Rain – forecast it seems for a few more days – we are definitely up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and not ‘on that plain, in Spain!’ They have had drought conditions with serious forest fires all summer long. They need the rain badly and the whole of Europe is being soaked.
I headed south after an enormous breakfast to the ancient (it almost goes without saying) town of Graus, known internationally for its embutidos, sausages, fresh and cured. The video is of their main square, plaza mayor, the focal point of every city, town and village. This one has been recently restored. The frescoes echo back to the 16th century when this style was imported from Italy. The final shot is of a butcher shop, carnecería, as in carnal, of the flesh. The town spreads out in innumerable narrow lanes, without any overall plan, a direct link with the medieval origins of the place. The Spanish do their restorations very well.
I headed north again beyond Roda to the 11th century monastery of Obarra (with earlier Visigothic roots). The weather was closing in, the clouds thickening, darkening, threatening and finally thundering, una tormenta. My spirit was very calm, definitely not tormentado, with my head protected by my cowl (my hoodie) and tonsure as I made my way through the forest pathway – felt quite medieval.
I took this photo a bit later when the weather was clearing. I am now going to try to give you a link to quite a collection of photos of Obarra from the internet. It will give you a sense of the wall of mountains which rises directly behind the buildings.
May it work, or simply google – monastery of obarra – yourself.
The gorge of Obarra, rising up behind the monastery, was at times not more than 10 feet wide (the road had been carved into the left side of the river), with some walls rising easily 100 feet. Many tunnels and 9 kilometres later I went over the Pass of Bonansa, at 1380 metres, moving closer and closer to the Pyrenees themselves. The monastery is tucked down to the right in the photo. The original trail through the gorge would have connected with others to eventually connect Spain beyond the Pyrenees to the vast number of other Benedictine and Cistercian houses spread across Europe.
This house would have been Cistercian, noted for their austerity, simplicity, poverty, and a life of prayer and work, the distant opposite of those houses which justifiably had provoked the Reformation. The Cistercian movement had itself been a reformation within the church.
Enjoy. I am heading further north and to the west in the morning. In making it to Jaca, often in heavy rains, I had the pleasure of traveling through two other stunning gorges.