At the end of the 19th century, Olot began to produce religious imagery, for which it soon became a worldwide reference. Joaquim Vayreda and Josep Berga i Boix founded the workshop Vayreda, Berga i Cia., the first dedicated to the manufacture of saints, which two years later was renamed El Arte Cristiano. Soon after that, the city of Olot saw the number of workshops dedicated to the production of religious images multiply. Forty-one workshops were opened, and the city obtained a global reputation. Historic events such as the Second Republic, the Civil War and the postwar period conditioned the periods of crisis and expansion, until, at the end of the sixties, the Second Vatican Council relegated the worship of religious images to the background. This led to a crisis in the sector, which resulted in most of the workshops closing their doors.
The Museum of the Saints, located in a neo-Gothic style building, former residence of Marià Vayreda, headquarters of El Arte Cristiano and the only workshop still producing, lays out part of this history and allows visitors an insight into the production process. The museum documents, investigates and preserves those elements that are part of its collection and related to artisan production, iconography, popular culture and the life and work of the writer and painter Marià Vayreda. The museum’s ground floor and basement are dedicated to discovering the process of image production. On the ground floor, the route continues through the painting room, where visitors can follow the process of how the images are decorated, and the spectacular model room, which reproduces part of the store rooms needed by the great workshops. The iconography room reveals the physical and symbolic identity of the saints, as well as their historical relevance, and the history of this century-old trade in Olot is explained in the audiovisual room.
The first floor of the museum is the former residence of Mariá Vayreda’s family. It shows the whole range of productions, beyond the religious image, made by these saints workshops throughout their history. The second floor of the building is reserved for exhibitions.
A visit to the capital of La Garrotxa is not complete without sampling the cuisine of the land of volcanoes, a fertile land full of life where corn, beans, buckwheat, potatoes, turnips, onions, truffles, wild mushrooms and chestnuts accompany pork, snail and wild boar. The restaurants of the city grouped under the name Volcanic Cuisine offer visitors a stunning selection of this cuisine made up of rustic products, which rounds off the visit nicely.