|Sky full at Colmenares|
Here are rainbows, doubles and triples. Rainbows, and huge skies, every kind of cloud and color. Our horizons here are low and rolling and often plain, the bane of pilgrims who expect "something interesting" to look at while they walk.
|Skyful at Quintanatello|
The sky is full of pillars of cloud and fire, and often larks, too. They are strange little birds, they sing manically, like wind-up toys, as they fly straight upward and then hover up there all a-twitter. It´s like they´re rising up on a column of song.
|Back side of Paddy at Vega de Bur|
All the towns round about are caught up in Holy Week processions, Masses, Holy Hours, and Stations of the Cross. Meantime, the tourist office and the diocese had a stroke of genius: they´ve opened up 47 Romanesque churches in the north of the province -- thousand-year-old jewels in depopulated, isolated mountain towns. They are always locked up. Except this week.
Me and Paddy gassed up the furgoneta and hit the road yesterday, following a route up the Ojeda valley west of Aguilar de Campoo. We hit eight stone churches large and small. We met two fine roosters and some lively hens, saw hidden statues, carvings, reliefs, and capitals. We climbed up a steep stone spiral to the top of a tower in a town with 12 inhabitants. Tiny Maria Angeles showed us the hidden pine-cones in the stonework of her town´s chapel -- she wore splendid velvet pants the color of grape soda.
|Spiral stairs at Vega de Bur|
In Quintanatello de Ojeda someone had left the tower door unlocked. I poked through their tossed-away treasures. (I was sorely tempted by the plaster angel-wings, but I did not take anything away with me.) We did not see another human in that town, but their rainbow was first-class.
In Colmenares we found a spectacular Romanesque baptismal font, maybe the finest I ever saw. The old man at the door said he was baptised there himself, but he can´t remember the last time it was used. No babies. No priests.
|on the baptism font in Colmenares|
The builders did good work. A thousand years later, some of their work is still standing -- rabbits and devils and faces peek down from the rafters, or wait out eternity in the darkness behind a froufrou Renaissance altarpiece. (the ladies at Vega de Bur keep a worklight handy, so you can climb in and see for yourself.)
Two monasteries are still in operation up there, but the hermitages haven´t been inhabited for centuries.
Today we rested up. Because tomorrow we go back again to the mountains, this time to four churches up in the backwoods of Burgos. While the rest of Spain hits the streets to mourn the Passion of Christ, we´ll be with an archaeologist from the Romanesque Studies Foundation, pursuing passions of our own.
|over the doorway at Perezancas|