Ah, youth. We have been living in the senior heavy complex of Torrevieja for so long we forgot what it was like to live in a city with a young population. The overall younger vibe to the city, the energy pulsing through the streets, the people walking faster to get places, the restaurants offering healthier food fare and a place where everyone picks up after their canine friends. What a refreshing couple of days we had in Granada. Why, oh why didn’t we come sooner…?
Granada has a current population of over 230,000. It is also home to the University of Granada which has a student population of 80,000 making it the 4th largest university in Spain. University buildings were scattered around the city which means that university life is key to the livelihood of the area.
Granada is more than The Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex world renowned for its Islamic architecture. Mike dearly wanted tickets to see it and thinking that it wasn’t yet tourist season he waited to order tickets. That turned out to be a mistake since the tickets are limited for entry and you need to purchase them as far in advance as possible to your arrival date. You must also stick to the rigid schedule set forth on your ticket for entry since if you miss your appointment time there is still no guarantee they will admit you.
While this might have seemed like a downer to most travelers in reality it meant we had time to explore other sites around Granada and the first of these was the Monastery of Cartuja. This contemplative order of monks was started by St. Bruno de Hartenfaust in 1084.
From the street the monastery building looks like a seemingly plain and unwelcoming place. Ultimately it reminded me of the walk one takes from the entrance of the Vatican museums to the Sistine Chapel. We just didn’t know it at the time.
The entrance gate to the Monastery of Cartuja as seen from the street. It really didn’t look inviting. We were told by many locals however that they find the Monastery to be a better treasure than the Alhambra so this boded well.
The center courtyard of the Monastery was the main portal to rooms filled with works of art and a very slim glimpse into monastic life.
This room was where the monks from the Carthusian order would eat their Sunday meal. They only ate together on Sundays and Holidays. Other times they ate in their rooms, alone.
Officially known as the Profundis room this is where the painting of Saints Peter and Paul painted by Sanchez Cotan hangs. There where several examples of what you see is not what is really there in this monastery such as the marble looking frame surrounding the painting; it was actually painted on the wall to look 3-D.
We then entered the first of three chapels. This was the main altar.
This is the wall above the main entrance to the chapel known as the chancel; it was through this door that locals would enter the chapel. The door we entered through was accessed via the monastery itself and was used as an entry by the monks. Every square inch of the chapel walls was covered in paintings, tapestries or sculptures.
If I didn’t know better I’d say it was fashioned after the Sistine Chapel. First one entry; then a choir area which led to the main altar.
The church was built around a single nave and construction began in the 16th Century and completed in 1662.
To the left of the main altar was the Holy Sanctuary or Sacristy. Construction of this chapel began in 1727 and took 37 years to complete.
Every chapel had a dome. This one was completed in 1753 by Tomas Ferrer and depicts St. Bruno and St. John, among other leaders of the order.
The Sanctuary hosts works of art by various artists and a gray marble altarpiece.
This is the main altar of the Holy Shrine which is accessed behind a wall of glass behind the main altar of the Chapel proper. The altar was made of marble with guilt statues in each corner bearing the symbols of the Eucharist.
The dome of the Holy Shrine. Painted by Palomino and completed in 1712 it depicts the hand of St. Bruno holding the Monstrance above the world. Also depicted is the Holy Trinity, with Our Lord at the right and St. John the Baptist to the left.
As with the other two chapels this one was also covered in great works of art. This special chapel was built between 1704 and 1720 by Francisco Izquierdo using different types of marble. There are double Corinthian columns in each corner supporting the arches upon which the dome rests.
The final dome, over the main alter of the first chapel. It was quite a surprise to see the angels looking back at me. We couldn’t find anywhere where it was written but can’t you just hear some parent telling their children that if they needed proof that angels where watching over them they only had to look up.
If we have learned anything over the last three years it is that we can still be awed by the beauty and surprises that seem to be all around us no matter where we go. Such was our time at the Monastery of Cartuja. Feeling rejuvenated and inspired we left the monastery ready to explore more of what the city of Granada had to offer, and we walked with a youthful gait. We also began to wonder, where were all the pomegranates?
(This is part one of a two part blog about our time in Granada, Spain. Coming next – The Pomegranate City.)