S. Joan de les Abadesses
Community ID
S. Joan de les Abadesses
Corporate Status
Date Founded
887, June 24
Date Terminated
1017, January 26 (see "miscellaneous information," below).
Religious Order
Foundation Information

Founded by Count Wifred "the Hairy," and his wife Guinedilda, first Count and Countess of Barcelona, for their daughter Emma, who became the community's first abbess. The church was consecrated in 887.

Notable Heads

887-942: Emma (whose remains are interred in an unknown location beneath the current church). // 942-948: Unknown. // 948-954: Adelaida (probably the same Adelaida who was daughter of Count Sunyer of Barcelona and widow of count Sunifred of Urgell, and who also served as abbess of S. Pere de les Puelles. // 955-961: Ranlo (Daughter of Count Dela I of Ampurias, widow of Miro). // 962-994: Fredeburga (probably daughter of Count Miro of Cerdanya). // 995-1017: Ingilberga (apparently the illegitimate daughter of Count Oliba Cabreta of Cerdanya-Besalu and Ingilberga, wife of Lord Ermenir of Besora). Died in 1046.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

The nuns' spiritual needs were served by a small male community nearby.


In 921, Abbess Emma ceded her substantial private possession to the house. Abbess Ranlo was also a benefactor, as were the founders. Other Catalan counts may well have been substantial donors, as most of the abbesses were related to at least one of the comital houses (see "notable heads," above).

Secular Political Affiliations

Received an exemption from Charles the Simple in 899.

Social Characteristics

Daughters of the nobility.

Relative Wealth

Extremely wealthy.


Abbess Emma's dowry went to the community as soon as she had attained her majority. This substantial territory was bordered by the valley Santajuaneca, Estamariu, the valley of Ripoll, Mogrony, Conflent, Cabanes and Alt Emporda. Later, Emma's initiatives and influence helped to extend the community's territory as far as Congost, the Valles, and the valley of Cardener. Successive abbesses further enlarged the community's territory.

Other Economic Activities

The community was very active in the effort to resettle Old Catalonia. All of the abbesses, beginning Abbess Emma, dedicated themselves to establishing new churches in their territories, and bringing in new settlers to populate them.

Art & Artifacts

Abbess Emma. Note: this is a bas-relief depicting the first abbess, Emma, but the work itself is recent, probably twentieth-century.

State Of Medieval Structure

Nothing remains of the original buildings, which were torn down in the 12th century to construct the Romanesque church and cloister that remains today, and that currently serves as the parish church.

Manuscript Sources

The following archives contain information on and documents pertaining to the community of Sant Joan de les Abadesses (although not necessarily pertaining to its short life as a female community): Arxiu del Monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses; Arxiu Municipal de Sant Joan de les Abadesses; Arxiu Parroquial de Ripoll; Arxiu Historic Muicipal de la Ciutat de Barcelona.

Miscellaneous Information

The counts of Besalu, Cerdanya and Barcelona had long struggled, both with the abbesses and with each other, to gain possession of the substantial territories pertaining to the community of S. Joan. In 1017, Count Bernat Tallaferro of Besalú, half-brother of then-abbess Ingilberga, secured a bull from Pope Benedict VIII that supressed the community and expelled the nuns on grounds (most likely fabricated) of moral laxity. The community was transformed into a male community, united with Sant Víctor de Marsella. It later passed a short period (1099-1113) as a double monastery, populated by nuns from Brinhòlas and monks from Ripoll. Finally, after numerous political machinations, a male community of Augustinian canons regular was installed in the 12th century.

Marie Kelleher
Date Started
Date Finished