“Picos de Europa” is Spanish for...”scariest roads ever”. 😂 We drove from El Bizarro to Covadonga. Covadonga is the site of the battle in which the Visigoth king, Pelayo, was victorious over the invading Moors. Covadonga is in the mountainous national park, Picos de Europa, and there is found the shrine to Pelayo and a modern cathedral. Covadonga is a beautiful site, and an important part of Spanish history.
After some lunch and seeing Covadonga, we headed further south and east through the Picos to Potes. Potes is a gorgeous little village that was just featured in The Guardian’s travel section...so we knew we had to visit NOW before it got too crazy.
Let Maria tell you about Spanish mountain roads. They are like New Mexican mountain roads...times a billion. You know the New Mexican trick of just drawing the line at the edge of the road in a little bit when it starts to erode away? Well, they do that here...especially when the rocky cliff impedes the road...however, the road in Spain is ALREADY tiny, so narrower is just ridiculous. Oh, and there are buses...lots and lots of buses...Maria is shocked that her heart is still beating and the Audi’s side mirrors still exist.
We made it to Potes. It’s ridiculously cute. We walked around a bit, tried some restaurants out, and took a lot of photos...we also ignored Phillipa (our navigation system) a lot. She really wants us to drive down stairs. Maria thinks she hates us, and is trying harder to get rid of us.
Yesterday afternoon, we went up to see Potes’ main attraction...Santo Toribio...a monastery that contains the largest part of the true cross of Christ. (Stop...they had it tested...) The cross was brought from Jerusalem in the 5th century. It was held in Astorga, but after the Moorish invasion of 711, they moved it into the mountains outside of Potes. They had the entire left arm of the cross. However, under the Benedictine monks’ care, the cross was chipped away by pilgrims on their way to Santiago who wanted a piece of the cross. (Franciscan friars are telling us this...throwing shade on the softie Benedictines😂)
Maria has to say, to date, this is the coolest relic she’s seen. It even out-shines St. Stephen’s Holy right hand.😂 When the Franciscans took over care of the relic, there wasn’t a lot of the wood remaining. They took what was left and built a cross shaped reliquary for the cross. Towards the bottom of the cross there is a cut out exposing the place where Jesus’ left hand was nailed. The guy at the entrance to the monestary told us we could enter the chapel at 6 pm for an explanation and to touch (tocar) the cross.
Melinda: “Did he say, ‘tocar?!?!’”
Me: “He said ‘tocar’!”
We walked into the chapel, and Maria whispered, “front row!” And there we sat listening to who is now our favorite Catholic priest ever. He actually was welcoming, and answered our questions (ie. half-understandings) and he apparently ignored the “no photos” part of venerating the cross. Had Maria KNOWN he was ignoring this...there would be más photos. Muchos más photos! The bad part about front row? We had NO idea what “cross protocol” was. We snuck behind others and let them go first. Most kissed it. We touched it. Hugging a saint and kissing a cross was too much for one week.
Maria here: I’m kidding, but it was a very moving experience. I, of course, am skeptical of what the wood truly is, but it is a very, very old piece of wood from the holy land that has been cared for over centuries in these mountains. It feels bigger than us, and I think it’s always good to remember that there are things bigger than you.
We decided to return today in hopes of getting a photo of Melinda kissing the cross. Apparently you are supposed to kiss it...Jesus enters your body through lips, not fingers...obviously. Today, sadly, favorite priest wasn’t there. It was a friar who seemed less photo friendly. Melinda still only touched the cross. Maria totally kissed it.
Maria thinks Jesus loves her and is ok that she teases a bit. He may not like her, but he loves her😇Read more