Santo Domingo de Silos – listening to the vespers

On May 16th – Thursday – we follow the river Duero upwards with destination Santo Domingo de Silos.


Lunch stop at Peñafiel

We stop in Peñafiel for lunch. Like everywhere in Castilla & León, a castle watches over the small city – it has been built in the 11th century to defend the area reconquered from the Arabs.

Peñafiel says that they are the cradle (cuna) of the D.O. wine region Ribera del Duero.


In “Vinos de España”, Larousse 2008, by Claude Naudin et alii, p.192, I found Bodegas Protos, founded in 1927. Their cellar is in the rock under the castle of Peñafiel, and they were the first bodega to write the term “Ribera del Duero” on the labels of their wine bottles. So, it is true that Peñafiel is the cradle of the D.O. Ribera del Duero, as they coined the name. Perhaps “hasta pronto” will come true for me to learn more about the wines of Peñafiel and about Protos.

Driving through vineyards we head north, before the rain announced starts.


Santo Domingo de Silos – the Benedictine monastery in the wild mountains

We drive through the wild Yecla canion (Desfiladero de Yecla) and reach Santo Domingo de Silos on about 1000m, in the mountains. The place looks secluded, just right for monks to meditate and pray. Santo Domingo de Silos is a Benedictine monastery…

… surrounded by a small village with narrow streets and many hotels.

The hotel Santo Domingo gave us their last room – all other rooms booked out.


The Romanesque cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos

In the 11th century, the Benedictine abbey was founded by Dominic, with support of the Castilian-Leonian king Fernando the Great.

From that time, the Romanesque two-storey cloister has survived.

The cypress – 22m high – is more than a hundred years old, a symbol in the cloister.

The capitals are richly decorated with scenes from the life of Christ, with animals, plants and with fantasy figures. When entering the cloister, we received a leaflet that explains each capital with much care, perfectly translated to German.

Most outstanding are the representations in the corners of the cloister. This is one example: Christ appears to the apostles, and doubting Thomas touches Christ.

My favourite corner panel is Christ on the Road to Emmaus represented as a pilgrim on the Way of St. James. He wears the typical pilgrim hat and a bag that has been carefully decorated with scallops – also the buckle for closing the bag is a scallop. What a nice detail!


Gregorian Chants at Santo Domingo de Silos

The monks sing Gregorian Chants and they are famous for that. They have published records of their chants.

They invite guests to listen to them sing their chants in the neo-classical church of the monastery.

We attend the vespers at seven p.m.. For about three quarters of an hour the monks sing and read to praise God, Christ and the Holy Spirit – nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum – now and for ever, in the centuries of the centuries. At the end, they walk to the Chapel of their Santo Domingo to ask him to pray for them, he who founded this monastery. The church was almost full and we all inhaled the solemnity of the chants. Though not being Catholic, I like this atmosphere that touches the heart instead of the intellect.


Next plans

Together with a group of about 40 Australians we have dinner and breakfast. They travel from Portugal via Spain to France. Very noisy and busy in this secluded valley.

We continue our way east, first along the Duero to Soria and then to Zaragoza.







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