Tag Archives: Spain UNESCO

Thursday Doors, Palau De La Musica in Barcelona

Palau De La Musica 04

The Palau is an icon of modernist architecture in the city, if there were to be an arm wrestling competition with the Gaudi experience then this would hold its own for sure.  It is an exercise in opulence, grand salons, tiled columns decorated to reflect nature and a concert hall that would surely distract any performer or spectator through a musical performance of any kind.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Travels in Spain, The Royal Monastery at Guadalupe

Gudalupe 06

On a detour during our travels through Portugal we strayed across the border and were staying in the town of Trujillo which is one of my favourite places in the Spain.

I wrote about Trujillo before.  You can click here to read the post.

This is Trujillo…

Trujillo Plaza Mayor

Today we were making the short journey from a town that celebrates military muscle to the religious village of Guadalupe about forty miles or so to the east.

For over thirty miles we drove across the dusty barren plain and sunburned fields of Extremadura, a tough land that provided the harsh conditions that gave rise to the Conquistadors and adventurers of the sixteenth century Spanish Empire.  Then there was a surprise as we approached the border with Castilla-La Mancha as the flat plain became a steep mountain with rivers and forests and mountain villages as though we were suddenly in Switzerland.

There were signposts to Guadalupe but not many visual clues.  The village is built in an obscure valley and it only finally came into view as we turned a sharp corner in the road.  Unusual architecture for a monastery it has to be said with turrets, castellated towers and tiled cupolas that could be mistaken for a fortress or a castle.  A towering pot-pourri of grand style in contrast to the rather shabby town below.

An old postcard…

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Guadalupe is the site of the Royal Monastery of Santa María one of the finest and most important monasteries in all of Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  On account of this it is a very busy place and it took us some time to find a parking space and we lost so much time that we only just arrived in time for the final tour of the day.

I hadn’t realised this but visitors cannot simply wander around the monastery unaccompanied because it has too many precious treasures which are kept behind locked doors so we paid up and tagged onto a tour in meaningless Spanish.  It didn’t really matter all that much we just ignored the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine gun commentary and made up our own stories about the exhibits.  Visitors are not permitted to take photographs either.

The treasures are interesting but for most people the most important part of the tour is right at the very end where passing through a sumptuous Baroque grotto there is a separate chapel with priceless paintings and dazzling artefacts.  Here is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a black Madonna and we joined the line of pilgrims as we shuffled slowly forward, each person in the line stopping to lovingly gaze upon the statue and to place a gentle kiss upon an icon and make a wish.

Perhaps the oddest Madonna and child that I have ever seen…

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Let’s go back in time.  The history of Guadalupe began in the fourteenth century with a familiar story which goes like this – a small boy (these stories generally include young children – Knock in Ireland, Fatima in Portugal, Montserrat in Catalonia) experienced a Marian vision as the Virgin revealed herself to him.

According to legend, when Seville was captured by the Moors, a group of priests fled and buried a statue in the hills near the Guadalupe River. The boy claimed that Mary ordered him to dig at the exact site of the apparition and excavating priests then miraculously rediscovered the hidden statue and built a small shrine around it which eventually evolved into the great monastery of Guadalupe.

Could this be true?  I don’t know.  I try and keep an open mind on the matter of Marian Apparitions, does the Virgin Mary every now and again keep randomly appearing to simple people in remote towns and villages around the World? Maybe!

An interesting issue about the Madonna is that she is black and so is the infant Jesus which is just one of those pieces of evidence that some scholars rely upon to support the theory that Jesus wasn’t a sort of blond Nordic type like Leif Erikson that we all imagine him to have been in the west but rather more like a dark skinned man from the Middle East. Rather like an Arab.  If Muslims believed in Jesus and were allowed religious portraits then I am certain he would be black.

Jesus Black or White

It seems to work well both ways I think but that surely is the point, Jesus can be whatever you want him (or her) to be…

Another interesting fact is that Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493 after the Our Lady of Guadalupe and today there are many places called Guadalupe all over South America and the Southern United States, all of them a legacy of this tiny Spanish town.

Our visit to the monastery over there wasn’t a great deal more to do in Guadalupe and to be honest we didn’t care for the place a great deal, it seemed closed and impenetrable, secretive and somewhat eerie, even a little hostile and we felt uncomfortable.  We took a pavement table in the village centre but this turned out to be the sort of place where the staff seem to find customers an inconvenience, service to be optional and no tapas for us so after a swift drink we were glad to leave without leaving a tip, return to the car and drive back to the Parador Hotel in Trujillo.

