Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Grand Day Out. Part 2: Escape from the weremonk of Leyre

This is part two of our grand day out.  If you missed out on part 1, you can read about it here.  And now, the adventure continues...

Once we'd narrowly escaped the vultures in the Foz de Lumbier, we found a place to warm up, have a cup of coffee, and an excellent bit of Spanish omelette.  There's nothing quite like hot Spanish omelette to revive you after nearly freezing your behind off.  And, having recovered the feeling in our toes (as well as other strategic parts of our anatomy), we set off on the next leg of our trip and headed towards the Monastery of  Leyre, which is one of those must-see places we always take out-of-town visitors to.

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January is not exactly high season in these parts, so we found that the hotel and bar were closed for vacation, and we were the only tourists around.  Good thing we'd brought some cheese sandwiches.  It was nearly closing time for visits to the abbey, so we decided to save the sandwiches for later and do the tour first.  The woman at the entrance was very nice, and she actually gave us the key, so we could give ourselves a tour around the place.

A lone flying buttress.  Don't you just love to say flying buttress?
I think the most impressive things about this place are the asymmetrical nave, and the tomb holding the remains of the first kings and queens of Navarre, as well as the crypt, which was never used to bury people, but more as a way to level out the building to fit the uneven terrain.  We couldn't visit the actual monastery, which houses around twenty monks, because it isn't open to the public, although it seems they do rent out rooms to those seeking spiritual enlightenment.  So, if you're in need of that, this might just be the place for you (sorry, men only, because otherwise the enlightenment might not be quite so spiritual).

There are nine kings, seven queens, and two princes (and a partridge in a pear tree) crammed into this itty bitty box...and the genie from Aladdin thought he had it bad.

Down in the crypt we didn't find any bodies...

...but we did find some eighteenth-century graffiti:

Matias Salinas was here, 1729
And The Professor, ever serious, as a good professor should be, goofed around, pretending to offer himself up as a sacrifice...

Little did he know, the weremonk was watching...

Once we finished with our little self-tour, the guys decided they wanted to climb the nearby hill, because they had heard there was some sort of virility fountain nearby, and that was something none of them wanted to miss out on.  As we started up the path, we heard the eerie howl of the legendary weremonk (that sounded absolutely nothing like the whine of a circular saw from the nearby roadworks).  I guess he didn't much like The Professor's little joke inside the crypt, and seeing as tourists are scarce this time of year, we suspected he must be ravenous by now.  If you're wondering what a weremonk is, well, I'm not quite sure if it's a regular man who turns into a bloodthirsty monk, or if it's a wolfman who's taken a vow of poverty....but whatever it is, I sure wouldn't want to meet it on a lonely mountain trail, armed with nothing but a cheese sandwich.

I don't know if men can find their virility up here, but the trip is worth it for the view alone.
Halfway there.  The men all look hopeful, don't they?
We managed to avoid the weremonk, and after about a half hour, we found the magic fountain.  Only, it turned out not to be a virility fountain after all.  Instead, we found a sign saying this was the fountain of Saint Virila, who was once the abbot of the monastery.

Legend has it that San Virila went out for a walk one spring day (around the year 850), meditating on the question of eternity, and he fell asleep near the fountain, listening to the song of a nightingale.  When he awoke and returned to the abbey, he found that none of the monks recognized him.  At first he was perplexed, but then he discovered a old document in the monastery's library that said, "around three hundred years ago, a holy monk called San Virila had ruled the monastery and had been eaten by a wild animal on one of his spring walks in the wood".  Wild animal?  Could that be the weremonk?  Or maybe San Virila is the weremonk?

Weremonk or not, San Virila then realized that he was that monk, and that God plays rather cruel practical jokes.

We don't know if the reason that San Virila fell asleep for three hundred years was because he drank from that fountain or not, but the guys decided to risk it anyway, on the off chance that it might still have some sort of virility-boosting effect after all.

The Professor at the fountain.
Well, they didn't fall asleep after that, and this blog is no place to discuss any other effects the waters might have had them, so lets just say it at we all had a nice walk in the woods, no one was eaten by the weremonk, and we'll leave it at that.

And here ends part two of our little adventure.  Tune in next week for part three, especially if you want to see what a man eating a sea urchin looks like.  But first we have another photo contest coming up, so make sure to check in tomorrow for that.  In the meantime, if you still need some more entertainment, you can see more photos on The Rain in Spain's Facebook page.


  1. Jajaja no conocía esa fuente. Lo has pasado bien, me alegro. Un besote.

  2. Pues sí, la fuente existe...ahora si tiene propiedades mágicas o no, eso ya es otra cosa. De todas formas, es un sitio bonito y el paseo es muy agradable, y sí, nos lo pasamos bien. :)

  3. ok,i cannot read the word weremonk without thinking of a chipmunk that goes completely bloodthirtsty mad on a full moon.

    love the pictures of the monastery though and the bits of history you share.

    1. Oh, a mad, bloodthirsty chipmunk...that's even better! Why didn't I think of that? That's just brilliant! Lime, you are just too time I'll have to run the story by you first to get some input before posting. :)

  4. Oh, I love the story of San Virila, and the weremonk. You told them so well! And nine people in that tiny box .. wow. What did they do? Cremate them, or just crush them up small so they'd fit?

    But I have to ask. Did S Virila not think it was odd that a nightingale was singing in broad daylight? Perhaps it was a portent!!

    1. Yeah, I thought the nightingale thing was odd too, but maybe San Virila didn't get out much. And I have no idea how they got all the people into the box, it doesn't give any details about that, but I was wondering about it too.

  5. I want to live your life. I want to live your life. I want to be given the key to a monastery and have cheese sandwiches afterwards.

    1. Well, unless the fountain is some sort of magical body-switching one, I don't think that's going to work. Besides, I'd have absolutely no idea what to do with your students. But you can come visit anytime, and I'll take you to the monastery and give you cheese sandwiches after. :)

  6. Estuve por ahí hace un par de años pero a la fuente no me acerqué, tal vez la próxima vez, es una zona preciosa, nosotros la pillamos de paso yendo a las Cinco Villas, en Aragón muy cerquita de Navarra, también una zona encantadora.

    Bueno, que acabo de ver el blog y tiene buena pinta así que me quedaré a ver que cuentas de Navarra, que ahora me pilla muy lejos :)

    Un saludo.

    1. Tienes razón, es una zona preciosa, y si puedes, no te pierdas la fuente la próxima vez. No es que la fuente tenga mucho en si, pero el paseo es muy agradable y tampoco es una caminata demasiado larga. De las Cinco Villas, he estado en Sos, y me encantó, pero el resto no lo conozco. Tendremos que investigarlo mas a fondo. Me alegro que te guste el blog, vuelva cuando quieras. :)