My childhood friend Jaime introduced me to brother Eulogio in the summer of 2011. I was floored by this man’s overflowing spirituality, granted he is a pro, but still. We got to spend the day with him and I was mesmerized.
The other day without Jaime’s two kids we drove over the Guadarrama mountains with our bicycles in his van to the monastery at El Paular to meet with brother Eulogio again.
Brother Eulogio is a “retired” 82 year old Benedictine monk. He was a Vespa mechanic before becoming a monk at 23. At the monastery he was put in charge of meeting with couples that wanted to get married there, later he managed just about all the other jobs at the monastery.
El Paular was built as a Carthusian monastery in 1390. By the time it got dismantled in the confiscations of Mendizábal of 1835, it was mentioned in Juan Ruiz’s Libro de buen amor, as its protagonist embarks from there on one of his “excursions” where he will meet the terrible Serranas. It housed the monk that wrote a Glosa to the Coplas por la muerte de su padre by Jorge Manrique. It also housed Enlightenment writer and first romantic (according to Russell Sebold) José de Cadalso, among others.
In 1958, the monastery was reopened under the Benedictine order. Eventually a luxury hotel was opened next door – which is now closed. Nowadays there are only 6 monks left and a couple of “visiting” monks. The monastery houses guests that can stay and take part in the monastic lifestyle. Jaime spent years there doing great restoration work in the beautiful chapel and the cloister, so he knows the monks very well, so much so that he just walks in, the other day, through the kitchen!
Some of the recent accomplishments of the monastery have been reuniting all the Vicente Carducho paintings that lined the cloister and had been scattered after the confiscation as with the choir engraved wood chairs.
Jaime and I spent the morning chatting with brother Eulogio. He asks pointed questions and reasons with you. It is one of the most – if not the most – intense and spiritual experiences for me.
We had not asked to stay for lunch, so we said our goodbyes, picked up our bicycles and started an excursion to the top of the Peñalara hills. We had a lovely pic-nic by the side of the Lozoya river and carried on until we had to ditch the bikes and continue hiking for a good hour until we arrived at the source of the Lozoya, the Cascadas del Purgatorio. We had a refreshing swim in the pools before heading back down. Near the end of our trip Jaime got a flat so we had to walk the last couple of miles to the car.