A Room with a Pew: Sleeping Our Way through Spain's Ancient Monasteries

Overview

One recent summer, Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt traveled through Spain?from Barcelona in the north to M?laga 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 ...

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A Room with a Pew: Sleeping Our Way Through Spain's Ancient Monasteries

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Overview

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) Marchena 

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Editorial Reviews

ForeWord
Respected travel writers Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt plunged off the beaten path through Spain, spending their nights exclusively in several of the country's ancient monasteries... Starks and Murcutt offer readers a captivating tour of these edifices of spirituality, piety and community - places embodying values so different from the rest of the world. The writers so enjoyed their own experience that they offer advice on choosing a monastery, making a reservation, and getting along with the hosts.
Book Pleasures
If you have any inclination to try an offbeat way of seeing Spain, this book would give you some options. The authors do a good job of giving step-by-step advice about how to approach such a trip.
A Traveler's Library
Starks and Murcutt have created a book that is great fun to read - unreligious, but not sacreligious... an entertaining book that sheds a lot of light on an important element of Spain, and gives very practical information about the way you might go about sleeping with nuns.
City Book Review
Travel books can get repetitive or dull. Not this one. Brimming over with witty asides and accounts of occasional disappointments, even the 'how to' pages are as enticing as they are informative.
Kirkus Reviews
In their latest dispatches from abroad, Starks and Murcutt (Along the River that Flows Uphill: From the Orinoco to the Amazon, 2009, etc.) take readers on a pilgrimage to seven monasteries across Spain. 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. Yet when one monk notes the dearth of new recruits, readers may wonder if the answers to the aforementioned questions have often been a negative, if the monastic life is an endangered species soon to be another casualty of the modern world. While the book begins as a grand parade across Spain, it soon takes on characteristics of a forced march in which the primary difference among the monasteries are the people within their walls. Early on, Starks and Murcutt describe one monastery as "quiet and peaceful with an unhurried pace"--a good description for this book. There is little agency here, and while the authors faithfully report their trip, faith itself plays a minor role. Lighthearted and occasionally humorous, but not fully engaging.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762781454
  • Publisher: Lyons Press, The
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,228,668
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt are writers and editors who have authored several books, including Lost in Tibet and Along the River that Flows Uphill. Worldwide travelers, they rank their journey through Spain’s ancient monasteries as one of their most rewarding experiences. They live in Boulder, Colorado. Visit them at www.starksmurcutt.com. 

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Table of Contents

Introduction viii

El Reial Monestir de Santa María de Vallbona: Cistercian 1

El Monasterio de la Virgen de Monlora: La Congregatión Apostólica Marta y María 39

El Monasterio de San Salvador de Leyre: Benedictine 73

El Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás: Dominican 109

El Monasterio de la Purísima Concepción y San José: Trinitarian 145

El Monasterio de la Santa María de las Escalonias: Cistercians of the Strict Observance, aka Trappist 171

Convento de la Purísima Concepción (Santa María) Marchena: Franciscan-Clarissa 211

How to Plan Your Own Trip 233

About the Authors 245

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