 and 1147, when their new home was completed. An upper level was added to the cloister in 1322. Although the cloister was destroyed in the 19th century when the community was supressed, the 12th centiry church remains in use as a parish church. The facades, however, are newer, dating from the 16th century, and constructed in the gothic style. A fragment of the 12th century cloister has been preserved inb the Museu d'Art de Catalunya (Barcelona). Other material remains of the nuns' life can be found in the same museum, as well as in the Alegre de Terrassa collection, the Museu Santacana de Martorell, and the Masia Can Soler fe Vilanove (Vilamajor). Construction of new city walls in the 13th century transformed Sant Pere from a rural to an urban monastery (McMillan, 203).

State Of Medieval Structure

The convent was converted into a prison when the nuns were expelled in 1835, and the cloister was destroyed in 1873, although the church continues to be used as a parish church.

Manuscript Sources

Archivo de la Corona de Aragon / Arxiu de la Corona de Aragó, Cancelleria, Registros, no. 2683, f. 151 r. - 152 v. The community also maintains its own archive. Two letters of profession by nuns of the community survive in this archive, Arxiu de Sant Pere de les Puelles, parchment #75 and 114. Hill Monastic Manuscript library has also microfilmed the community's entire surviving archive, comprising 1,043 vols. This collection is strongest in sixteenth- through eighteenth-century sources, but also contains a number of medieval manuscripts. For a complete listing, see Checklist of manuscripts microfilmed for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, vol. II, pp. 59-74.

Miscellaneous Information

The convent joined a loose affiliation of male and female Benedictine houses, the Congregacio Claustral Tarraconense, in the mid-thirteenth century, but this union had little impact on the regular life of the convent (McMillin, 202). The bailiffs of the community appear to rarely have acted without the approval of the abbess (McMillin, 215). Likewise, procurators for the convent never appear to have acted without the approval of the abbess; during the 13th century, Ramon Mataró, Guillem Pinells, and Berenguer de Casals appear as procurators for the convent (McMillin, 216). The offices of sacristan, infirmaria, subprioress, prioress, and abbess are mentioned in the documents.

Conversi/ae and servants

Jaume Colomer, who donated himself to the abbey in 1286.

Admin. Notes

(McMillan article added by June)

Marie Kelleher
Date Started
Date Finished