Thursday, December 08, 2016

Thoughts from Pontevedra: 8.12.16

On Tuesday, I took the (heavenly-inspired??) decision to go up to Galicia's magnificently beautiful Ribeira Sacra to see at least one ex-monastery, possibly two. In the end, I visited three, amid blue skies, lots of sun and spectacular autumn-cum-winter scenery.

My first port of call was the ex-Benedictine monastery of Santo Estevo, which lies on the southern bank of the steep-sided river Sil, about 20km north east of Ourense. Although the adjacent church remains as it was, the monastery itself, after falling into ruin, has been sympathetically resurrected as a Parador. Surely one of the finest in Spain, even if the decor is, admittedly tasteful, modern. 

I took over 100 fotos during 2 days, so the challenge was which of these to leave out of this Monastery Special.

Here are a few more of the Santo Estevo complex, to go with those I posted yesterday. The monkish population, by the way, varied between 7 and 70 over the centuries:-

Finally . . .  A 14th century carving from the church:-

My second monastery was one recommended by reader María - that of Santa María de Ribas de Sil. Located at the end of its own road, this place is as deathly quiet and serene as when it was first built for prayer and contemplation. Standing at the top of its tower, I could hear nothing but the occasional rustle of a falling leaf. 

Anyway, here are selected fotos, starting with the view from said tower:-

The adjacent church

The remains of the small monastery below the church

The church facade

The church interior 

An indication of how things once were?

The gateway to the adjacent monastery

Cloister. Obviously.

 A bizarre tree close to the church, with pagan overtones?

My first visit had been to a restored monastery and my second to a ruin only partly restored. My third visit was to a living monastery, albeit one with only 12 monks, against the 150 it had at its peak. This was the monastery of Santa María de Oseira  which, incidentally, starred in Graham Greene's novel, Monsignor Quixote. It was the largest of the 3 and featured a guided tour costing a mere €3. The monks, by the way, were originally Cistercian but I've seen them described as Trappist. Despite being a lapsed Catholic, I can't tell you the difference. See here and here, if really interested. 

Selected fotos:-

 The adjacent church

The monastery facade

The front of the complex

One of the 3 cloisters

Medallions of now-unknown once-famous folk

Part of the roof of the church

A 'flat ceiling', in English Gothic style.

Palm pillars 

 Above the palm pillars

A detail from the ceiling

A statue of 'St Cister'(??) slaughtering Moors. As yet, political correctness hasn't arrived from Santiago de Compostela, where a similar statue of St James the Moorslayer has the hapless Muslims obscured by a bank of irises.

Another cloister. The 7 monks have their cells on the right hand side.

A third cloister

The refectory table. Possibly too large for just 7 monks. But irrelevant if they can't talk to each other.

Finally, some of the wonderful scenery in the Ribera Sacra, featuring the river Sil . . .

 Final notes, for drivers:-
  • Don't rely on your satnav for the distance to the next turn.
  • Don't rely on your satnav for the speed limits. There is dissonance! Keep your eyes on the (constantly changing) signs.
  • Be aware that, possibly for topographical reasons, the city of Ourense has a series of complex roundabouts on its periphery. It's very easy to get confused at these, especially if you're trying to look at your satnav as well as reading the signposts.
Via a combination of the above, I managed to go wrong not just once but thrice!

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