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The Priorat Region | p.2

Priorat is famed for its startling views, pure air and azure skies. It has an ancient history stretching back to the Phonecians, who mined lead for their anchor stocks from its hills.

The Phoenicians—or their successors the Romans—introduced the grape to these lands, and by the time Imperial Rome had reached its zenith, wines from Priorat were being praised by Roman poets and historians, including Martial, Pliny, and Virgil. When the Romans withdrew in the 4th century viniculture was first disrupted by the Visigoths, then banned by the Moors. It was not until the Christian reconquest in the 12th century that the population of the region began to recover and the grape was cultivated once again.

The present beauty of the villages of Priorat—and the excellence of their wines—can be traced to the dream of a pious shepherd in the 12th century AD, who had a vision one night of a ladder reaching towards heaven, on which angels were busy ascending and descending. This important event reached the ears of King Alfonso the Chaste, and a Carthusian monastery was established on the spot, which was named Escala Dei (the ladder of God) in honour of the shepherd's dream. The monastery flourished and took over the administration of the surrounding villages, including Bellmunt, which came under its sway in 1218. The grape was re-introduced so the monks could celebrate the sacrament, and the villages were graced with ecclesiastical buildings in styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance.

Travellers may wish to begin their visit to the region in the town of La Morera, the site of the shepherd's vision, and in particular the abbey of La Cartoixa, built in 1164 in its honour. The abbey is partly in ruins, although its dilapidation is very picturesque. Read more...