I am really glad that I visited the Royal Monastery of Santa María of Guadalupe, I didn’t get any sort of Divine thrill I have to say, I am not a religious person at all, I only go to Church for weddings, christenings and funerals and remain sceptical about things such as this but if so many people believe in it then that’s fine by me.

Read my post about Spain World Heritage Sites here

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Travels in Spain – Statues

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Thursday Doors, Besalú in Catalonia

Wooden Door of Catalonia Besalu

My full post about the charming town of Besalú can be seen here

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Favourite Places in Spain, Almagro in Castilla-La Mancha

Almagro Watercolours

Almagro is an old town that was once much more important than it is today, two hundred and fifty years ago it was for a short time the provincial capital of La Mancha (1750-61) but religious decline set in during the reign of Charles III and it fared badly and suffered damage in the Napoleonic and the Carlist wars.

Eventually it was eclipsed by its neighbour Ciudad Real and it settled down to become  the quiet provincial town that it is today on, not being unkind, a secondary, less important, tourist trail.  We came upon Almagro quite by chance and chose it for a one night stop-over.  We stayed for three!

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Favourite Places in Spain, Chinchon in Comunidad de Madrid

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From Besalu in Catalonia to Chinchon in Castilla-La Mancha about four hundred and fifty miles to the south.

The Plaza is in a marvellous location with a big irregular shaped square that is used for town festivals and the occasional bullfight; it is surrounded by a hierarchical arrangement of buildings of two and three storeys with two hundred and thirty-four wooden running balconies all painted a uniform shade of green called ‘claros’ and below these shops, bars and restaurants on the ground floor all spilling out onto the pavement.

It was the location for one of the opening scenes, a bullfight as it happens, in the 1966 film, ‘Return of the Magnificent Seven’ and was also used as a location for the film ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’.

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Favourite Places in Spain, Besalú in Catalonia

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Besalú is designated as a National Historic Property but it is rather small and as we were staying here for a couple of nights we thought it best not to rush around and see everything straight away.  This plan suited me just fine because it was exceptionally hot by mid-afternoon so the best place to be was in the main square under a parasol with a big glass of cool Estrella beer in a frozen glass and several plates of local specialities for lunch.

Eventually the bars and restaurants began to close down as the owners and staff cleared the tables and started to think about the afternoon siesta so we took the hint and moved off to go and explore the streets of Besalú.

Away from the medieval main square we melted into narrow alleys with cobbled streets with weathered stone buildings and balconies with terracotta pots host to effervescent flower displays, wooden doors with heavy metal hinges and rusty locks and several coats of paint attempting to conceal the damage of hundreds of years.

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Favourite Places in Spain, Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha

“…Sigüenza, ninety miles from Madrid, remains a quiet spot in an empty landscape.  It sits among narrow valleys celebrated by Camilo José Celar in his ‘Journey to the Acarria’”  –  Christopher Howse – ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

I am sharing with you my favourite places in Spain; last time I was in the north in Cantabria and today I am two hundred and fifty miles south in the town of Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha…

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Favourite Places in Spain, Santillana del Mar in Cantabria

santillana del mar

“Le plus joli village d’Espagne”  –  Jean Paul Sartre

In my last post as I left Trujillo in Extremadura I made reference to my favourite places in Spain so I thought I might take some time to share these with you.  I begin with Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, almost four hundred miles north of Trujillo and in a very different part of Spain.

Santillana del Mar is a most picturesque town and often appears in any top ten of best villages in Spain. This may of course have something to do with the fact that the French writer, philosopher and all-round clever dick, Jean Paul Sartre declared it to be the prettiest village in Spain, although I am not absolutely sure just how much of Spain he visited and just what he was comparing it with or how he came to this rather sweeping judgment.  Perhaps it was just a lucky guess!

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There is apparently an old saying that Santillana del Mar is The Town of Three Lies, since it is neither a Saint (Santo), nor flat (llana) and has no sea (Mar) as implied by the town’s name. However, the name actually derives from Santa Juliana (or Santa Illana) whose remains are in the kept in the Colegiata, a Romanesque church and former Benedictine monastery.

Travels in Spain, Trujillo in Extremadura

As we began the long journey to Castilla-La Mancha I looked in the rear view mirror and decided that I needed to find a spot for Trujillo in my list of favourite places in Spain.

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