Spain is well known for its fascinating cathedrals such as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, The Mesquite in Cordoba and the Cathedral of Seville to name a few. Besides the well-known religious structures, there are many smaller places of worship tucked away in villages, mountains and locations not often frequented by tourists. I love discovering these as they have their own distinctive personalities and are certainly worth a visit.
Sue has graciously agreed for me to be a guest on her blog so I can tell you about a few of these lesser known churches in Spain we have discovered, not far from where we live. One of the most unique being the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Magdalena near Novelda, in Alicante province, only an hour drive from our place.
Although I love scouring old sites, this delightful example of Spanish Art Nouveau, was built between 1918 and 1946, so is relatively new in Spanish standards. It was designed by Jose Sala Sala, a student of the Catalonian genius, Antoni Gaudi, whose influence is evident the minute you set eyes on it.
The main façade displays an impressive pair of twenty-five meter high bell towers each topped with a stone cross, similar to the towers of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. The master’s influence is also apparent in the decorative motifs, the Baroque style and the influence of nature. The architect cleverly combined stones and pebbles from the nearby Vinalopo River with multi-coloured tiles, bricks and masonry to create a unique exterior. We have visited this site a number of times, often bringing overseas guests, and notice different details every time.
With curved windows, the occasional stained glass, statues, azulejos and an interesting roof, it is worth walking around the outside more than once.
Above the front door, in three receded stone alcoves, are paintings depicting the biblical story of Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus with precious oil. Saint Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of Novelda.
Inside the small chapel is an exquisite organ made entirely out of marble, the only one of its kind in the world. I have not heard it being played but I understand it is very effective.
Other than the unique organ, the interior is fairly plain, with not much adornment except paintings of the saints lining the walls and one by Gaston Castello displayed behind the altar. I found it to be very peaceful without the hordes of tourists to spoil the ambiance.
Beside the sanctuary are the remains of the medieval castle of Mola, El Castillo do la Mola, built in the 12th century over a previous Roman Fortress. So there is something for history buffs as well. It is open to the public but closes for siesta time. On one occasion, as hubby and I enjoyed a cool drink, our guests went to have a look around the ruins and found themselves locked in the high walls. The caretaker eventually heard their cries for help and let them out. Something to tell the folks back home. Not every day one gets locked in an eight hundred year old castle!
The sanctuary sits on top of a hill overlooking a tranquil valley below. There is a lovely little tapas bar facing the sanctuary and the vista. A perfect place to relax, replenish and contemplate.
All the photographs in this post are courtesy of Darlene Foster.
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About the author
Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She also believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of children’s adventure books who divides her time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain.
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