The Chapel

There is quite the story behind this blend of old gothic lines and new stained glass in the just completed chapel the New Clairvaux Trappist Monastery. You could start with the founding of the Trappist order of monks in 1664 or go back further to the source of stones you see in the upper foreground – they came from an old Spanish monastery that dates back to the 1200s.

Add more recent history, those Spanish blocks were imported by William Randolph Hearst but never used for his original purpose and so dumped in Golden Gate Park. The Trappists, when exploring where to put a new monastery, found land in Vina, California. Already this land had quite a history too as it was originally owned and developed as a winery by Leland Stanford, founder of the university that bears his name. Somehow the monks also acquired title to the Spanish stones and this is the result of their effort. 

For the curious, I’ve added a map so you can how far off the beaten trail the Monastery is. And the monastery has maintained the winery – with good results.

New Clairvaux Monastery

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New Clairvaux Monastery 39.934157, -122.059307



“Serrated Mountain.” That’s the translation for Montserrat, Pretty clear to see why. It is a notable landmark in Catalonia for more than just its beauty.

Monserrat is also shares the name given to a Benedictine monastery that crowns the mountain: Santa Maria de Montserrat. Founded in the 10th century (!), it serves as a spiritual center and tourist magnet.

Things have not always been as serene as this daily scene. Napoleon invaded and sacked the monastery twice in the early 1800s, leaving it a rock pile. From 1936 to 1939 the Spanish Civil War took it’s toll – 22 monks were killed here.

This is a replica of the Virgin of Montserrat, the most venerated object in all of Spain. I saw versions of this 800+ year old wooden statue in serveral other big cities. In the photograph before this one, the original life sized Virgin sits above the altar but is still is hard to see in that image.

There is art inside and out and runs the gamut of new to old. Works of Picasso, El Greco and Dali can be found.

Though you can drive up close to the Monastery, most folks come by rail. I took a conventional train from Barcelona to Manresa and transferred to a cog rail line to reach the point you see here. Another cable funicular can take you to what I was told was a marvelous view of all of Catalonia.

A place to come back to and stay for the more than the half day that I did. Montserrat is also one of Spain’s “Natural” Parks.


More Gaudi

Parc Guell sits on the edge of a foothill just east of downtown Barcelona. Some call it Gauid’s playground. It is, however, a public park and has been for over 100 years.

The land donor commissioned Anton Gaudi (primary architect of Sagrada Familia Basilica) to design the park. Much of what he began experimenting with here became ideas that were incorporated into the Sagrada Familia.

Not initially designed by Gaudi, nonetheless this became his home (and he added some of the ornamentation). It is now the Gaudi House Museum.

Gaudi was very inventive in creating structures free of more traditional limitations of rigidity and texture.

Gaudi used mosaics in many areas but again in different formats than what had come before. Some of his mosaic work did feature design (below) but more often to create a different sense of texture and reflectivity.