The sky was bluer than blue. The motor car was whiter than white, polished within an inch of its life. Picnic packed, 'Sat Nav' set, membership cards in hand and we were off!
'Olga from the Volga', as we fondly think of the disembodied, throaty voice which barks directions from our friend's smartphone, proved essential as she navigated us deep into a wooded wilderness. And then, miraculously, a clearing in front of an impressive stone portal emerged. The Camaldolese Monastery at Majk was our destination and we had arrived.
|statue of Saint Romuald outside of the main gate of the Camaldolese Monastery, Majk|
|the bell tower is now all that remains of the original church at the Camaldolese Monastery|
Founded in 1733, the Monastery's short life was dissolved by Hapsburg order in 1781 when it became an Esterházy residence. The Camaldoli hermits were an austere and reclusive order following the teachings of Saint Romuald, an offshoot of the Benedictines. Shrouded by woodland the Monastery buildings today remain remarkably intact and do, to some degree, retain their 'otherwordly' atmosphere that must have been evident when bearded monks dressed in long white robes walked silently in the grounds.
|an interior view of one of the private chapels to be found in each monk's dwelling place|
|an example of a coat of arms affixed to the gable end of each one of the several cottages|
Patronised by a number of noble families, a grandiose church, Baroque cloisters, a library, refectory and seventeen monks' cottages were built on this site. Each cottage, bearing a bas relief of the coat of arms of its patron, consists of four rooms including a private chapel. There monks could be isolated in prayer, except for when sharing meals under the vaulted ceiling of the refectory with its frescoed depiction of The Last Supper and scenes from the long life of Saint Romuald.
|the refectory currently undergoing restoration and closed to 'Foreigners' - discrimination?!!|
European Union money is in evidence here and restoration activity intense but, strangely, we found it all rather soulless. A bell tower, the surviving monument of the church, emitted piped music on the quarter hour and, as it struck 12.30pm, we made our escape.
|monks'cottages, blandly restored with painted cement, line a path within the gardens|
Perhaps its remote location saved the Monastery from the worst ravages of foreign occupation and nationalisation. And, remarkably, an Esterházy, the grandmother of the celebrated contemporary writer, Peter Esterházy, was permitted to live in cottage number 13 until the mid 1950s.