A couple of weeks ago we treated ourselves to a few nights away in Andalucía and Extremadura. We started out in Sevilla and moved on to Zafra and Trujillo, both in Extremadura, before returning home via a town called Palma del Río in the province of Córdoba. We were lucky enough to visit some lovely places but the cream of the crop turned out to be a former Franciscan monastery in Palma del Río which has now become a hotel. Columbus himself stayed here after one of his journeys to the New World but I don´t know which of his voyages or what year this was.

Sometimes you can feel the depth of history in a place and you can feel it in this monastery. It was built in 1492, the year that Columbus made the first of his four crossings of the Atlantic but did not become a monastery until 1518 when Pope Julius ii gave it the thumbs up. Julius ii was an interesting guy. He was known as the “warrior pope” and is known to have led troops into battle himself on at least two occasions. He was also a patron of the arts and, among many other projects, commissioned the destruction and re-building of St Peter´s Basilica as well as Michelangelo´s painting of the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel.

Columbus saw his principle role as spreading Christianity in the New World but it was the Franciscan Monks from this monastery that were deeply involved in missions in California in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The native populations of California were forced to live in settlements called reductions, were converted to Christianity, “educated,” and taught Spanish.

It feels from today´s perspective that the poor natives were subjected to a kind or religious imperialism and the loss of the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Native Americans is a tragedy in its own right. But ours is not the perspective of the Monks from this monastery and it is not for me to judge them.

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This is the Franciscan Monastery where Columbus stayed after one of his journeys to the New Word.

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The enclosed courtyard gives a little respite from the heat.

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The view from the window of our room.

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We had a glass or two of red wine here.