Covarrubias, Santo Domingo de Silos

Oppressive Heat, Missed Vespers, a Wedding, and Baby Heads

Group 2 — Maureen, Savannah and Weslee

We visited Covarrubias, an early Castilian city. Everywhere was the seal of the Castilian kings. Adán gave us a guided tour of the Colegiate Church. Inside we saw an art gallery with late medieval religious depictions of St. Michael, St. Sebastian, St. Cecelia. There was an abundance of Marian representations. All seemed to lead up to the fantastic altarpiece portraying the birth of Christ, the Magi, scenes from the Transfiguration, the Baptism, and martyred saints. We found ourselves amazed by the well-preserved late-Medieval textiles. We heard the sad story of the “Princess Who Came from the Cold,” Cristina de Noruega. It was interesting to see the links between Spain and Northern Europe. These connections demonstrate the interrelated histories of all of the kingdoms of Christendom.

Covarrubias Tryptic alte 15th Century

As fascinating as the tour was, we were glad to break for lunch. We found a cool spot by the river that runs through the town, although we had to cross a bridge of stones to get to our picnic destination. The river offered a welcome reprieve during this record heatwave. We had a three-hour break to explore. Wes stayed by the river for a while and Maureen and I went into town to shop. We all met up in the town center later on and caught in a wedding procession! The bold and stylish outfits of the attendants drew our attention like something out of Fashion Week. Wes was lucky enough to see the happy couple depart. It was a fun way to end the morning.

We hopped on the bus and headed to Santo Domingo de Silos. Most of us enjoyed the nap break. In Santo Domingo de Silos, our first stop was the beautiful monastery. In the church, we experienced firsthand the stunning asceticism and acoustics. The dome structures echoed our voices all around. We sat for a while, thinking up songs to sing together. It was incredible. It was a moment that will stay with us for a long time. Then, Jesús showed us the “medieval washing machine,” a stream under a covered bridged area. We all cooled off in the mountain stream and waited for the opportunity to tour the monastery.

12th Century Sculpture Santo Domingo de Silos, Doubting Thomas
Doubting Thomas, Santo Domingo de Silos, 12th Century

Adán talked us through the cloisters, which included a beautiful garden that contained a cypress tree celebrated by the twentieth-century Spanish poet, Gerardo Diego (El ciprés de Silos). The central courtyard was surrounded by pillars with Romanesque capitals dating from the twelfth century. The corners of the Cloisters were decorated with relief sculptures of significant Biblical events from the life of Christ. The most notable was undoubtedly the depiction of Doubting Tomas verifying the veracity of the resurrection, surrounded by the other apostles. This is an iconic Romanesque era piece and is remarkably well-preserved in this monastery.

Then we moved on to the apothecary/pharmacy, where the monks practiced early medical science. Wes enjoyed the taxidermic owl. Then we visited a gallery of artifacts with more medieval religious pieces. Savannah’s favorite was the Beatus Apocalypse of Liebana. Lastly, we saw some contemporary art by Antonio Lopez. Savannah loved his interpretation of the mundane, particularly one of the flower pieces of a vase above some light switch panels. For Maureen, the most notable was the series of flowers wilting from painting to painting over the years. 

From there, most of us decided to trek up a nearby hill to a small shrine with a statue of her Mary overlooking the town. Dr. Baynard practiced his aerial photography. We were all struck by the view of the town from the hilltop. After soaking it in for a bit, Maureen and Savannah visited a café and Wes visited another after cooling off again in the washing stream. Sadly, Maureen and Savannah missed vespers due to a miscommunication. Wes enjoyed the prayerful experience and the fragrant incense. When we all met up again, we saw an art installation by Antonio López Garcí­a depicting two giant baby heads.

View from hilltop of the town of Santo Domingo de Silos

Upon reflection at the end of the day, we all were left with certain impressions from the experience. Wes was intrigued by the demonstration of Spain at the height of its colonial power. For Maureen, the highlight was the monastery singalong. Savannah also enjoyed the experience singing in such an acoustically conducive environment. She also enjoyed the rich religious history of the cathedrals and galleries, religious art being of particular interest to her. While the heat of the day threatened to dampen our spirits and exhaust our bodies, our visits to Covarrubias and Santo Domingo de Silos are experiences we will not soon forget.