Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei. 2016 — Museums

This interpretive visit to the Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei seeks to evoke the experience of monastic life in a building that is currently in ruins, but which is in the process of undergoing rehabilitation.

Institutional sponsor: Agència Catalana de Patrimoni Cultural

Location: La Morera de Montsant, Catalonia

© Rendering: Ignasi Cristià SL

The project for the Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei was proposed as a centre for the interpretation of monastic life, and of the building that is currently in a ruins. The route is divided into three zones: the welcome area, the coenobitic area, and finally the cell. The first space is a place to decompress, gather information and approach the site. It offers an initial introduction to monastic life and to the interpretation of the territory where the building is located. That is why there is a space dedicated to the Priorat Designation of Origin and the wine culture of the area.

After leaving the reception area, we enter the monks’ quarters, which were off limits to most of the public. Like the biblical metaphor of the eye of the needle, the arches between the ruins of Escaladei mark the beginning of an initiatory journey, with the door to the old church in the background. Here we come to two spaces dedicated to the interpretation of monastic life. In the first one, we learn about a monk’s routine of work, prayer, reading, meditation, contemplation, etc. The only aim of all these actions is the union with God. All this is depicted through a visual and sound display projected onto the actual stone surfaces of the room. Then, another larger room offers us information on the different moments in a monk’s day, divided up by the hours of prayer, through a projection on another large stone wall.

Finally we come to the true heart of the monastery: the cell. The most intimate and silent space, where a monk would experience inviolable solitude. This area was the most difficult to convey on a conceptual level: How could we help visitors understand the feeling of isolation and the intangible and personal relationship with the spiritual realm? There is a reconstruction of a cell that can be visited, but although it provides information on an architectural or historical level, it is just an empty shell. We proposed an installation made up of a circle of seats with individual listening systems. A voice can be heard reading a letter written by a monk to his mother – a personal story that opens a window onto his soul, letting us feel for a few moments the experience of monastic isolation. Beyond the strict regime of deprivation and the separation from loved ones, this reclusion encompasses dedication, love and freedom, a reason for the happiness that illuminates the monks’ faces. This space therefore symbolizes the connection between heaven and Earth, synthesized in a drawing that one monk drew on a tile – a staircase and a cross – which served as inspiration for the logo.