Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

Monks and a Queen October 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 8:53 am

It’s hard to believe that one and a half weeks have already passed since our school-wide trip to Leyre and Olite, small towns in the autonomous community of Navarra. (Note on Spanish geography: Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities, each of which is divided into smaller provinces, named for their capital city.) Another note: having internet issues, but I will add a couple of photos soon!

In Leyre, we visited a monastery, still in function but mostly outfitted for tourism. The underground crypt, which in this case was a room for funeral proceedings, showed off miniature columns topped by giant capitels, but the most striking was the cathedral. Half of the church sported lopsided Roman arches, built before the discovery of the keystone; the other half was gothic, with pointed arches and a single flying buttress. The main entrance to the cathedral was decorated with a huge arch of elaborate reliefs, representing the various sins but also saintly conquests. The lands around the monastery were enjoyable to explore, and very different from Zaragoza.

After eating some amazing bocadillos of Spanish tortilla as a picnic in the hills around the monastery, we boarded the bus (again) and drove to Olite. The treasure of Olite is a gorgeous castle from the 16th century.  After a guided tour, we had an hour or so to explore the castle of our own accord. The gorgeous hanging garden, a caprice of the queen;  the tall towers with winding caracol staircases.  The rooms, originally decked out with bright tapestries and fine furniture, are now bare, but the giant fireplaces and balconies suggest their wondrous past. I could imagine servants and nobles and the queen bustling about in gorgeous clothing when we visited the queen’s room, and the princesses playing in the towers. The incredibly luxury, despite the fact that the rooms are now bare, astonished me. And convinced me that I want to be a queen when I grow up.

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