Wednesday 14 January 2015

How did monks live? Try staying at a Monastery-Hotel. Asturias, Northern Spain

Ever wonder how monks used to live?  Well, I am not suggesting an ascetic lifestyle but at least we could put ourselves in their habitat - an 8th century Benedictine monastery, to be exact.  

The Monastery of San Pedro de Villanueva was founded during the reign of the King Alfonso I (693-757, reigned 739-757) in Asturias, the northern province of Spain.  Every Asturian will tell you the glorious history of the Reconquest, when King Alfonso I eschewed a luxury life of a king and waged lifelong battles against the Moors, retaking the entire Northern Spain that was, during his father's generation, conquered by the Muslims.  

Traditionally believed to be founded on February 21, 746, the monastery and its adjacent 12th century church has left us a wealth of archaeological finds.  It underwent extensive reconstruction during the 17th century, but by 1835 the monks were disbanded.  The Spanish government took over the property and declared it a monument in 1907.  It is now part of the Parador hotel group, with splendid rooms modeled along the original structure - the very same cells where monks used to work, pray, and live.  

The Monastery and the Romanesque Church are open to public.  Archaeological and religious relics are displayed throughout the Monastery, and the tranquil cloister is now a peaceful sanctuary for guests to enjoy local wines and cheeses - which, I assume, were daily fares of the monks.  The restaurant, too, serves interesting "Monastery recipes".  

It was lovely to be back in Cangas de Onís and the surrounding mountains.  View my two previous blog posts on Asturias and the mountains.  Cangas de Onís is the doorway to Pico de Europa, a vast expanse of nature preserve set in a backdrop of sheer mountains and pastures.  To the north is the coastline of the Bay of Biscay and, more important, amazing food.  

The Parador hotels around Spain are mostly Spanish historic landmarks, managed by the government since the 1920s.  Official website:  

For complete information about the Parador de Cangas de Onís, download this beautifully produced brochure:  

Hotel Director: José García
Address: Monasterio de San Pedro de Villanueva, 33550 Cangas de Onís.  It is a short distance north of Cangas de Onís; follow the main road and turn right at the second roundabout.  Roads are well sign-posted.  

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