Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ermita de Sant Lucia y Benet

After the Vinaròs Eucharist I drove to Alcossebre for the second Eucharist of the morning, where the congregation is returning to its usual strength after the summer. There were people to greet whom I first met when I arrived, before they went away on holiday. Refreshments were served on the terrace outside the church for the first time since July. Among the visitors was Judy Phillips, the widow of John Phillips, whose church planting ministry in Alcossebre laid the foundations for the Costa Azahar chaplaincy.

Before I headed for home, I drove up the steep winding road to the Ermita di Sant Lucia y Benet, perched on a high promontory overlooking Alcossebre, 312 metres above sea level, with breathtaking views  south along the coast and inland. Visibility was far from perfect as the weather was cool and cloudy.
It was built in the 17th century on a site which may once have been a coastal watchtower. There were only half a dozen cars up there, and one family, enjoying a picnic lunch in the shade of church building. In such a remote place, it must be kept locked. 
The presence of graffiti on its walls suggested good reason for this. Next to the church overlooking the sea is a building on a terrace, which could have been a snack bar, but was empty and in a state of disrepair. I noticed a couple of septic tanks half buried on the hillside just below, and wondered if  was looking at a renovation project which had failed for lack of funds.
This was the first time I could get a good impression of the size of Alcossebre and how it stretches around the bay, although it would all fit into one photograph.
The views inland present a beautiful patchwork of cultivated areas in every direction, intersected by arteries of public transport.
There's also a view up a valley behind the coastal mountain chain, part of the Sierra d'Irta nature reserve, with the castle overlooking Alcala de Chivert barely visible on a distant ridge.
A signpost pointed to the 'Capiletta de Sant Benet', down a steep narrow stony track. I followed this down the mountainside with little idea of how far away it was, still wearing less than adequate Sunday shoes. After about a kilomtre's walk, the track ended at a viewing platform in a small clearing, which contained a modest shrine in honour of Sant Benet (aka St Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism and Patron Saint of Europe), co-patron of the Ermita, along with Saint Lucy, one of the early Roman virgin martyrs whose name is mentioned in the ancient form of a Canon of the Latin Mass.
Benedict began his spiritual journey as a solitary hermit monk at Subiaco, before others began to be attracted to his way of life and request his guidance. No doubt he'd approve of little hard to reach places like this, and recommend them to his followers.

On the road leading to the Ermita at about 250 metres above sea level are two modern urbanizacions with some very smart expensive houses. I wondered if these were exclusive regular residences or holiday homes. It was noticeable that the road quality in the section giving access to these dwellings was greatly inferior to that of sections above and below. I imagine the land owner or the developer of the urbanizacion is meant to be responsible for the section in between, and the road condition is doubtless subject to ongoing dispute with the local Council.

The Paralympics closure ceremony is happening, but I'm not watching. After a few hours spent with nature's mountain grandness, human spectacular events feel contrived and tiresome.

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