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Map of the Camino de Compostela / Camino Frances - from the excellent MSM book "The Roads to Santiago de Compostella"



The monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, south of Burgos, is famous for its very old Romanesque cloister and the Gregorian chanting of  its monks.


There are records of the monastic community here dating back to the mid 900s, when it was known as the Monastery of San Sebastian, and it probably was home to a similar community in pre-Islamic Visigoth days. 


Santo Domingo (c1000 - 1073 (73)) arrived as the newly appointed abbot on 24 January 1041, and was here for nearly 33 years until his death on December 20 1073.  The cloister capitals of the lower east and some of the north range have been attributed to a single sculptor in the three years immediately after the abbot's death (1073 - 1076).  The moving and iconic Romanesque pier relief panels in the inside corners of the lower cloister date from the mid 1100s.


Further afield, they say that one of the master sculptors was possibly responsible for work at the Abbaye St-Pierre, Moissac (near Toulouse in SW France).


The church and large cloister were replaced in the 1700s, leaving just the monk's cloister of the original Romanesque buildings.  The monastery was closed along with all the others across Spain in 1835, after which it was left deserted.  In 1880 a group of Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Solesmes in north east France received government permission to reoccupy it  - in the nick of time to save the old cloister.


As at May 2006 half (the best half) of the downstairs cloister was hidden under scaffolding until at least the year end, at which time the other half was due to be cladded and will probably remain so until 2009.  Irrespective of renovations, the upper cloister seems to be permanently closed to visitors, and it is only possible to visit the lower part as a member of a guided tour (available 10 to 1 and 4.30 to 6, except not in the morning on Sundays and certain other days as well - best to check first!). 





The Ascension - pier relief panel







Last Supper (below also) on twisted columns - is this, one wonders, the "deliberate man made imperfection" that is used in some places to show that only God can be perfect ?  Of course this version is not very skilful (they are all separate columns) - the real skill comes with carving four columns, knotted in the middle, out of one slab of marble.





Entombment and Resurrection









In Spring 2006 this, the most famous and beautiful of the bas-reliefed corner piers, was all boarded up, so we have had to use postcard and guidebook photos of Christ (with scallop logo on his purse) and the Emmaus Disciples (left) and the Doubting of Saint Thomas (right).









These are two guidebook photos from the out of bounds upper cloister.  Not the same fineness as below but team Paradox is hooked on your zodiac and activity stuff and would like to find out more!









The postcard aerial photo on the left was taken some time ago.  Unattractively, the trees in the bottom right, have been replaced by hot bare paving.  The photo below was taken just round the corner from the monastery (though it's not the main drag!).  Our drive down here from Burgos encountered major road closures, as a result of which we got to know the attractive  Rio Arlanza Valley which is well worth some exploring time. 





A Gregorian let down ......


The only other part of the monastery which is accessible is the very unmemorable bare slab of a church.  The monks from here can justly claim to have put Gregorian chanting on the map with two CDs in the early 90s, but to say that the quality of singing at the Saturday morning mass which we attended was ordinary,  would be flattering.  Maybe the A choir were touring - there was certainly no evidence of them here. 


If you want beautiful Gregorian go to the Monastery of San Salvador de Leyre (repopulated 50 years ago by monks from Santo Domingo de Silos), though it's hardly a geographic alternative to Silos and it does not have a cloister - so maybe just get the CDs, some of which have been digitally remastered. 






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