The monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is one of the most famous in central Spain, and it is the cloister attached to the church that has put it on the map. The two-story cloister has some of the most impressive Romanesque art in the country. The initial impact of the green garden, set amid the pillars on all sides of the cloister, is only outdone by the stunning details on the carved capitals. Each one is different from the next. There are lions, twisting floral motifs and delicate weavings in stone, but it is the geometric influences of Islamic art that are most striking here. At one point, two columns twist together in an unusual dance.
A guide points out the episodes from the life of Christ, carved on the walls of the corners near the pillars. Much of the monastery is off-limits to visitors, but it is possible to visit the 17th century pharmacy and a museum housing religious treasures. The tour is conducted in Spanish, but English-speaking visitors are given a small brochure outlining the cloister’s finer points.
The monks sing several times a day during the various prayer sessions between dawn and vespers, the ‘lighting of the lamps’. Visitors are welcome to attend and listen to the singing, but photos are discouraged.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I happened to stumble upon the fact that the Canto Gregoriano CD that we had purchased back in the 1990s was recorded by the monks who live in the monastery there. The CD had hit the British pop charts at the time or else we may never have heard of the haunting music. We’ve been playing it for years, especially when we want to spend some time in quiet relaxation.
When we were in Santiago de Compostela we read about the fact that the nuns at a monastery sing at vespers and visitors are welcome, so we thought it would be fitting for us to hear their male counterparts sing as well. Both visits are ones we will remember for a long time to come. We noticed that the average age of the monks was not a whole lot lower than that of the nuns, whatever will happen to this haunting music when this generation passes away. There appear to be so few new members of these religious orders, one day everyone may have to rely on the CD recordings of Canto Gregoriano as it may not be possible to hear the real thing.