Stories from Spain: Visiting San Isidoro

By Ava Rockefeller-Campbell, 2019 cohort

Friday evening, at around 5:40pm we all gathered at San Isidoro. It is a beautiful old building with the most amazing architecture. Years and years ago it was the home of the royal family of Castillo and Leon, and an important part of the culture. When we went inside I felt like I could smell the history, musty but also clear. The first artifact that we saw was an exact replica of the first printed bible. The actual copy is also at San Isidoro, but it’s in the library that they’re renovating. The detail that the two men put in to writing and illustrating was amazing to me. I can’t even begin to imagine how much will power it took for them to keep writing for five years. That’s why I love history; you can see the dedication that people of the past had for their work.

The second artifact was in a dark room, lit by tiny lights in the glass case. It was this beautiful gold cup. The supposed holy grail. The stones that lined the outside of it were beautiful and gleamed in the light of the room. It’s amazing to stand in a room, looking at something so filled with history.

We walked back through the entry and down to the ground level of the building. There were even more things to see down there. I couldn’t help but focus on how beautiful the ceilings were. One of the things that stuck out to me were these boxes that our tour guide/professor showed us. On the outside was ivory with details of Christian imagery. But on the inside was cloth from the Muslim part of Spain at the time. Back then, so many years ago, what we know as Spain was divided in half. The northern half where we are right now was Christian, and the other Muslim. But you can see so many artifacts that show products from both groups. It’s a nice way of showing that no matter how separated, we as a whole make something much more beautiful.

The last thing that we got to see was the pantheon. This is a word that in this case means a family burial site. It had 23 members of the ruling family of Castillo Leon from over a thousand years ago. The main focus of the room, though, was the ceiling. Every single part of it was covered in ancient illustrations of the life of Jesus. With my head up, I followed the story, from his birth to death. I may not be Christian, but I can understand how truly important the religion was (and still is).

There’s something fascinating to me about seeing just the tiniest portion of a country’s history. You can learn so much about the people and the places just based on an old book, a beautiful painting on a ceiling, or pretty much anything that people decide is worth keeping around for so many years. San Isidoro was amazing and I would love to go back some day.

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Kristina Brown