Historic Serenity & Spiritual Ambience
By Jana Soeldner Danger
Centuries ago, monasteries and abbeys were places of refuge offering shelter to travelers as they journeyed on dangerous roadways beset by bandits and wild animals. Today, many of the structures that once housed religious orders have been transformed into hotels and inns, and travelers are once again finding refuge there. Gone, however, are the thin mattresses, dim lighting and austere furnishings the structures once held, and in their place are 21st century comforts.
Although they are modern and comfortable, many of the properties have preserved architecture, artifacts and other elements of what they once were. If you are looking for a vacation that combines history, serenity and a spiritual ambience, you might try one of these.
Monastero Santa Rosa – Salerno Province, Italy
Visitors to Monastero Santa Rosa on the Amalfi coast can travel back in time as they admire many of the architectural features of a Dominican monastery originally built in the 17th century. Sister Rosa Pandolfi, a member of a noble family, funded its construction, and when the convent was completed in 1681, it was dedicated to St. Rose of Lima.
In recent history, an American woman, Bianca Sharma, fell in love with the ancient building in the Salerno Province of southern Italy when she first saw it from the deck of a friend’s yacht. She bought and restored the three-story building, with a careful eye to preserving the medieval arched entrance, the original parlor, the vaulted ceilings and other elements. The hotel has
a spa, and all 20 rooms have ocean views.
Mandarin Oriental – Prague, Czech Republic
This intimate hotel located in a former Dominican monastery is set amidst the palaces and gardens of Prague’s historic Malá Strana. A former Renaissance chapel houses the award-winning spa, and the newly opened Spices Restaurant and Bar offering authentic Asian fare and contemporary design blending local history with modern luxury. It offers an exquisite private dining room hidden below the restaurant in a spectacular wine cellar – said to be the former apartment of a monastery friar. With authentic details such as bare brick walls and an original medieval well, it’s the ideal place for wine
tastings, private dinners or romantic proposals.
Couvent des Minimes – Mane, France
The Couvent des Minimes sits on a hillside near the French village of Mane in Provence, France. The original structure dates back to 1613, when it was home to Minimes monks. Then in the early 20th century, it became a convent for an order of Franciscan nuns who planted exotic flowers in terraced gardens, fruit orchards and olive groves.Today the property is a luxurious boutique hotel that mixes medieval architecture with contemporary design. The 71 cells that once housed the nuns have been transformed into 46 modern guestrooms, and the gardens and orchards that were tended by the sisters now help supply the hotel’s on-site restaurant. Amenities include the L’Occitane spa, indoor and outdoor pools and tennis.
Parador de Santo Estevo – Galicia, Spain
The Parador de Santo Estevo in Galicia, Spain, situated on a densely wooded hillside, was once a Benedictine monastery that dates back to the sixth century. It overlooks a wine growing region know as the Sacred Shore, where vineyards cover the steep slopes of two river valleys.
The monastery’s architecture features Romanesque, Goth and Baroque elements, and in 1923, it was declared a historic monument. Today, the
hotel the monastery became is modern and contemporary, yet it preserves the ambience of its past. Each of the 77 guest rooms in three cloistered areas has its own unique décor. Amenities include a heated indoor pool, a spa, a sauna and a restaurant that serves local fare.
Monasterior – Cusco, Peru
This historic venue once housed a Spanish monastery built in 1595 on the site of the Inca Amaru Qhala’s palace. A few years later, the Spanish took
it over and established a seminary there.
Then in 1650, an earthquake caused major damage, and the reconstruction included the addition of a Baroque chapel that still exists. The structure was remodeled into a hotel in 1965, but the building remains a historical landmark protected by Peru’s National Institute of Culture.
The 126-room hotel features stones around the entry doors that bear the Spanish Arms Escutcheon, ancient archways and antique artwork. It is built around a central courtyard with
a 300-year-old cedar tree. Because of the hotel’s extreme height, some rooms can be enhanced with oxygen. The Monasterior has a spa, a bar and two restaurants.