Sean Scully's art helps complete 10-year restoration of Spanish monastery

Hannah Ellis-Petersen ,

In the thousand years that the  Santa Cecilia de Montserrat  monastery has stood on the hills overlooking Barcelona, set against jagged towering rocks that rise like giant’s fingers pointing to the sky, history has continually come knocking at its door. It was a sanctuary for early pilgrims, a symbol of resistance in the Napoleonic invasion, and a protector of Catalan culture and language during the regime of Franco.

Now this tiny chapel, still home to Benedictine monks, has once again found itself on the map. A 10 year-long project of restoration has seen the celebrated Irish painter Sean Scully transform the chapel with 22 of his works, from the vast abstract paintings for which he is famed, to frescoes, stained glass and metal candlesticks. They will hang in the chapel permanently, establishing the church as a unique cultural sanctum that will draw visitors from across the world.

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