My wife and I love church crawling. Church crawling is an opportunity for us to learn more about local history, especially as that history relates to how people lived the Faith. On the rare occasions that we travel we always try to pop into the local churches to get a glimpse. A good portion of our honeymoon in Toledo was spent on this activity, as well as the majority of the pictures taken that week. Generally, the older the church, the better for us. So when we found ourselves back home recently I knew we had to visit some familiar churches in my city which, though we had previously visited, now had a few more areas open to the general public. Here are a few pictures:
(Former) Monastery of the Holy Cross
Concerning the Monastery of the Holy Cross, it always saddens us to see the state into which it has fallen considering that it was formerly the motherhouse of a religious congregation so important in Portugal’s history. The French invasions gave the monastery a serious blow; the dissolution of the monasteries in Portugal in the mid-19th century brought it to an end. One can only imagine what it was like when St. Anthony of Lisbon met there the Franciscans who would go off to Morocco to be martyred (and whose remains made their way back to the monastery), a pivotal moment in St. Anthony’s life. One can only imagine what the Canons’ proper liturgy was like (though I have seen a 17th-18th century document reprimanding them for their laxity in the celebration of the sacred mysteries), how the feasts were kept, what the chant was like. I guess it serves as a reminder that all things in this life are fleeting, that there is no permanence here below.
We especially liked visiting the Sanctuary, a room in the heart of the monastery in which the walls were covered with hundreds of relics. While not a few relics were missing, the amount still present was amazing. We were truly among the “great cloud of witnesses.” An acquaintance of mine who works there says that many times tourists come away disillusioned from the Sanctuary, saying they were expecting more of the space which, aesthetically speaking, is not extremely impressive. “If only they could see that room through the eyes of faith, then they would amazed at what is up there” my acquaintance said. His final observation as we ended our visit was quite poignant. “One looks at this place, at the beauty it still has, and is amazed by what our ancestors’ faith built. One looks at our current churches and has to ask what are they the fruit of…”