Room with a Pew: Sleeping Our Way Through Spain's Ancient Monasteries Paperback – 20 Jan 2012
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"The authors' use of immersion journalism provides unique insight into the inner sanctum of the monasteries, as they describe glimpses of a variety of treasures, including relics, artifacts and art. Better still is their shared insight into the psychology behind a life dedicated to God. Upon entering one monastery's refectory, the writers wondered, 'Could I eat here? Three times a day in silence? With the same group of people? For fifty years or more?' These questions, while rhetorical for the authors, undoubtedly had real-world ramifications for those who decided to engage in the monastic life." -- Kirkus Reviews"Although there are hundreds of Spanish monasteries where travelers might stay, Starks and Murcutt select seven on their journey from Barcelona to the southern Mediterranean coast, offering readers a captivating tour of these edifices of spirituality, piety, and community--places embodying values so different from the rest of the world. At El Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás, for example, the writers discover porcelain plates that depict a "Chinese Jesus--with sloping eyes, a drooping Fu Manchu mustache, and long thin black hair that he's tied into a topknot." The writers so enjoyed their own experience that they offer advice on choosing a monastery, making a reservation, and getting along with the hosts."-- ForeWord Reviews
From the Back Cover
One recent summer, Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt traveled through Spain--from Barcelona in the north to Málaga on the southern Mediterranean coast--staying exclusively in ancient monasteries. As they quickly discovered, these intriguing places are ripe with history, art, and culture (living museums); peopled by a dying breed of monks and nuns (last chance to see); rarely visited (so few tourists); and open to anyone who cares to stop by (you don't have to be religious, although it doesn't hurt if you are). They are also inexpensive (much of the time); eager for customers (most of the time) and always hospitable (in keeping with the Rule of St. Benedict). This account of the authors' journey shows what it is like to turn your back on tourist Spain (and the hotels, pensions, and up-market paradors) and immerse yourself in the cowled world of Spain's ancient monasteries. This is not a guide book, but it does contain enough information for you to plan a similar journey of your own. The tone is irreverent at times, often amusing, but always respectful and entertaining. Monasteries visited- El Reial Monestir de Santa María de Vallbona - El Monasterio de la Virgen de Monlora - El Monasterio de San Salvador de Leyre - El Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás - El Monasterio de la Purísima Concepción y San José - El Monasterio de la Santa María de las Escalonias - Convento de la Purísima Concepción (Santa María) MarchenaSee all Product description
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An example of how the authors treat the subject of relics:
"I've never seen a severed finger before. This one when I examined it closely, is unnaturally long, as if it possesses an extra knuckle. It's also brown what I would call "formaldehyde brown" the color laboratory specimens turn when they are past their sell-by date. It sticks up in what might be construed as a rude gesture set like a spent candle in an ornate filigree holder."
The authors, who were benefiting from the generosity of believers who were extending hospitality to them according to the dictates of their faith, write glibly:
"And most nights I've slept in a room with a man nailed to a cross, blood coursing from an open wound in his sight, his crowned head lolling on one shoulder or thrown back as he gazes skyward in an anguished rebuke it's been a fun filled few weeks Christianity must surely be one of the world's most violent religions - especially when you see it up close from inside the Spanish monastery.
"It can also of course be an inspiration - and, if you approach it with a modicum of doubt, even an inadvertent source of amusement "The fingernail," I tell a man beside me, "it needs a trim".
People who write from this viewpoint clearly have not a clue about Spain and her culture.