Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Spanish Cave Churches: A Rocky Relationship With the Lord

Leaving our cosy Liencres apartment behind, we journeyed south into the hilly lands around the river Ebro. The temperature quickly dropped (surely not helped by the mystically rectangular bank of fog we drove through), and I lamented the fact that I had been at the beach just yesterday.

Valdeprado del Río, Spain (Valdeprado del Río, España)
November 2015
Stopping along our route, we briefly checked out the Monasterio de Montesclaros, which was closed and the village utterly deserted. The facade showcased some intricate carvings, including that of the virgin and baby Jesus in a style I can only describe as charmingly yet eerily doll-like.

The story goes that many centuries ago a herdsman saw one of his bulls emerge from a dense shrubbery several days in a row. Following him one day, he found the bull kneeling in front of a small cave looking in with rapture. A light emanated from inside, and looking closer he found an image of the virgin Mary. Thinking it obviously holy, he led a procession up to the cave, grabbed the holy image and stuck it in the town's church, but it miraculously disappeared. It teleported back to the cave! He swiped it again, but the very next day it had again apparated into the holiest of holy caves. He tried containing it in another church nearby, but it failed to stay put and always returned to its cave. Conceding defeat, they built a chapel around the cave and later a church was built atop it - the Monasterio de Montesclaros!
Before we move on I have to point out that at this stage I was wearing a bikini under a pair of shorts, a thin jumper and jandals. This was blatant overhopefulness on my part, and I took the lack of passersby as an opportunity to change into more suitable outerwear in the car.

We parked in the tiny town of Aguilar de Campo, and were barked at quite unfairly by three dogs. Luckily the biggest one was chained up, so we felt safe enough. I found this church to be the most interesting of the cave churches we had visited. Again, it was closed, although apparently you could ask at the local pub for the key (many other cave churches were accessible by key obtained by knocking on the door of the nearest house or finding the priest).

It looked incredibly rustic, with windows of varying sizes and several different construction materials. 

On the path leading up to the church was a rocky belfry with a rusty gate enclosing what was possibly the crypt.

This time it was I who got to pretend to be a zombie! I need to up my acting skills, I know.

Needing a little siesta, we lunched and rested in our car in the town of Fromista, watched over by San Telmo (aka Saint Elmo). He was the most famous person to be born in Fromista. No one could compare even given the last 800 years in which to try. Standing on his tiniest of boats he protected seafarers from watery graves.

Aside from Saint Elmo, the town's main drawcard is its church - the Iglesia de San Martin dating from 1066. It's in the Romanesque style as you can see from its semi-circular arched windows and doorways, and though it somewhat invokes the idea of a barn, it's also quite beautiful.

Wrapped up nice and warm against the increasingly cool air, we drove onwards towards citylife once again.

Today's post was almost called: Confessions of Crypto-Zombology