YACIMIENTO DE EL BOVALAR
< strong>The archaeological remains of El Bovalar (Seròs, Lleida), some 23 kilometers from the old episcopal seat of Ilerda, are located on a small artificial plateau resulting from successive recesses destined for modern horticulture. Right next to the Segre river and at about 120 m above this river course, even without occupying the highest point of the micro-area where it is located, the site enjoys a privileged topographical situation, since the passage is controlled from the place from the river and it is an easily defendable point.
Discovered in 1943 by Rodrigo Pita, the site began to be excavated intensively between 1967 and 1968. From 1976 to The last excavation campaigns were carried out in 1987, under the supervision of the Chair of Christian Archeology of the University of Barcelona and the direction of Professor Pedro de Palol. The archaeological interventions uncovered a magnificent late-antique rural Christian temple as well as various annexed structures and an important volume of archaeological material, all sealed by a great fire at the beginning of the 8th century and with a general dating that covers the entire Visigothic period. Since their discovery and throughout the last decades, the bibliography has generically called these structures “population”, and P. De Palol has always insisted on the idea that they were secular family houses, a “profane habitat, surely civil”.
Despite all this, in one of his last contributions before he disappeared, Professor P. de Palol did not definitively rule out the possibility that the ensemble was actually monastic, although, as had happened thirty years ago, he only timidly pointed out and quickly the idea, without arguing any specific reason to justify it. More recently, the possibility that the place was a monastery has been put on the table, at least in its last stage, based on the typology of its structures and the physical association between religious and inhabited space. Likewise, and in a monastic key, the exceptional nature of the material culture (both liturgical and productive) recovered during the excavations stands out.
The site is defined as a set of architectural structures concentrated around a rectangular church with a basilica layout. The buildings, which are largely attached to the basilica, occupy a minimum of 2,400 m2. The site is not fully excavated and is partially destroyed, so a possible perimeter closure structure cannot be ruled out.
The basilica of El Bovalar is the best preserved late-antique church in the eastern part of the Tarraconensis and one of the richest and most beautiful in the Spanish countryside, judging by the preserved remains. On the other hand, its baptistery is one of the few examples that make up the late-antique baptismal cast of the Tarraconensis. The temple has three well-differentiated parts for the temple, which has total dimensions of 25.8 x 12.10 m and occupies an area of 312 m2: the quadrangular apse, formed by the sanctuarium and by two attached chambers with funerary functions; the central section of the temple, divided into three longitudinal naves –with a counter-choir at the foot of the central nave– and a presbytery closed with gates and located in front of the sanctuarium; a baptismal area –the most emblematic of the site– at the foot of the temple, with a square-shaped pool and a canopy, the only example of this type of structure preserved in the Tarraconensis. The three naves are separated by two rows of six columns, while various gates marked the separation between the different areas. The construction technique of the basilica walls consists of placing the ashlars in a vertical position, in the African manner. The structural scheme is described as “mature, correct and without improvisations. Access was through the South side, while there was a second door on the North side. Both openings are located in such a way that they force the faithful to cross the structures of the town to access the basilica, a fact that is not surprising if one thinks of a monastic community and not of civil houses.
An important necropolis developed around the temple and also inside it, with burials in monolithic sarcophagi and slab tombs. A sarcophagus attached to the North wall stands out, with an incised Byzantine-type cross on the lid. Luxury and oversizing move away from the concept of rusticity that a priori would characterize an agricultural town.
Surrounding the ecclesiastical building are the living and working areas of a monastic community, judging by the way in which the “village” closes on the basilica. In addition, the distribution around two courtyards in the form of a ‘protocloister’ with communal structures such as a wine cellar and a wine press, as well as the discovery of several tools to produce parchment (stored in a single room, as indicated in the monastic rules). ), the tombs in the basement of the houses (which could be assimilated to cells), or the presence of a Syrian or Coptic censer, would indicate the presence of a monastic community with oriental influence. In this sense, the rectangular chevet typology and the double patio structure point to well-known Syrian models.
Jordina Sales-Carbonel for URBS REGIA
Other interesting information
Visiting hours:: You have to call the Seròs Town Hall to arrange a visit.
-Pita Mercé, R.; Palol Salellas, P., 1972: “La basílica de Bobalá y su mobiliario litúrgico”, VIII Congreso internacional de arqueología cristiana, Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana – CSIC, Roma, 383-401.
-Palol Salellas, P., 1989: El Bovalar (Seròs; Segrià). Conjunt d’època paleocristiana i visigòtica, Generalitat de Catalunya, Barcelona.
-Sales Carbonell, J., 2012: “Basílica y anejos (¿monasterio?) de El Bovalar”, Las Construcciones cristianas de la Tarraconensis durante la Antigüedad Tardía: Topografía, arqueología e historia, Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, 296-300.
-Sales Carbonell, J., 2015: “El Bovalar (Serós, Lleida). ¿Un monasterio productor de pergamino en la Hispania visigoda?”, Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, nº 90, p. 423-464.
-Fortuny Mendo, K.; Macias Solé, J. M.; Tuset Bertran, F., 2021: “El asentamiento visigodo de El Bovalar (Seròs, Hispania): análisis arquitectónico y propuesta evolutiva”, Baldini, I., Sfameni, C. (eds.), Abitare nel Mediterraneo tardoantico. Atti del III Convegno Internazionale del Centro Interuniversitario di Studi sull’Edilizia abitativa