Mikey awoke well rested and ready for the last real uphill part of the Camino. While it would be much less dramatic than previous climbs, today features the highest physical point of the Camino del Norte and a whole lot of wilderness.
Oh, but here’s the rub: while the monastery has been around since the 10th century, it was abandoned in the 19th when the Spanish government kicked out the monks in hopes of quartering soldiers there. Let’s just say that it didn’t work out well and the monastery went into major disrepair. A group of Cistercian monks came back around 1955, but nature had already begun to reclaim much of the building.
Instead of fighting it, the monks have embraced the takeover allowing almost every crevice to become a potential plant bed. (Yes, this is bizarre. But, so is selling off all your stuff, donning a robe, and cloistering yourself away with other nut… er, like-minded folks.)
Mikey got the chance to wander all around the main church once all the tourists were gone. The whole time he kept feeling like Indiana Jones in one of those abandoned temples. (This would be the priest’s view from behind the altar. Awesome!)
We were in a bit of a rush, though. Not knowing what to expect, Mikey decided to attend vespers. The last time he went to a vespers service was with his dad, Frank. It was a sung service at Westminster in London some 16 years ago.
That Anglican service was well put together, albeit with the tourist in mind. This was not. Now Mikey wasn’t expecting a Sound of Music style review, but it was really just a bunch of old monks singing a service for themselves and their god. 0% showbiz – 100% real. Oh, and there was so much coughing and clearing of throats to the point where Mikey thinks there might be a monastic cold going around.
Here’s a quick video from part of the service. We’re not sure if Mikey was supposed to film or take pictures, so he tried to do it on the sly.
Perhaps more moving was the prolonged visit to the church afterwards. In the dying light of day, Mikey walked around for some time – sitting at times in a pew, leaning at other times on an ancient column. We’re not really sure what he was going for, but it gave him a lot of time to reflect.
It is Sunday. In three days time he will have completed the Camino del Norte and will be in Santiago de Compostela. Will it be mission accomplished or something more anticlimactic? There is certainly a mountaintop experience to which all pilgrims can attest. Let’s enjoy this one while it lasts.