Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sat 23 April - A Pagan Temple?

Today was just one of those days that worked.  Sometimes it just goes like that, starts well and just gets better and better.  

We actually managed a nice slow start to the day.  No early morning visitors, no crazy phone calls from the UK.  No nothing.  Just us in bed with the doors open and the cool breeze.  Fresh melon, kiwi and yoghurt, toast and coffee.  Me joining in with KP's Learn Italian.  Quite amusing. 

We did an hour or so of the usual (raking and painting), then I, fed up with not wearing flip flops because my ties are such a mess, had a girlie moment and painted my nails outside in the sunshine.   

Eventually, we wandered up the hill to Ian and Carole's for a birthday party lunch and a very pleasant afternoon we had.  We met some new people, all very nice and all very interesting. Mike, the pharmaceutical scientist and his wife, who have a place in the square, Steve and Jackie (very Penelope Keith, complete with flowing dress, big floppy hot and voice to match) from Cambridge and their son, Bill, a mushroom forager and cyclist (good guy), and his girlfriend Marina, an American Human Rights lawyer.  A great afternoon.  

We learnt from Bill that there was some sort of soirée tonight at the Abbey, Gregorian Monks, he thought.  Now that we couldn't miss.  The Abbey, St Liberatore alla Maiella, is just stunningly serene.  Built in the 9th century, nestled in the hills behind Serramonacesca, it has been beautifully preserved.  We've never been inside so what a way to see it, to the backdrop of Gregorian Monks chanting.  We knew we were in for a treat, but had absolutely no idea how special this was going to be. 

St Liberatore alla Maiella
But first we had to get there.  The Abbey is about a 30 minute walk by road and, theoretically, half that distance as the crow flies.   Across country.  Now, there is a very nice little track that goes from the back of us, into the Maiella, around the Tor, across the river and comes in at the back of the Abbey.  A very pleasant, if rather long, walk.   

A slight difference in understanding of the route we were to take meant my expected very pleasant evening amble to the Abbey was replaced by a crashing through the undergrowth, getting garrotted by brambles, sliding down banks attempting to follow KP's "as the crow flies short cut".  Don't worry he says, all we need do is follow the pylons.  What flippin pylons?!  We can't even see the sky through this undergrowth we're crawling through, let alone pylon cables.  

Eventually we bashed our way through and appeared out the other side, just before the Abbey, looking like the crazy eccentrics we clearly were at that moment in time.  Dishevelled, muddy, hot and sweaty for an evening of culture. 

But wow.  Just take my breath away.  Expecting the ornate and elaborate of a catholic church, the Abbey was one of stunningly beautiful simplicity.  Absolutely, without any shadow of doubt (although I'll need to check this), this Abbey began it's life as a pagan temple.  

Awestruck we could have sat, stared, experienced and absorbed, with or without the Gregorian Monks.   And then the Gregorian Monks arrived.  

Not Gregorian chanting at all (although there was some), but a very dramatic medieval play.  We have absolutely no idea what was going on but it was most definitely a play of passion. 

With the medieval musical instruments, lute playing, drum beating and dancing animals, it also appeared very paganistic in origin, but it it did finish off with the crucifixion of Christ.  

Whatever it was, whatever it was about, it was magical.  

We bumped into Bill and Marina on the way out, walked into Serra and finished the evening with them over a couple of glasses of wine in the bar.  Nice people.  Bill's off cycling up to the Blockhaus tomorrow, a long, long way up to 2500m, of at least 3 hours, if not more, of slogging pedalling, probably into the snow line.  

Sounds good and very tempting, but I'm not sure if we'll be joining him.  Maybe when we're not quite so workaday weary.  But then, you never know...

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