March 12 Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes

A hot shower, a leisurely breakfast of yogurt and cereal, a pleasant drive across the plain, and a 500m climb to the abandoned Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. We began our ascent to the monastery on a narrow, steep, switchback road through dry oak and scrub landscapes, stopping to pick wild rosemary, and exploring the ruined stone fences and stone walls of abandoned houses. As we approached the main monastery, the ruins of a pre-Romanesque church, the only remains of the medieval town of Santa Creu de Rodes, loomed above us. Cast into shadow by the scudding clouds, it had a bleak and desolate air only to loose all sense of menace or foreboding when bathed in sunlight again. Clouded in mist atop the very peak of Mount Verdera, the ruins of Castle Sant de Verdera had long since abandoned its protection of the monastery and town. First mentioned as a small monastic cell in 878, the  Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes became an independent Benedictine Monastery in 945 and reached its zenith in the 11th and 12th centuries. Although a fortress refuge and protected by the castle, it was sacked several times in the 17th century and finally abandoned in 1793. Although abandoned only 215 years ago, the amount of weathering and decay in the stone walls and columns was surprising. The monastery is slowly being restored and the repair work gives a sense of the original stone work and finish. We wandered among the imposing Corinthinian columns and bare, cold, sterile walls of the 16m high church nave and ambulatory, strolled in the barren refectory where monks would haven taken meals, and explored the cool dusty bowels and bedrock foundations in the crypt.  Unfortunately, without artifacts, tapestries, furniture, or monks, it is difficult to get any real sense of what life was once like in the now sterile, lifeless, gigantic stone edifice perched on the mountain. While monks committed themselves to lifelong poverty, celibacy, and obedience to the abbot, we know that they sometimes slipped from their ideals and many a worldly abbot lived a luxurious and despotic life. Bathed alternately in cloud and sun, freezing winds and warm breezes it was probably alternately morbidlydepressing and sublime. Despite the weathering and decay of the stone, the ruins are more intact but feel a less dank and musty than the old Abbeys of England. The destruction wrought by pillaging was not as systematic and nor complete as Henry's stripping of wealth from the Church of Rome in England right down to taking the lead sheathing from the roofs and exposing the stone walls to the elements of the English climate. Roofless, windowless and with many walls fallen, they felt more like parks than monasteries. It was an enjoyable day with strong visuals but I came away a little disappointed having no sense of what life was like for those who built and inhabited the massive stone monument. My strongest memory will probably be of the mist shrouded ruins evoking a sense of desolation and futility. Perhaps a fitting epitaph for those who built these massive monuments and whose motivation may have been a genuine desire to glorify God, or more likely to express and wield power. Either way, their efforts have come to this. We drove back to a pull out with a commanding view of the Mediterranean and the sur- rounding hills. It was too cold to sit out, so were having pleasant lunch in the van when we were paid a visit by a large herd of goats browsing the scrub grasses and shrubs around us. Their goatherd was enjoying the brief patches of sun and was warmly enough dressed, to be oblivious to the chill. Our rather exotic day ended with the mundane as we  spent a couple of hours wandering the aisles of the large Carre- four in Figueres looking to reprovision for another week.
Abandoned sheepherds house, Mont Verdera Iglese, Santa Creu de Rodes Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes Igles, Sant Pere de Rodes Lovely site but so cold we ate in the van.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map

March 12 Monestir de Sant Pere de

Rodes

A hot shower, a leisurely breakfast of yogurt and cereal, a pleasant drive across the plain, and a 500m climb to the abandoned Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. We began our ascent to the monastery on a narrow, steep, switchback road through dry oak and scrub landscapes, stopping to pick wild rosemary, and exploring the ruined stone fences and stone walls of abandoned houses. As we approached the main monastery, the ruins of a pre-Romanesque church, the only remains of the medieval town of Santa Creu de Rodes, loomed above us. Cast into shadow by the scudding clouds, it had a bleak and desolate air only to loose all sense of menace or foreboding when bathed in sunlight again. Clouded in mist atop the very peak of Mount Verdera, the ruins of Castle Sant de Verdera had long since abandoned its protection of the monastery and town. First mentioned as a small monastic cell in 878, the  Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes became an independent Benedictine Monastery in 945 and reached its zenith in the 11th and 12th centuries. Although a fortress refuge and protected by the castle, it was sacked several times in the 17th century and finally abandoned in 1793. Although abandoned only 215 years ago, the amount of weathering and decay in the stone walls and columns was surprising. The monastery is slowly being restored and the repair work gives a sense of the original stone work and finish. We wandered among the imposing Corinthinian columns and bare, cold, sterile walls of the 16m high church nave and ambulatory, strolled in the barren refectory where monks would haven taken meals, and explored the cool dusty bowels and bedrock foundations in the crypt.  Unfortunately, without artifacts, tapestries, furniture, or monks, it is difficult to get any real sense of what life was once like in the now sterile, lifeless, gigantic stone edifice perched on the mountain. While monks committed themselves to lifelong poverty, celibacy, and obedience to the abbot, we know that they sometimes slipped from their ideals and many a worldly abbot lived a luxurious and despotic life. Bathed alternately in cloud and sun, freezing winds and warm breezes it was probably alternately morbidlydepressing and sublime. Despite the weathering and decay of the stone, the ruins are more intact but feel a less dank and musty than the old Abbeys of England. The destruction wrought by pillaging was not as systematic and nor complete as Henry's stripping of wealth from the Church of Rome in England right down to taking the lead sheathing from the roofs and exposing the stone walls to the elements of the English climate. Roofless, windowless and with many walls fallen, they felt more like parks than monasteries. It was an enjoyable day with strong visuals but I came away a little disappointed having no sense of what life was like for those who built and inhabited the massive stone monument. My strongest memory will probably be of the mist shrouded ruins evoking a sense of desolation and futility. Perhaps a fitting epitaph for those who built these massive monuments and whose motivation may have been a genuine desire to glorify God, or more likely to express and wield power. Either way, their efforts have come to this. We drove back to a pull out with a command- ing view of the Mediterranean and the sur- rounding hills. It was too cold to sit out, so were having pleasant lunch in the van when we were paid a visit by a large herd of goats browsing the scrub grasses and shrubs around us. Their goatherd was enjoying the brief patches of sun and was warmly enough dressed, to be oblivious to the chill. Our rather exotic day ended with the mundane as we  spent a couple of hours wandering the aisles of the large Carrefour in Figueres looking to reprovision for another week.
Abandoned sheepherds house, Mont Verdera Iglese, Santa Creu de Rodes Monestir de Sant Pere de Rodes Igles, Sant Pere de Rodes Lovely site but so cold we ate in the van.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map