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Goya’s Murals and Mudejar art exemplify the beauty of Aragon.

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

The Third of May 1808 (1814) By Francisco Goya, Oil on Canvas, Museo del Prodo, Madrid, Spain.

Enveloped by a verdant woodland, the monastery occupies a mountaintop location. Founded at the end of the 17th century, a Gothic hermitage is all that endures of the very first settlement. The remainder of the complex is Baroque in style. Between the monastery and Zaragoza is the Cartuja de Aula Del, home to Goya murals. In 1774, Goya painted fourteen scenes of the Virgin Mary for a Spanish church used by sequestered Carthusian monks. Until recently, only three women, one a Spanish princess, had seen the paintings. In November 1998, Queen Sofia led a contingent of fifty women on an unprecedented visit to see the murals. Guided tours are available by prior appointment only. Goya served his apprenticeship and painted his first works in Zaragoza. His paintings are exhibited in the Basilica of Nuestra Senora del Pilar and the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts.

Many of the cities, towns and villages of Aragon lay claim to the most characteristic forms of Mudejar art. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, extensive Mudejar communities existed and bequeathed a legacy of bricklaying and decorative arts. The brick bell-towers, often festooned with glazed ceramic tiles, are peculiar to the region. The monastery has fifteen single and three double rooms and is open year round.

For more information on Span’s monasteries go to: Monasteriesofspain.com

A Medieval Village and the Altamira Caves are reason enough to visit this monastery

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The monastery complex is composed of a Baroque 17th century church, cloister and convent (cells of the friars, refectory, chapter house and library).

In 1605, the Dominican friars of Santillana Del Mar were asked to settle in the hermitage. They accepted and became an independent monastery in 1611. The monastery complex is composed of a Baroque 17th century church, cloister and convent (cells of the friars, refectory, chapter house and library). The simple cloister is adorned with a fine collection of Baroque paintings, representing scenes from the life of Santa Domingo. Each of the six lateral chapels has a retablo dedicated to a saint.

Santillana del Mar is close to the monastery. Its inhabitants jokingly refer to it as the city of three lies: one, it isn’t saintly, two it isn’t flat (Llana means flat) and three, it isn’t by the sea. Despite its popularity and the fact that the city has become a tourist mecca, it is among the most perfectly preserved medieval villages in Spain. Santillana del Mar maintains an old-world atmosphere embodied by exquisite medieval buildings and cobbled streets. Its ensemble of 15th to 17th century golden stone mansions and palaces imbues the town with a distinctive character while offering a glimpse of the old country nobility of Spain. The houses are underscored by wooden galleries of iron balconies filled with flowers, their plain stone facades enlivened by coats of arms.

A short distance away are the Altamira Caves embellished with prehistoric rock paintings renowned for their beauty, vivid coloring and excellent state of preservation. Written application must be made months in advance to arrange a visit. The cave paintings were accidentally discovered by a hunter in 1869. Four years later, an archaeologist happened upon the underground chambers containing the paintings, most of which date to the late Magdalenian period, c. 15,000-10,000 BC. Often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Cave Art, the ceiling of the chamber is emblazoned with animals. The caves’ most famous drawings are of bison. Predominantly painted in red, ocher, black and brown, the minerals used to create the paints were taken from the caves.

For more information go to: Monasteries of Spain

Homemade pastries in Andalucia Spain monastery. Stay for only $6 dollars per night.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

The monastery is well suited for touring the Pueblos Blancos, a route through fortified hilltop towns and villages amid a charming tangle of gorges, cork forests and vast rocky peaks.

The monastery was originally founded by a group of twelve women who had formed a community although they did not belong to any specific order. In 1518 a group of nuns from San Juan de la Palma, a monastery in Seville, joined the group and established the Franciscan monastery. During the religious suppressions, the sisters remained in residence, however, a small part of the building was set on fire. “The damage was small and nothing serious happened,” said one of the nuns. Since the order lives in seclusion, the monastery is not open to visitors. “But guests staying in our guest house can visit our church,” said the Madre Hospedera. ”It is a beautiful Baroque building with a central and two lateral retablos,” she added.

The sisters of this monastery in Andalucia are renowned for their pastries. The monastery is well suited for touring the Pueblos Blancos, a route through fortified hilltop towns and villages amid a charming tangle of gorges, cork forests and vast rocky peaks. Framed by Moorish arches and draped in bougainvillea, these cliff-top towns are so named because they are whitewashed in the Moorish tradition. They retain an atmosphere reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

The architecture and appearance of nearby Seville, capital of bullfighting in Spain, can be traced to the Moorish occupation from 741 to 1248. The monuments from that period represent the sum and substance of Andalusian culture. The Alcazar is ensconced in the historic center and is protected by walls; the neighborhood is underscored by symbolic whitewashed buildings and iron filigreed balconies. Adjoining the cathedral is the Reales Alcazares, one of the oldest royal residences in Europe. Built in Moorish style, it rivals the Alhambra in its exquisite embellishments and grand halls.

Only women are welcomed as guests and extended visits are preferred. The cost is $108 per month or $6.00 per night. For more information about Spanish monasteries click: MonasteriesOfSpain.com