29 April 2009

Finding Beauty in Ruins

The valuable adornments of jewels and gold in most European cathedrals are more than extravagant and grand. You can visit any country to see domes reaching to the heavens, priceless religious murals, and crypts older than the USA. It's wonderful to witness so many beautiful things but at what point does the element of charm begin to diminish? I've seen millions of euros worth of gold by now and, to be honest, it's not as aesthetically pleasing as it was the first time. The whole point to my schpeale is that sometimes real beauty is from something that isn't decked out in fancy fabrics or showing off its wealth and power, but is instead something that is forgotten and decayed.

The Villers Abby in Villers-la-Ville (Wallonian Belgium) was once a Cistercian Abby. Starting in 1146, 12 monks began building the Abby, which gained the importance and popularity to become a wealthy "village" within itself. But the money came and went and it was abandoned in 1796. It currently lies in ruins from time, war, and industrialization. It is of course a tourist attraction but only to those who have the desire to travel to this small town and walk 2 miles to find it. Generally, it is a site of holiday and summer festivities for the locals.

When I arrived in Villers-la-Ville, the streets were still spotted with colorful confetti from the previous week's carnival celebration. It was a ghost town, save a friendly teenage boy who offered in his thick Walloon French to lead my friend and I to the Abby. In the walls of the Abby, we wandered through each building envisioning the extravagance the walls once held. Our imaginations were at work putting roofs on the buildings and furniture in the rooms. I felt the mystical presence of all the spirits that lived and died there over hundreds of years. Visiting the forgotten ruins of what used to be an elaborate Abby was one of the most beautiful historical sites I have seen in Europe.

1 comment:

  1. Monica, I love your blog. It is so informative and your photos are great ! =)